Egypt restricts sale of ‘yellow vests’ amid fears of France-style protests

Home / Egypt restricts sale of ‘yellow vests’ amid fears of France-style protests

Egyptian authorities have quietly introduced restrictions on the sale of yellow reflective vests, fearing opponents might attempt to copy French protesters during next month’s anniversary of the 2011 popular uprising that toppled autocrat Hosni Mubarak.

Security officials and industrial safety retailers revealed instructions not to sell yellow vests to walk-in buyers and to restrict business to wholesale sales to verified companies, but only after securing police permission. They were told offenders would be punished, the officials said without elaborating.

Six retailers in a Cairo downtown area where industrial safety stores are concentrated said they were no longer selling yellow vests. Two declined to sell them, giving no explanation, but the remaining four told The Associated Press they were told not to by police.

"They seem not to want anyone to do what they are doing in France," said one retailer. "The police came here a few days back and told us to stop selling them. When we asked why, they said they were acting on instructions," said another.

Security officials said the restrictions would remain in force until the end of January. They said industrial safety product importers and wholesale merchants were summoned to a meeting with senior police officers in Cairo this week and informed of the rules.

The officials, who have first-hand knowledge of the measures, spoke on condition of anonymity because they are not authorised to brief the media. Repeated calls and messages to the spokesman of the Interior Ministry, which oversees the police, to seek comment went unanswered.

The move showcases the depth of the Egyptian government’s concern with security. The past two years, Egyptian authorities clamped down heavily, deploying police and soldiers across the country, to prevent any marches to commemorate the January 25 anniversary of the start of the 2011 uprising.

The yellow vests worn by French protesters have become the symbol of the wave of demonstrations that began in November against a rise in fuel taxes but mushroomed to include a range of demands, including the resignation of President Emmanuel Macron.

Egypt has virtually banned protests, and the general-turned-president Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi often warns that his tough hand ensuring stability is necessary, pointing to war and destruction in Syria, Yemen and Libya as the alternative. His emphasis on security has taken on added significance amid his ambitious programme to reform the economy, which has unleashed steep price hikes, hitting the middle class hard.

Negad Borai, a rights lawyer, said the government could delay expected price hikes next year "to avoid protests inspired by what’s happening in France".

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