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Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Crackdown in Egypt Fuels New Dissent

Video shot by Simon Hanna for the Egyptian news site Ahram Online showed protesters defying a new ban on demonstrations in downtown Cairo on Wednesday night.

There were street protests in Egypt’s two largest cites on Wednesday, amid signs that attempts to stifle dissent by the military-backed government were fueling a backlash.

Thousands of protesters marched in downtown Cairo, defying a new law that effectively bans demonstrations, and there was widespread anger on social networks at the harsh prison sentences handed down by a court in Alexandria to young, female supporters of the ousted Islamist president, Mohamed Morsi.

While the activists who marched in Cairo were clear about their opposition to both the current military chief, Gen. Abdul-Fattah el-Sisi, and the former president, Mr. Morsi, even fierce opponents of the Muslim Brotherhood expressed shock that the young Islamists had been sentenced to 11 years in jail for waving placards and holding balloons at a protest last month.

As the rights activist Heba Morayef explained, anger at the sentences was intensified by the fact that several of the young women were minors.

Faced with growing unrest, the authorities issued warrants for the arrest of two prominent activists, Ahmed Maher and Alaa Abd El Fattah. The fact that both men have been persecuted by successive Egyptian governments gave rise to a number of sardonic comments from activists and journalists on Wednesday.

For their part, both men attacked the decision in messages posted on their popular Twitter feed, which are read by nearly 700,000 people.