On June 30, Egypt celebrated the anniversary of protests that ousted its first democratically-elected president, Mohamed Morsi, and laid the ground work for the presidency of Abdel Fatah al-Sisi. Five years ago, mass protests erupted throughout Egypt demanding Morsi’s resignation, just one year after his inauguration as president. Only a few days later, Sisi suspended the constitution and led a military coup to remove Morsi from power. Less than one year later, on June 8, 2014, Sisi was inaugurated as Egypt’s new president. Since then, his tenure has been marred by political controversy and human rights abuses.
In April, Sisi was reelected as president, and, at the beginning of June, was sworn into office for another four years. The election was marked by low voter turnout, no real opposition, and reports of bribery and corruption.
In the eyes of Islamists and members of the Muslim Brotherhood (the party of former President Mors), many of whom have been arrested and detained by the government, June 30 is a bitter reminder of their loss and repression. For all opponents of the current regime, the holiday is a reminder of a military coup that has hindered the country’s democratic transition and brought a new dictator to power.
In the aftermath of the 2013 coup, June 30 became a public holiday. On June 29 and June 30, all public cultural institutions throughout the country are open to the public and free of charge; Cairo river-buses also offer a fifty percent discount to riders. But not everyone is celebrating. Opposition activists, for example, have used the holiday to amplify their own anti-regime message. Using the hashtag #Sisi_Leave, which amassed 279,000 tweets this year, they called for Sisi’ resignation. In comparison, the pro-regime hashtag, #Sisi_Is_My_President_And_I_Am_Proud, only had 48,000 tweets. The opposition hashtag was also used to highlight the plight of jailed journalists and political detainees, including photojournalist Mahmoud Abu Zeid.
According to a survey conducted by the Egyptian Center for Public Opinion Research (Baseera), Sisi’s popularity declined to just 50% in his second year in office. In recent months, public anger against the government has mounted due to increasing prices for fuel, cooking gas, and metro fares. The state also continues to clamp down on journalists, bloggers, activists, and political opponents. The employment rate remains abysmal, and the poverty rate continues to increase.
So while the Egyptian government has tried to use the June 30 holiday to focus on Sisi and his accomplishments, this public relations ploy cannot mask the growing dissent and human rights abuses occuring across the nation.