By Rabie al-Sukkari and Mustafa Eid
Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood and a former leftist presidential candidate are urging Egyptians to take to the streets Friday to protest parliament's approval of a controversial border demarcation agreement that would see sovereignty over two Red Sea islands transferred from Egypt to Saudi Arabia.
“Egyptians must stand united against this agreement,” Hamdeen Sabbahi, who unsuccessfully ran in Egypt’s first post-coup presidential poll in 2014, declared at a news conference on Wednesday evening at the Cairo headquarters of the leftist Egyptian Democratic Party.
He called on members of the public to hold demonstrations in public squares across the country following Friday prayers to “express our rejection of the current regime” of President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi.
Following Wednesday’s press conference, Sabbahi led a protest march -- accompanied by dozens of journalists and activists -- near Cairo’s Talaat Harb Square (located close to Egypt’s iconic Tahrir Square) that was quickly dispersed by security forces.
Shortly afterward, the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood group, too, issued calls for “a Friday of rage” against the maritime border demarcation agreement.
“We’re calling for a renewed wave of protests against al-Sisi and his putschist regime,” according to a statement issued by the group.
When serving as defense minister in 2012, al-Sisi led a military coup that saw Mohamed Morsi -- Egypt’s first freely-elected president and a Muslim Brotherhood leader -- ousted and imprisoned.
In the wake of the coup, the Brotherhood was officially banned and dubbed a “terrorist group” by Egypt’s post-coup regime.
On Wednesday, Egypt's parliament approved the border demarcation agreement, which was initially signed last year between Cairo and Riyadh.
If implemented, the deal would effectively transfer sovereignty over two uninhabited Red Sea islands -- Tiran and Sanafir -- from Egypt to Saudi Arabia.
The move comes despite widespread popular opposition and a January ruling by Egypt’s Supreme Administrative Court that rejected the islands’ proposed transfer to Saudi Arabia.
In April of last year, Cairo first announced plans to transfer the two islands, located at the mouth of the Gulf of Aqaba between Saudi Arabia and Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula, to Saudi ownership.
News of the deal prompted a public outcry amid accusations that al-Sisi was “selling” Egyptian territory to oil-rich Saudi Arabia, which since the 2013 coup has given billions of dollars to Egypt to shore up the country’s ailing economy.