Egyptian authorities restricted the sale of yellow reflective vests amid fears opponents might attempt to copy French gilets jaunes protesters during next month’s anniversary of the 2011 uprising that toppled Hosni Mubarak.
Security officials and retailers said industrial safety equipment dealers have been instructed not to sell yellow vests to walk-in buyers and to restrict business to wholesale to verified companies, but only after securing police permission. They were told offenders would be punished, the officials said without elaborating.
Six retailers in a Cairo downtown area where industrial safety stores are concentrated said they were no longer selling yellow vests. Two declined to sell them, giving no explanation, but the remaining four said they were told not to by police.
“They seem not to want anyone to do what they are doing in France,” said one retailer.
“The police came here a few days back and told us to stop selling them. When we asked why, they said they were acting on instructions,” said another.
Both spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals.
Security officials said the restrictions would remain in force until the end of January. They said industrial safety product importers and wholesale merchants had been summoned to a meeting with senior police officers in Cairo this week and informed of the rules.
The officials, who have first-hand knowledge of the measures, spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorised to brief the media. Repeated calls and messages to the spokesman of the interior ministry, which oversees the police, to seek comment went unanswered.
The move showcases the depth of the government’s concern with security. Egyptian authorities have clamped down heavily over the past two years, deploying police and soldiers across the country to prevent marches to commemorate the 25 January anniversary of the start of the 2011 uprising. Scores of people have been killed and wounded in clashes during previous anniversaries.
The yellow vests worn by French protesters have become the symbol of the wave of demonstrations that began in November against a rise in fuel taxes but mushroomed to include a range of demands, including the resignation of President Emmanuel Macron.