Egyptian President Sisi “Sells” Disputed Sanafir and Tiran Islands to Saudi Arabia

The Strait of Tiran and Tiran Island. Photograph by Marc Ryckaert. Source: Wikipedia. Used under CC BY 3.0

The Strait of Tiran and Tiran Island. Photograph by Marc Ryckaert. Source: Wikipedia. Used under CC BY 3.0

Egypt handed over the ownership of disputed Red Sea islands Sanafir and Tiran to Saudi Arabia after redrawing its maritime borders in an announcement that has angered many Egyptians who described the move as “unconstitutional.”

The deal was made during the visit of Saudi monarch King Salman to neighbouring Egypt. A total of 24 agreements are being signed between Saudi Arabia and Egypt during the visit, including a new maritime border which hands over the islands to Saudi Arabia. Overall, the new deals between the two countries will bolster economy and are reported to double Saudi investment in Egypt from US$30 billion to US$60 billion. Among them is a bridge connecting Saudi Arabia and Egypt through the Red Sea, passing through the islands which Egyptian president Abdul Fattah El Sisi is accused of selling to Saudi Arabia.

Protesters Arrested

Earlier today, 11 people were reportedly arrested for protesting against the move in downtown Cairo. According to Egyptian Streets:

Egypt’s decision to declare the two islands as Saudi Arabian has prompted outrage on social media. #Tiran_Sanafir (#تيران_صنافير) became the top trending hashtag in Egypt on Twitter, with more than 28,000 tweets posted in relation to the decision. Some social media users have accused President Sisi of ‘selling the country to Saudi Arabia’, while others have supported the decision, arguing that previous governments had also planned to ‘return the islands to Saudi Arabia’.

Lawyers Say Giving Up the Islands is “Unconstitutional”

Lawyers, among them former presidential candidate Khaled Ali, have since filed complaints against the move, saying Sisi's decision to give up the Red Sea islands of Sanafir and Tarin, without approval from Parliament, is “unconstitutional.”

In a post on Facebook, Ali explains:

رفعت اليوم دعوى قضائية ضد التنازل عن الجزيرتين، وهذه ليست قضية شخصية، ولهذا:
(١) القضية متاحة لكل من يرغب من المواطنين للإِنْضِمام إليها من خلال محاميه الخاص أو من خلال الاتصال بى أو بزملائى الأساتذة المحامين( د/ يوسف عواض ، محمد عادل سليمان، مالك عدلى، زياد العليمى)
(٢)القضية تحتاج إلى جهد بحثى وقانوني كبير على المستوى التاريخي والجغرافي والدولى والاستراتيجى والدستوري، لذلك ندعوا كل من لديه القدرة على تقديم المعاونة البحثية فى هذه القضية ألا يبخل علينا بعلمه أو بما تحت يديه من وثائق

I lodged a court case against giving up the islands today and this isn't a personal case. This is why the door is open for any citizen to join the case whether through their own lawyers or by contacting me or any of my colleagues. This case requires monumental research and legal efforts, on historical, geographical, international, strategic and constitutional grounds. We therefore invite all those among you who can contribute to the research this case requires to share their information or what they have in terms of documents

In an earlier post, he explained:

يجب أن يتحول غضب التنازل عن جزيرتي تيران وصنافير من الإدانة والشجب فقط إلى مطلب شعبى واضح، وأقترح أن نرفع معاً مطلب تعليق التوقيعات والتصديقات لحين عرض الأمر على إستفتاء شعبى إستنادا لنص المادة ١٥١ من الدستور

The anger over giving up the islands of Sanafir and Tarin should change from condemnation to a clear public demand. I suggest we jointly lodge a complaint to suspend the signing of the [maritime agreement] until after a referendum is held in accordance to article 151 of the constitution.

The Islands were Egyptian before Saudi Arabia was formed in 1932

And while the Egyptian government insists that the islands have always been under Saudi sovereignty, netizens say otherwise.

Egyptian researcher at Free University of Berlin Taqadom Al-khatib digs up this old map by Carl Christian Franz Radefeld, which shows the island of Tiran under Egyptian sovereignty in the 18th century:

This is a map of Egypt drawn by Carl Christian Franz Radefeld (1788 – 1874) mentioning Tiran and saying it falls under Egyptian sovereignty.

He shares other maps as well to prove his point.

A map of Sinai during Napolean's campaign on Egypt in 1798 in which German orientalist Werner Wildermuth writes about Egyptian islands in the Red Sea

A map showing the borders of the Egyptian state (1872-1915) where Hijaz was under Egyptian sovereignty because it was inhabited by tribes and wasn't a country

Lawyer Gamal Eid adds:

Here's some information for the seller and those keeping quiet:
1. There are Egyptian documents from 1906 proving that the islands of Tiran and Sanafir belong to Egypt
2. In 1906, there was only the emirates of Najd, Hijaz and Asir
3. Saudi Arabia was formed in 1932

And Hala shares this map showing a map of Egypt during the reign of Khedive Ismail, 80 years before the establishment of Saudi Arabia:

Here's a map of Egypt from the reign of Khedive Ismail. 80 years before the founding of Saudi Arabia


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