Police and national security officials stormed the Mashrabia Gallery for Contemporary Art in downtown Cairo on 31 October 2016, a gallery employee told Freemuse, speaking on condition of anonymity, saying it took everyone at the gallery “completely by surprise”.
Rather than raiding the gallery and asking for its license or official documents, the employee said the security forces had a very different agenda: “Instead, they asked us about our political affiliations and wanted to know who frequents the gallery. We are not a threat to anyone. Mashrabia is a cultural venue and we steer away from politics in all our discussions.”
Police interrogated gallery employees for nearly two hours after which they searched the premises thoroughly and went through the employees’ cell phones.
While the Mashrabia Gallery was not threatened with closure, the incident was nevertheless “unnerving”, according to the employee, who told Freemuse that police seized their passport as part of the raid. Police told the employee that the raid was part of security measures ahead of 11 November 2016, the date set by some (Turkey-based) opposition figures for a so-called “revolution of the poor”.
Raid ahead of potential protest
In recent weeks regime opponents outside Egypt have used social media networks to mobilise street protests as part of the “Ghalaba Movement” (Marginalised Movement), encouraging Egyptians to “rise against the military regime”, which has led to a public panic and government security forces to be on alert, reported Daily News Egypt on 19 October 2016.
These latest calls for protest are similar to those that sparked the 25 January 2011 mass uprising that forced then-President Hosni Mubarak to step down. Further, the police raid on the gallery is reminiscent of a series of similar raids on cultural institutions, cafes and other places frequented by youths in the Cairo downtown area in the weeks preceding 25 January 2016, the fifth anniversary of the January 2011 uprising.
Anticipating a fresh wave of protests at that time, security forces stormed hundreds of apartments in downtown Cairo, conducted searches and arrested dozens of “suspects”. The Interior Ministry also warned it would deal firmly with anyone trying to disturb public order, leading to the fifth anniversary passing without major incident.
Photo: Mashrabia Gallery Facebook page
» Daily News Egypt – 19 October 2016:
11 November protest calls stir concern among government, media outlets
» Mada Masr – 24 January 2016:
Downtown: Site of revolts to city of ghosts
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