The Swiss Club Restaurant in Giza, Egypt, on Tuesday June 5th became the setting of an attack on the approximately seventy guests attending an Iftar resulting in minor injuries. The Iftar, a social event to celebrate the breaking of fast at the end of the day during Ramadan, had been organized by the Civil Democratic Movement (CDM), a coalition of eight socialist and liberal parties in Egypt founded in 2017. According to official statements, the ten unknown assailants had entered the event as regular, but uninvited guests, and after a power cut began hurling plates and water bottles at the prominent attendees.
Iftar Well Attended by CDM members
According to a Facebook statement by the CDM on June 5th, the President of the Egyptian Social Democratic Party (ESDP) Farid Zahran suffered the most serious injuries of all guests, requiring stitches on his head. Others among those attending were figures such as the CDM spokesperson Hussein Abdel Hady, the National Council for Human Rights member George Ishaq, the leader Elham Eidaros of the in 2013 founded Bread and Freedom Party, and Khaled al-Balshy, a journalist charged with a bail in 2016 to avoid imprisonment after colleagues had been arrested for inciting unauthorized street protests. In a statement on Facebook, the ESDP strongly condemned the what was has been labelled as a “criminal attack”, and held the authorities responsible for the “suspicious and brutal assault”.
Criticism of the 2018 Presidential Elections
CDM members uttered that the assailants called them “traitors”, “spies”, as well as shouted the slogan of the supporters of President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, and thus the CDM has reason to believe that the attack had been planned and deliberate. Egypt in March 2018 was witness to highly contested presidential elections, the turnout of which allowed al-Sisi to secure a second term. Prior to the elections, the CDM expressed its discontent over the election campaign, in which al-Sisi’s candidature remained without legitimate opponent due to pressure exerted upon others candidates. Prior to the elections, the CDM on social media demanded “guarantees for genuine competitive elections, including non-interference by state and religious institutions in favor of any candidate, safety of competitors, official media”. Subsequently in January, the CDM called for the boycott of the elections through the campaign Khalik fel Bait (Stay at home), refusing to participate in the “electoral comic play”.
An Allegedly Politically Motivated Act
Parliamentarians have tied the attack to the series of events launched by al-Sisi to intimidate and arrest the opposition. Most of the individuals affected by those arrests have been either secular or leftist, and have been charged with alleged assistance of terrorist organizations according to the Egyptian Security Policy. Affected human rights activists draw a parallel between these arrests and the attack on June 5th, claiming that Egyptian authorities are known for hiring undercover “thugs” to launch attacks on opposition figures in order to have better grounds to deny their own involvement in later debates. The ESDP on Facebook referred back to the provisions of the constitution, which guarantee the right to pluralism and freedom of opinion, thought and expression. In a comment on the attack, opposition parliamentarian Haitham El-Hariri claimed that if the attacks were truly linked to al-Sisi, they would stand in contradiction with the president’s promises on security. On May 30th, two days before al-Sisi was sworn in for his second term, the European Union published a statement expressing concern of the wave of arrests directed towards activists and opposition politicians, condemning them as a worrisome development.