British expats in Egypt are being advised to avoid political gatherings and demonstrations as the unrest continues in the country in the major cities of Cairo and Alexandria and the biggest protest so far is due today (Friday January 28).
A statement on the website of the UK Foreign Office says that people should respect and advice or instructions given by local security authorities.
‘There have been a number of violent demonstrations in Cairo and other locations across Egypt, including Suez, North Sinai, Rafah, the Delta region and some areas of Upper Egypt over the past week. The situation is unpredictable and may change quickly,’ the advice says.
‘You should monitor the situation closely and stay away from demonstrations and large gatherings of people, public buildings or other sites which may become the focus of demonstrations, such as Tahrir Square in Cairo,’ it adds.
It also warns about what is expected to be the biggest demonstration so far. ‘There are press reports of calls for large-scale demonstrations on Friday 28 January after midday mosque prayers. You should exercise caution, and observe instructions given by local security authorities and tour operators,’ it says.
The Egyptian government says it is open to dialogue but also warned it is ready to take ‘decisive measures’ if protests continue. Widespread disruption has been reported to the Internet and mobile phone messaging services. There are also reports of arrests of opposition figures overnight from the Muslim Brotherhood after it said it would back the Friday protests.
On Thursday, Egyptian opposition figure and Nobel laureate Mohamed ElBaradei returned to Cairo, promising to join the street protests. At least seven people have died since the protests began on Tuesday.
Demonstrations are not new in Egypt. There were some clashes and protests, and isolated incidents of violence before, during and after the Parliamentary elections that took place on 28 November and 5 December last year. In a separate incident on 24 November 2010 in the Giza district of Cairo, official reports state that one person was killed and dozens were injured when protestors clashed with security forces over the halt in construction of a local church.
These protests though involve more people and follow a series of demonstrations in Tunisia that resulted in the country’s President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali fleeing the country.
There is no advice not to travel to Egypt. The FO website does, however, remind people that the risk of terrorist attacks in Egypt is high. ‘Attacks could be indiscriminate, including in public places frequented by expatriates and foreign travellers, such as hotels and restaurants.’