On Saturday, June 24, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi ratified a treaty that will transfer control of the Red Sea islands of Tiran and Sanafir to Saudi Arabia. Sisi’s decision may cause related protests in Cairo and other urban areas around the country in the coming days. Expect increased security measures and localized traffic disruptions if demonstrations do occur.
The Egyptian Parliament approved the treaty on June 15. As many as 40 political opponents were arrested nationwide on the same day during raids by Egyptian police after political leaders and activists called for protests in Cairo’s Tahrir Square following midday prayers on June 16.
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.