CAIRO — Egyptians are up in arms after their government said it had sold two islands to Saudi Arabia.
The Egyptian cabinet announced Saturday that the country was selling the Tiran and Sanafir islands — two Egyptian-administered territories on the Red Sea that are also claimed by Saudi Arabia — to the oil-rich Gulf Kingdom.
The announcement came during a rare five-day visit to the country by Saudi King Salman, and one day after the king announced that his kingdom would build a bridge on the Red Sea to boost trade between the two countries. (Saudi Arabia also signed an agreement to set up a $22bn investment fund with Egypt).
That was well enough — but Egyptians were shocked when the cabinet suggested it was simply returning the two islands to its rightful owner.
Popular Egyptian satirist Bassem Youssef tweeted:
Some used the hashtag, #عواد_باع_ارض, which translates into “Awaad sold his land,” a reference to a popular 1960s radio drama centering around a character named Awaad, who brought shame upon his family after selling their land.
Duraid Lahham, an Arab actor, referred to Saudi Arabia’s involvement in Yemen’s bloody war:
Amr Abd-Had, a lawyer and member of 2012 constitution committee, tweeted
Mamdouh Hamza, a prominent engineer based in Cairo, tweeted:
Khaled Ali, a prominent lawyer and former presidential candidate, told BuzzFeed News on Monday that that he had filed a lawsuit against the country’s president and the prime minister for giving away the two islands. “This is not a personal case,” he wrote on his Facebook page, as he called on the public to join him.
A group of people has started an online petition to get parliament to undo the decision. Another Facebook campaign called “The Land is the Honor” has taken off, with more than 12,000 people saying they plan to attend a protest called for Friday (a small number of people protested in Cairo’s Tahrir Square on Sunday).
Online, Saudis took a different view. The country’s latest investment in Egypt comes less than three years it gave the the country a $12 billion aid package, just as it was struggling from an ailing economy.
Saudis didn’t let Egyptians forget it.
The Tiran and Sanafir islands are located near the coastlines of both countries, and are considered important because of their location on the narrow sea passage that leads to major ports in Jordan and Israel. In 1967, the Egyptian blockade of the Strait of Tiran triggered the Arab-Israeli war, widely known as the six-day war. Both the islands had been under Egyptian control for more than 60 years.