Friday, August 31, 2012

1,000s of anti-Morsi protesters gather outside presidential palace

Ahram Online
Thousands of anti-Morsi protesters gather outside presidential palace

August 24, 2012

Yasmine Fathi

Around three thousand people turned up on Friday at the presidential palace in Cairo to take part in protests against what they dubbed the "Brotherhoodisation" of Egypt.

Among the protesters were supporters of the military, liberals, and activists calling for an end to the regime of President Mohamed Morsi, the first democratically elected president since the ouster of Hosni Mubarak in February 2011.

Protesters chanted against the president, who came to power in late June, and accused him of being a traitor who wants to monopolise power in Egypt. Morsi, who is a long time member of the Muslim Brotherhood and was the former head of the group's Freedom and Justice Party (FJP), was accused of not being loyal to the Egyptian people.

"Morsi's loyalty goes to the Brotherhood only and the Egyptian people need a president who makes them his first priority," said Said Darwich, an employee at a telecommunication company, who joined the protest.

The group chanted "down with the rule of the Brotherhood," "we want a civil state not a Brotherhood state," and “the Brotherhood are murderers.”

Widespread calls for the protests had been spreading across social networking sites for weeks. Two controversial Egyptian figures, anti-revolution television presenter Tawfiq Okasha and former MP Mohamed Abu-Hamed, were the first to call for mass protests aimed at "toppling Muslim Brotherhood rule."

Anti-Brotherhood sentiment has been building after several key decisions made by Morsi.
Fears of Brotherhood control over state institutions led several Egyptian writers and journalists to leave their columns blank on 9 August to protest perceived attempts by the Brotherhood to control state-owned publications.

Islam Afify, the editor-in-chief of Al-Dostour newspaper, was put on trial for insulting President Mohamed Morsi and publishing inaccurate information.

The suspension of the Faraeen Egyptian television channel, which is owned by prominent talk show host Okasha, ceased transmission in August after Egyptian state authorities ordered the station's closure for at least one month. Okasha also faces charges of inciting violence against the president.

The death of 16 Egyptian soldiers after an attack on the border in Sinai has also left many people angry. The protest was also transformed into an anti-Brotherhood revolt, however, when it was picked up by others whose fear of the Brotherhood was heightened after President Mohamed Morsi retired Egypt's military rulers earlier this month.

Several marches were organised across Cairo, with the presidential palace, Misr El-Gedida district, the focal point. One set off from the memorial of the Unknown Soldier in the nearby Nasr City district.

Earlier in the day, heavy security was present around the palace which is situated in the affluent suburb of Heliopolis.

All roads leading to the palace were blocked, with security officers directing traffic away from the area. Dozens of security trucks were stationed around the palace and hundreds of baton wielding state security troops stood around the area from the early morning.

The street where the palace was situated was blocked with barbed wire. However, despite the tense atmosphere, the vicinity of the palace remained calm for hours after the organised protests were expected to begin.

Although the marches were scheduled to arrive promptly after the Friday prayer, the area remained free of protesters, with only reporters and state security officers in the area. At about 2:30pm, protesters began filtering in, waving Egyptian flags.

Security and the barbed wire stopped them from entering the street of the palace. However, by 4pm, thousands of protesters began arriving from Abbasiya Square and Madinet Nasser.

"Look at all these army trucks and the barbed wire," fumed Suzan Esmat, a tour guide. "I've been a political activist for 15 years and I never saw anything like this. Not even during the Mubarak era.”
Esmat said the main demand of the protest was an end to the Brotherhood's domination of all sectors of Egyptian life.

"They are taking over the judiciary, the media, and the military," Esmat said.

She also expressed anger at Morsi's recent decision to release Islamist political prisoners, while many activists arrested during the past two years remain detained. She also criticised Morsi for attempting to overrule a decision by the constitutional court to bring back parliament after it was dissolved.

"We want a transparent democracy. We want to know what the reasons behind these decisions are," Esmat said.

She also demanded that an investigation be launched into the funding of the Brotherhood.
"Today is basically a message to tell Morsi that we hate him," Esmat said. "And in the next few months we will have bigger and bigger protests."

Esmat added that the Brotherhood does not respect the country's other political forces which used to defend them against the repression of the Mubarak regime.

"For years I used to go to protests to demand that they release Khairat El-Shater and other Brotherhood members from prison,” said Esmat. “We defended them when they were down and now that they are in power, they've sold us out."

Mohamed Idris, another protester, also accused the Brotherhood of lying to the Egyptian people.
"At first they said that under Mubarak the group was illegal and that their only wish was to have a licensed political party," said Idris.

"Then they said they want the parliament, then the constituent assembly which is drafting the constitution, then they changed their decision not to field a presidential candidate and now we have Morsi. They are liars and they can’t rule Egypt."

Gamal Salem, a retired technician, told Ahram Online that he is angry at the government’s decision to ban Okasha’s Faraeen channel.

"Everyone in Egypt loved that channel. Okasha is the voice of the Egyptian people," Salem said.
Others at the protest demanded the immediate dissolution of the both the Brotherhood and the FJP.

"They use religion as a tool to gain the sympathy of the Egyptian people, because they know that we have strong faith," said Farag Abdel Salam. "But this manipulation has to end."

While many expressed disappointment at the low turnout, they stressed that they would not give up.
"The Brotherhood scare the people. Now everyone feels that if they oppose them they will go to prison," says Abdel Salam. "But we will come back stronger than ever. They can't stop us."

*Photo by Mai Shaheen

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