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Mahmoud Al-Batal, Director 204 W 21st St, F9400, Austin, TX 78712 78712 • 512-471-3513

UT Austin Advisory: Egypt Safety Update

Posted: December 6, 2012

Dear Fellows,

Thursday afternoon the Egyptian military was deployed around the presidential palace in Cairo in response to an increase in violent protests which began on 4 December and have spread to other parts of the country. In Cairo, seven people have been killed and more than 770 injured.

UT-Austin and CASA would like to remind travelers to leave an area at the first sign of unrest, and to avoid all demonstrations. Two International SOS updates are provided below. You are encouraged to read them, and pay particular attention to the sections titled “Travel Advice.”

We will continue to monitor the situation, but please keep yourself updated on any AUC Emergency Alerts and the advisory updates on CASA website.  If you are in need of immediate assistance, contact either CASA office (at AUC or Stateside), or the International SOS anytime 24/7 at 1-215-952-8226 (main line) or 1-215-942-8478 (dedicated scholastic hotline).

Sincerely,

CASA Stateside Office, UT-Austin


Avoid vicinity of planned marches by opposition groups in north-eastern Cairo on 6 December

Created and/or Modified: Thursday, December 06, 2012 15:39:29 GMT

Travelers are advised of the potential for renewed violence in the capital Cairo on 6 December, due to multiple marches planned by opposition political groups over the country's ongoing political crisis; concurrently, President Mohammed Morsi intends to deliver an address. According to a local media report, two rallies will begin in the Abbasiya neighborhood – at the cathedral and at the Al-Nour Mosque – while a third march will commence at the Raba al-Adawia Mosque in the eastern Nasr City area. The precise route of the rallies is unclear, though it is believed that they will culminate in the vicinity of the presidential palace in the Heliopolis neighborhood. Demonstrations are currently banned at the presidential palace and a heavy army presence is in attendance, building a cordon wall around the facility. In the event that protesters do attempt to reach the palace, considerable disruption is possible on routes between the city centre and Cairo International Airport (CAI).

Travel Advice

  • Travelers to Cairo who are not confident of their ability to manage the risks associated with travel in the current environment, and who have flexible itineraries, should postpone non-essential travel until after the constitutional referendum on 15 December.
  • Large-scale protests in central areas of major cities are likely to be disruptive. Avoid locations associated with protests, including the presidential palace in Cairo, due to the likelihood of further demonstrations and associated violence. Liaise with local contacts to remain apprised of developments. Be vigilant and avoid all large public gatherings as a security precaution.
  • If you encounter unrest, where possible to do so safely, leave the area immediately and return to your      accommodation and remain there until the situation stabilizes.

Review Cairo travel plans in light of likelihood of further political unrest (Revised 14.30 GMT)

Created and/or Modified: Thursday, December 06, 2012 14:52:47 GMT

We advise that while travel to Egypt can continue at the present time, personnel who are not confident of their ability to manage the risks associated with travel in the current environment, and who have flexible itineraries, should postpone non-essential trips to the capital Cairo until after the constitutional referendum on 15 December. Personnel currently in the country should monitor developments closely and avoid the vicinity of known protest locations – particularly the presidential palace in Cairo's Heliopolis neighborhood, where localized clashes between rival activists continued on 6 December – due to the potential for further violence linked to the country's ongoing political crisis.

A ban on demonstrations was implemented around the presidential palace from 15.00 (local time) on 6 December, following the deployment earlier the same day of army personnel and vehicles to the area to contain unrest. Overnight on 5-6 December, at least five people were killed and more than 450 injured in violence between supporters and opponents of President Mohammed Morsi. According to reports, Islamist groups demonstrating in support of Morsi have ousted opposition supporters from their encampment outside the presidential palace and remain at the site. The military presence has calmed the situation, but further unrest remains a credible prospect. In fact, reports later on 6 December indicated that opposition activists had surrounded Morsi's residence in Zagazig (Sharqia governorate), prompting the military to employ tear gas in an attempt to disperse the crowd.

Travel Briefing

Further violence should be expected in the coming days as both sides are likely to stage demonstrations; the period on Friday following afternoon prayers will be particularly tense. Foreign nationals are unlikely to be targeted in any acts of violence, but may face considerable indirect risks if caught in the vicinity of unrest. The security forces have primarily used tear gas and birdshot to control crowds, though protesters have also been armed with firebombs, rocks, iron bars and firearms in recent days. Several of the recent casualties near the presidential palace were incurred by gunshot. The considerable – if incidental – risks associated with the use of such weapons underlines our advice to avoid all demonstrations as a security precaution.

Protest locations

In Cairo, the presidential palace is likely to remain the focus of demonstrations, though activists may seek alternative options in the event that the military has some success in containing protest activity at the site. Protests in Cairo may take place at Tahrir Square, Cairo University or outside the Maspero (the state television building), while demonstrations have also occurred at Ramses and Roxy squares. Demonstrations in regional cities are also likely. Gatherings in small cities in the Nile Delta or in Middle-Upper Egypt have proven to be highly prone to violence in recent days. Central squares, Muslim Brotherhood (MB) or Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) offices and major mosques should be avoided, particularly following Friday prayers.

Travel disruption

Disruption should remain confined to the immediate vicinity of protest locations unless demonstrators choose to stage a large march in Cairo, which would exacerbate the city's already severe traffic congestion. Gatherings outside the presidential palace should mainly cause localized disruption; however, more significant delays to travel are likely if protests spill over on El-Orouba street, which links the city centre with Cairo International Airport (CAI). Local information indicates that security measures have been heightened at the airport and other major infrastructure due to the possibility of vandalism. The measures are unlikely to have a significant impact on travelers moving through the airport but may cause limited delays to entry procedures.

Political developments

Recent political developments have polarized the populace between liberal (anti-Morsi) groups and Islamist (pro-Morsi) factions and mobilized activists. Furthermore, Liberal groups blame Morsi and the MB for the recent violence. Morsi on 22 November issued a decree granting the president additional powers, meaning that any decision, declaration or law issued by him is final and not subject to judicial review. It also declared that no judicial body could dissolve the constituent assembly. Additionally, opponents of Morsi have accused the constituent assembly of rushing the final stages of drafting the constitution – which had been expected to be completed in February 2013 – and calling a referendum to prevent the judiciary from dissolving it. The Supreme Constitutional Court was expected to rule on 2 December regarding the legitimacy of the constituent assembly, but postponed its decision indefinitely amid Islamist protests outside the facility.

Outlook

The situation is expected to remain extremely tense in the lead-up to the constitutional referendum planned for 15 December. Violence or a boycott associated with that ballot will limit the legitimacy of the poll, which is already seriously in doubt as a consequence of the circumstances in which the referendum was called. The current political crisis is unlikely to subside unless Morsi rescinds his constitutional decree and/or concedes that flaws exist within the constitutional process and steps are taken to address the concerns of the liberal political factions. It is unlikely that Morsi's government would collapse entirely, though the current situation poses considerable challenges to his administration.

Travel Advice Summary

  • Travelers to Cairo who are not confident of their ability to manage the risks associated with travel in the current environment, and who have flexible itineraries, should postpone non-essential travel until after the constitutional referendum on 15 December.
  • Large-scale protests in central areas of major cities are likely to be disruptive. Avoid locations associated with protests, including the presidential palace in Cairo, due to the likelihood of further demonstrations and associated violence. Liaise with local contacts to remain apprised of developments. Be vigilant and avoid all large public gatherings as a security precaution.
  • If you encounter unrest, where possible to do so safely, leave the area immediately and return to your accommodation and remain there until the situation stabilizes.
  • Anticipate limited delays accessing Cairo airport: allow additional time for travel to the airport and for check-in procedures.
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