Alwaght- Hundreds of Egyptians have been detained in a campaign of arrests targeting anti-government protesters.
The Middle East Eye news portal cited an Egyptian rights group as saying that more than 500 people have been arrested.
A list of those detained was published on Monday by the Egyptian Centre for Economic and Social Rights, a Cairo-based civil society organization.
On Friday protesters had taken to the streets across Egypt for the first time in years, in defiance of a de facto six-year ban on demonstrations. Those who came out to call openly for an end to Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi 'srule risked immediate arrest as well as the use of teargas, rubber bullets and live rounds.
32-year-old Hafsa, a teacher who protested in Cairo’s el-Matareya district on Friday, said "The Friday protest was such a shock to me because people were not able to voice any of their anger. So this was a sign of hope that people still have a voice, they’re not dead. I feel encouraged to protest next Friday, the same as many others,” the Guardian reported.
"Now in Matareya, there’s a heavy police presence with riot police at the entrance to all main streets. There are also plainclothes policemen who search people at random. 24/7 there are mobile patrols roaming the streets to intimidate people,” she said.
Riot police and security forces surrounded Cairo’s Tahrir Square on Saturday evening, to prevent potential demonstrators accessing the symbolic site. But in the north-eastern city of Suez, crowds of protesters chanted against the president before being broken up by a wave of teargas, live rounds and arrests.
Arrest data shows that protesters were either too young to fully partake in the 2011 uprising that overthrew Hosni Mubarak, or are part of an older generation less accustomed to demonstrations. “It’s the average Egyptian who has never protested in the past, perhaps they joined the millions in Tahrir when they were younger,” said Lotfy. “But if you look at the list, many are in their 20s. This feels like a new generation of protesters".
Those documenting events were also targeted for arrest. A man named Mohamed Saied who filmed protests in Suez and posted footage to social media recorded an emotional message Saturday night. “The police are downstairs from my building, they’re coming to arrest me,” he says. “All I did was film.”
The number of arrests in Cairo on Saturday overwhelmed the capacity of all nearby police stations, with detainees being housed in a barracks meant for Egypt’s central security forces. From there, detainees are taken in groups for questioning by the police as well as Egypt’s national security agency, both known for their use of “systematic, widespread enforced disappearances and torture that most likely amount to crimes against humanity”, according to Human Rights Watch.
Tens of thousands of people have been detained by Sisi's government since 2013 in a widespread crackdown on opposition that has targeted activists from the now-banned Muslim Brotherhood of deposed former president Mohamed Morsi and other political dissidents.