GERD workers

There is a crisis flowing downstream towards the mouth of arguably the world’s longest river. The Nile has been the source of Egypt’s water supply – and therefore the basis of agriculture in the country – for many thousands of years.

Presidential elections were held in Egypt last week, in accordance with a formal concession to the Egyptian Revolution in the 2014 Constitution. This was the first electoral test of President Sisi’s authority since he was officially inaugurated back in 2014. Despite the risible contempt for democracy demonstrated by Sisi and his regime at every stage of the electoral process, early estimates of the results indicate this is a test he has comprehensively failed.

On 24 November, around 30 Islamic State militants from the Sinai Province arrived in large, all-terrain vehicles outside the el-Rawda mosque in Bir el-Abed, Northern Sinai, during Friday prayers. They detonated two bombs inside and then sprayed the fleeing crowds with machine-gun fire. The attack left over 300 people dead and 130 wounded: the largest death toll recorded for such an event in Egypt’s modern history.

“The lot of young Arabs is worsening: it has become harder to find a job and easier to end up in a cell. Their options are typically poverty, emigration or, for a minority, jihad. Astonishingly, in Egypt’s broken system university graduates are more likely to be jobless than the country’s near-illiterate.” (The Economist, August 2016)

These words are now a year old and the situation for young Arabs in general – and young Egyptians in particular – has only gotten worse. In its lead article of an issue entitled ‘The Ruining of Egypt’, The Economist showed a graph placing Egypt’s youth employment rate consistently between 40% and 46% over the previous six years. The only Arab countries whose youth fared worse between 2010 and 2016 were Libya and Mauritania.

Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi has ratified a deal to sell off the two Red Sea islands of Tiran and Sanafir to Saudi Arabia. The two islands – particularly Tiran Island – had historically played a pivotal role in conflicts between Egypt and Israel. Tiran was occupied by Israel between 1967 and 1982, at which point it was returned to Egypt and has since hosted military bases of the Egyptian army and the Multinational Forces and Observers tasked with monitoring the adjacent sea passage.

There were violent scenes on Al-Warraq Island in the suburbs of Cairo last Sunday as police attempts to evict residents inevitably resulted in brutal clashes. At least one local man was killed and fifty-six injured. The move to force the island's inhabitants onto the streets comes after President Sisi said in a June speech, “There are islands in the Nile ... according to the law no one should be present on these islands.” This statement bears no regard for the thirty years that this community had inhabited the island or for the failure of any government during that period to provide them with an alternative.

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