Friday 19 Oct 2012
Cairo sees another Friday of protest as pro-democracy forces march on the flashpoint square, decrying Brotherhood rule and the prospect of an 'unrepresentative' constitution
Several thousand Egyptians rallied in Cairo's Tahrir Square on Friday, protesting what they said were attempts by the Muslim Brotherhood to impose its ideas on society.
Nearly 30 political parties and movements marched across the capital for the protest, dubbed "Egypt is no-one's private estate - Egypt for all Egyptians."
Protesters held banners demanding better constitutional representation and "social justice." One common chant accused the Muslim Brotherhood's supreme leader of "selling" the revolution.
Marchers flew the flags of the Constitution Party, the Egyptian Current, the Revolutionary Socialists and the April 6 Democratic Front. Other banners showed slain activist Mina Daniel, while dozens of party members wore t-shirts showing their affiliations.
Revolutionary groups, liberal and leftist forces called the protest earlier this week, voicing their disapproval of a draft constitution presented by Egypt's Constituent Assembly, a 100-person body they claim fails to represent the country's cultural and political diversity.
One of the largest marches came from the Old Cairo district of Saida Zeynab and was led by prominent activist Ahmed Harara.
A second was launched from Mostafa Mahmoud Square in Mohandiseen, with well-known leftist Kamal Khalil and the founder of Egypt's first independent syndicate, Kamal Abu-Eita, at its head.
Chants at the Mohandiseen march called for "a free, revolutionary constitution" written by all Egyptians, and vowed to start the country's revolution "all over again" for the sake of those killed.
One of the most impassioned protests were by the Baheya Masr, a women's movement, and the Social Democratic Party, both of which decried what they said were attacks on the status of Egypt's women in the newly drafted constitution.
"Children should play not get married," read one banner, referring to alleged serious debate within the charter-writing assembly as to whether the marriageable age for females should be lowered to 9 years old.
Another banner voiced opposition to Article 36 in the draft constitution, which stipulates that gender equality be decided with reference to Islamic jurisprudence.
Pictures of prominent Egyptian women, including 1930s women's education advocate Nabaweya Mousa, were also on display.
"We are here to say Egypt is not [President Mohamed] Morsi's private estate and we will not have them rule us anymore," said Iman Diab, a 16 year old demonstrator. "Morsi is only recreating Mubarak's old regime."
Other activists who took part said that they didn't believe attacking the Brotherhood was the main goal.
"I'm happy we are all working together again, but we [political forces] should focus on our demands instead of what we are against," said Salma Said, a well-known activist.
"We shouldn't repeat the same mistake as before, when we only focused on our rejection of Mubarak and we disregarded our differences as to what we stood for," she continued, adding that she had come to Tahrir to hold Morsi to account for his first 100 days and to protest the government's attack on labour strikes.
Egypt has seen several high-profile strikes since Morsi won the presidency in late June, mostly by workers demanding better conditions and higher wages. Some of these protests were quashed with violent police crackdowns, to the chagrin of many activists who believe implementing fairer wages was a core demand of the early 2011 uprising.
"They use religion to justify attacking farmers," shouted protesters, led by Haitham Mohamaden, a member of the Independent Federation of Trade Unions.
There was low-level violence throughout the day, when revolutionary groups turned on members of the Conference Party, founded by former presidential candidate Amr Moussa, calling them "remnants" of the old regime.
Other demonstrators on the square voiced anger at Brotherhood claims that their opposition to the Islamist group meant they were in favour of the old regime. It was possible to reject both the Mubarak regime and rule by the Brotherhood, they said, with some suggesting there was little difference between the two.
"Morsi is Mubarak," went another common chant.
Simultaneous protests by Brotherhood supporters and opponents in central Cairo last Friday descended into prolonged street-fights between the two sides in which over 100 were injured.
The violence seemed to spur a larger showing of secular protesters on Tahrir this time around, including groups who were absent last Friday.
"Those who beat Egyptians cannot rule Egypt," was another chant.
Among the parties and movements taking part in Friday's protest were: the Popular Current, the Constitution Party, the Free Egyptians party, the Nile Party, the Egyptian Social Democratic Party, the Socialist Popular Alliance Party, the 6 April Youth Movement's Democratic Front, the Revolutionary Socialists, the National Association for Change, the Peaceful Change Front and the 'No to Military Trials' campaign.