Over 370 people have been arrested across Egypt in the latest wave of demonstrations against Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, according to a Cairo-based nongovernmental organization. In the past few days, 373 people have been arrested, most of them aged between 18 and 41, and detained in Cairo, said Mohamed Lotfy, director of the Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedoms.
Gamal Eid, director of the Arab Network for Human Rights Information, said the number of detentions had risen above 400.
"Our lawyers can't keep up," he said.
Plain clothes security officials have been stopping people in central Cairo and checking social media content on their cell phones, several witnesses said. Internet monitoring group Netblocks said there had been a disruption starting on Sunday to social media platforms and news sites, which appeared to target the Arabic language editions of international media.
Political pressure combined with economic deterioration has caused Egyptians to organize mass demonstrations against President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, who had led a bloody coup in 2013. An Egyptian businessman, Mohammad Ali, played a key role in igniting the protests through his videos on YouTube. He claimed that he witnessed misuse of public funds due to the luxurious spending of el-Sissi and officials close to him. Hundreds demonstrated in Cairo and other cities for two days in response to online calls for protests against government corruption. Defying a ban on protests, the demonstrators shouted slogans calling on el-Sissi to leave power.
Egypt has long been criticized for its violation of human rights, silencing dissidents and putting thousands of people in prison. In 2011, when the Arab Spring swept across the Middle East and North Africa region, Egypt was a central country in terms of protests against autocratic ex-leader Hosni Mubarak, who had ruled the country for three decades. The world-renowned Tahrir Square was the place where millions of people gathered from different sides of the political and economic spectrum to challenge Mubarak's rule. As one of the few successes of the Arab Spring, Egyptians managed to switch to democracy. Elections were held the next year, resulting in the democratic victory of ex-President Mohammed Morsi.
However, Egypt once again suffered as the current president, el-Sissi, then chief of the army, orchestrated a bloody coup against the country's first freely elected president. Thousands of people rejected the army's move and demonstrated. Thousands of people were killed in Rabaa Square in one night on the grounds that the army had to disperse the protesters to preserve order. Since then, a harsh crackdown on dissidents, not only the Muslim Brotherhood but anyone who opposed el-Sissi, has commenced.
The latest constitutional referendum last month paved the way for el-Sissi to remain in power until 2030. Despite the country's struggle for economic improvement, human rights violations have become increasingly alarming. The death of former President Morsi in prison has caused massive backlash from the international community as it was widely speculated that his death was the result of mistreatment rather than natural causes.