Reports indicate many small protests broke out across Egypt on Thursday, June 15, after parliament approved of the transfer of the Red Sea islands of Tiran and Sanafir to Saudi Arabia. At least eight people have reportedly been detained for insulting the president and illegally protesting. President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi is expected to ratify the decision soon.
Political leaders and activists, including the former presidential candidate Hamdeen Sabahi, have called for protests across Egypt following midday prayers on Friday, June 16. Enhanced security and transportation disruptions are to be expected in urban areas throughout the country.
The original agreement to transfer the islands to Saudi Arabia was announced during Saudi King Salman’s visit to Cairo in April 2016, during which he also announced a multibillion-dollar investment and loan package to Egypt. The Egyptian government has argued that the islands originally belonged to Saudi Arabia and were leased to Egypt in the 1950s. Opponents disagree, characterizing the deal as a bartered arrangement, and claim the agreement violates the Egyptian constitution. Egypt’s Supreme Administrative Court originally struck down the agreement but parliament has contended the issue of sovereignty lies solely within its constitutional jurisdiction. The Supreme Constitutional Court is expected to ultimately rule on which government body has constitutional authority to act on the matter.
Individuals in Egypt are advised to monitor developments to the situation and avoid any protests or other public gatherings.
More generally, individuals in Egypt should report any suspicious objects or behavior to the authorities and always be on guard when visiting sites deemed particularly vulnerable to an attack (public transportation, train stations, ports, airports, public or government buildings, embassies or consulates, international organizations, schools and universities, religious sites, markets, hotels and restaurants frequented by foreigners/Westerners, festivals, etc.). The security environment in Egypt remains complex. Although travel is permissible in some areas, other areas should be considered strictly off limits. Professional security advice and support should be sought prior to travel.