"‘Do you want Morsi?’ said the kiosk owner, to my surprise. I said no, so he handed me a 'Rebel' campaign form before taking note of what I needed to buy."
The person telling this story - who preferred to remain anonymous - was recounting how they were presented with the petition from the latest anti-government campaign, known as the ‘Rebel’ campaign, which aims to gather 15 million signatures by 30 June to withdraw confidence from Egypt's President Mohamed Morsi and to call for early elections.
Stories such as this proliferated during the past month. Grocery stores, jewellers and even hairdressers were among the unconventional venues reported to be distributing the forms over the last few weeks.
Campaigners holding posters bearing the word 'Rebel' ('tamarrud') became a common sight in Cairo's streets and squares, as did the sight of citizens holding their national identity cards and filling out the forms heeding the campaigners’ calls.
After months of ongoing protests against Morsi’s government, a new form of protest is in place, and it seems to be gathering momentum. The campaign had collected 3 million signatures at the start of the week, one of the organisers of the campaign announced.
An enthusiastic response in Cairo’s streets
In Mostafa Mahmoud Square in the centre of Giza’s middle class Mohandeseen district, Tariq Hamza and Nermeen stand at the side of the road, calling on cars and passers-by to sign the form.
As Nermeen - who only gave her first name - talks to a man who disapproves of the campaign, he urges her to convince him to sign. Nermeen tells him that she is only presenting the form to those who already want to sign it.
“Whoever wants to sign can sign, whoever doesn’t want to can walk on by. My job is to give access to the form and deliver it afterwards to the collectors,” she says. Having failed to spark a political debate, the man disappears into the crowd.
The reasons for the campaign are stated clearly on the form. It reads: “Because security hasn’t returned to the streets yet, we don’t want you. Because there’s no place for the poor, we don’t want you. Because retribution for the revolution’s martyrs hasn’t been achieved yet, we don’t want you. Because the economy has collapsed and is dependent on begging, we don’t want you.”
The list of grievances goes on, to include the continuing lack of dignity of the Egyptian citizen and the view of Morsi as a US crony. The form includes a slot for the name, national identity number, province and signature of the campaign supporter.
“People are running up to me wanting to sign,” Nermeen tells Ahram Online, saying that this is the first day she joined the campaign. She intermittently interrupts the interview to call on passers-by to sign.
“My friends started a week ago, but it’s my first day and I’m impressed with the positive reaction,” she says.
While Nermeen is a member of the left-leaning Egyptian Popular Current movement, she says her involvement in the ‘Rebel’ campaign is independent of that allegiance. In any case, many opposition parties and movements have decided to support the campaign, as have many public figures, including intellectuals and politicians.
A few metres away, another group of campaigners raise their ‘Rebel’ signs and invite the cars which fill the large square to sign. Many drivers park at the side of the road to do so, voicing their frustration with the government.
In Tahrir Square, where hundreds of thousands gathered in 2011 in protests that led to the toppling of former president Hosni Mubarak, cars and motorcycles lined up to fill in the forms, to the delight of the campaigners.
Hesham El-Sayed Suleiman, the campaign’s coordinator in Tahrir, said that on the day he talked to Ahram, his group had collected approximately 30,000 signatures, working from 10am until late at night.
Asked whether there was any opposition to the campaign on the street, Suleiman said there was virtually none, and that only a handful of people had argued with them throughout the day,
Last Tuesday, a number of campaigners were assaulted in Cairo’s Helwan district while collecting signatures. No such violence has been reported in the capital.
Campaigner Taha Khaled, a skinny high school student, says there is strong participation in the campaign. “The signatures are plenty and increasing,” he told Ahram Online.
Campaigners are planning to take the petitions to the High Constitutional Court on 30 June and request the court runs the country until early presidential elections take place.
They say the Egyptian constitution permits withdrawing confidence from Morsi, supported by the stipulation in the national charter that the people are the source of all powers.
Whether such aims are legally viable or not, the campaign is attracting Egyptians disgruntled with the government.
'I feel like I don't have a president'
Speaking from his battered cab, taxi driver Sameh Magdi, who had just filled in a Rebel form, told Ahram Online about how the deteriorating security situation affects him.
“There is no movement, no work. A customer rides your cab while being afraid of you, and you of him,” he says animatedly.
Many signatories accuse Morsi of breaking one of his main campaign pledges - to re-secure Egyptian streets.
Heba Hamdi, a shop owner, voiced sentiments common to many who oppose Morsi.
“Morsi has brought destruction upon this country - the power outages, the inflation, the fuel shortages. It’s all too much,” she said from behind the wheel of her car, after signing the petition.
Power outages have become increasingly common in Egypt, due partly to a lack of fuel. The problem is exacerbated during summer heat waves, when electricity usage is higher.
Fuel shortages have also led to long lines at petrol stations for the last year. Fuel shortages were another problem Morsi vowed to solve when he came to office.
“I don’t feel like I have a president. I feel like I have no authority figure to reach out to in a time of need,” Hamdi told Ahram Online.
Campaigners will call for a mass demonstration at the presidential palace on 30 June, while the petitions are taken to the court.