Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi announced on Monday that the country will be coming out of a state of emergency declared back in 2017 after deadly church bombings.
Owing to “great people and loyal men, an oasis of security and stability in the region,” the president said on Facebook that “the state of emergency has been cancelled across the country.”
ISIS terrorists had killed 49 people and injured 136 on April 9, 2017, by suicide-bombing St. George’s Church in Tanta, a northern city situated on the Nile Delta, and Saint Mark’s Coptic Orthodox Cathedral in Alexandria, the seat of the Coptic papacy.
Copts in Egypt constitute five to 20 percent of the 100 million Egyptian population. The exact number is not known but Copts in Egypt account for the largest minority Christian population in the Middle East and North Africa.
The attacks followed a call for violence against Christians by ISIS during the previous months. President al-Sisi announced the three-month emergency on the following day, which was subsequently continued.
The state of emergency granted by the Egyptian Parliament allowed the president to increase his authority in the country and escalate privileges of police forces to surveil, make extended arrests, and curtail constitutional rights such as freedom of speech and assembly.
There have been insurgent attacks by ISIS in the northern Sinai regions but the security situation has improved over the past two years. Efforts by Egyptian forces have resulted in many militants getting killed, fleeing the region, or surrendering. It’s reported that as few as 200 radicals may still be active, which is down from 800 back in 2017.
The government has started building apartment blocks in Al Arish, North Sinai’s main city. “We’ve had enough,” said an unnamed man to Reuters. “We want to return to our houses or even the new ones they are building. We want to live in peace again.”
Al-Sisi is a proponent of security, although rights groups had condemned the prolonged emergency period in the country. The groups claim that the emergency situation was utilized by al-Sisi to consolidate his power and crush dissent. Al-Sisi, however, maintains that there are no political prisoners in Egypt.
Egyptian activist Hossam Bahgat has welcomed the recent decision by the government to return to normalcy. Bahgat said that this would effectively end the country’s emergency state security courts although there are some high-profile cases still pending to be processed.