Egypt restricts sales of yellow vests: traders

Cairo (AFP) –


Egyptian authorities have unofficially restricted the sale of "yellow vests", traders in Cairo told AFP Tuesday, signalling fears of possible protests inspired by those in France.

The move comes over a month ahead of the eighth anniversary of the 2011 uprising that toppled Egypt's longest seated ruler Hosni Mubarak and left the country reeling from political and economic turmoil for years.

"We received instructions from the police around a week ago to sell yellow vests to companies only, and not to individuals," one importer said.

He said two yellow vests shipments were en route to Egypt and should enter the country as normal. No instructions have been given to halt imports, he added.

Launched in early November, weekly "yellow vest" protests in France against planned increases in fuel tax price have spiralled into violence in Paris and other cities, taking a heavy financial toll.

At least seven "yellow vest" sellers in a downtown Cairo street confirmed to AFP that the sale of vests is "prohibited" following police instructions.

"National security officials came by and asked us not to sell them to individuals because they fear protests in France could reach us here," one trader said.

"The sale of vests has become more dangerous than selling drugs," said another, agreeing to sell one on condition that it was kept hidden in a plastic bag.

A third salesman denied having any vests and said "their sale is prohibited". Asked for the reason behind the ban, he said "ask the police station's head. Ask the president."

All spoke on condition of anonymity fearing reprisals.

The interior ministry spokesman did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Egypt imposed heavy restrictions on demonstrations under a 2013 law, passed after the military ousted Islamist president Mohamed Morsi following mass protests against his rule.

General-turned-president Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, who won a second presidential term earlier this year, has repeatedly criticised the so-called "Arab Spring" uprisings, pointing to their repercussions on neighbouring countries like Syria, Yemen and Libya.

His government has overseen harsh austerity measures including the removal of subsidies, and introduced steep price hikes in the hopes of rebuilding Egypt's battered economy.

Sisi constantly urges Egyptians to endure the impact of the austerity measures until they have taken effect.