Call for referendum on ‘unconstitutional’ waiver of islands to Saudi Arabia
Islands of Tiran and Sanafir

CAIRO: Egyptian lawyers and professors have called for carrying out a public referendum on the disputed islands that Egypt handed to Saudi Arabia, saying the waiver of the two islands contradicts Egypt’s constitution.

A public referendum should be conducted on the deal signed between Egypt and Saudi Arabia per which Cairo has announced that the islands of Tiran and Sanafir, locate at the entrance of Al-Aqaba Gulf, are Saudi Territories, said professor of philosophy and history of law at al-Zagazig University Ahmed Farahat.

“The request is to conduct a public referendum in accordance with Article 151 of the constitution [which requires the president to obtain parliament approval before signing foreign treaties] But the House (the Parliament) did not do so … those who deliberately ignored democracy and the politics should be blamed,” he posted on his Facebook Sunday.

Lawyer Khaled Ali, former Presidential candidate, stated that the anger over the handover of the two islands should be changed into a public call for suspending the final ink on the treaty until conducting a referendum.

“No treaty may be concluded which is contrary to the provisions of the Constitution or which results in ceding any part of state territories,” the constitution states.

Egypt’s Cabinet announced Saturday evening that President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi decreed the islands were Saudi terrritory, justifying that late King Abdul Aziz Al Saud has asked in 1950 that Egypt administer the islands to protect them against Israeli occupation.

Hesham Sadek, professor of international law at Alexandria University told “Here is Cairo” talk show on the CBC channel Monday that Egypt has the right of sovereignty on the islands since 1949 despite the difference with Saudi Arabia, so there should have been a public referendum on the islands before being “given” to the Kingdom.

“Whether we agree or disagree on the ownership of the islands to Saudi Arabia, a popular referendum on the Cabinet’s agreement is required, as long as it comes under the Egyptian sovereignty,” he said.

The decision was issued before being discussed by the parliament. However, lawmaker Alaa Abdel-Moneim, head of the Coalition to Support Egypt, said the parliament will review all document of the two islands and if it is proved they are owned by Egypt, they should not be handed over, adding on his Facebook account “in case the lands confirmed Saudi, there will be a public referendum.”

The treaty between both countries ignited public anger against the deal and criticism against the government. Facebook users created Sunday an event calling the Egyptians to take to streets against the decision of the two islands on April 15. The Egypt Socialist Popular Alliance Party called for public protest against the decision.

Egypt’s Foreign Ministry released documents claim that two Islands belong to the Kingdom, while Facebook users circulated map from Alexandria Library shows the islands were included as territory of the Sinai Peninsula dating back to era of Ismail Pasha, the Khedive of Egypt and Sudan from 1863 to 1879. They also circulated video footage for late Egyptian President Gamal Nasser says that the lands located in Egypt’s territorial waters.

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