Live updates: A blow by blow account of Egypt's 'Friday of popular will and united front'

Ekram Ibrahim and Salma Shukrallah in Tahrir, Mustafa Ali and Simon Hanna in Alexandria, Dina Samak, Yasmine Fathi, Sherif Tarek, Friday 29 Jul 2011

Photo: Mai Shaheen

6:50 Some protetsters are begining to chant for a civil state. Islamists repond 'Islamiyah, Islamiyah'. No clashes or violence reported.

6:45 A large number of protesters dismantled two podiums in Tahrir Square by dusk after ‎deciding to end the mass demonstration earlier than expected. ‎ Demonstrators also called on each other to clean the square and surrounding streets before leaving, as many noted that the streets were much dirtier than in previous protests.‎

The hot weather made it impossible for the protests to continue. Moreover, some of the protesters ‎who came from different governorates will need time to return home.‎

6:30 Tens of young protesters began a silent march around Tahrir Square, wearing white shirts with slogans saying that their march is peaceful and stressing the demands of Egypt's January 25 Revolution.

The protesters also raised posters calling for a civil state, including “civil state, not religious state,” and “don’t call us heretics.” The march snaked through the thousands of Islamists who dominated today’s protests.

5:30 About 265 protesters fell sick today due to the hot weather (35 Celsius, or 95 Farenheit), says Adel Adawy, the assistant to the minister of health. Adawy says that the dense crowds have led to several cases of suffocation, fainting, low blood pressure and low blood sugar levels. Fifty of the sick have been sent to three hospitals for treatment.

5:05 According to several Salafist clerics in the square, the Islamists never intended to turn today’s “Friday of popular will and united front” protests into an open-ended sit-in. They state they only came to express the will of the people, enforce God’s law and that of the holy Quran.

5:00 Islamist protesters - some of whom began arriving in Tahrir Square at 6am and overwhelmingly dominated today's protests - have begun leaving Tahrir Square.

04:30 The youth of 80 coalitions, movements and political parties have announced that they will end their sit-in at the end of today’s “Friday of popular will and united front.”

Adel El-Garhy the media coordinator for Tahrir Square said that the decision to end the sit-in came after a three-hour meeting yesterday between the revolutionaries and Prime Minister Essam Sharaf in his office. The meeting included Ali El-Selmy, the deputy to the prime minister for political affairs and Mansour El-Eissawy, the Minister of Interior.

4:00 Three seperate Islamist marches are going down Abdel Moneim Riyad Street, Bab El Louk Street and Talaat Harb Street in downtown Cairo.

3:55 Thousands of Islamists protested today in the Sawaky El Hadeer Square in the governorate of Fayoum. The protesters chanted “Islamic State...Islamic State,” “No to denying the will of the people,” and “Our great army: we support you.” The protesters asked that Egyptians respect the results of the 19 March referendum on the constitutional amendments (which supports the status quo in Egypt with regard to Islam as it's religion), to conduct the parliamentary elections in September, as scheduled, and rejected calls for “supra-constitutional values.”

3:05 Tens of Salafists in Qena chanted pro-Islam slogans and held banners and placards with anti-secularist statements in the mass protest that was staged after Friday’s prayers ‎today. ‎
Some of the Salafists held aloft copies of the Quran while chanting “Islamic, Islamic,” ‎which was also repeated quite frequently in Cairo and Alexandria (Egypt's first and second cities) where Islamists dominated the majority of other similar protests. ‎There was an agreement among many political forces not to chant Islamic or partisan ‎slogans and call for unity. ‎ “Despite the fact that the Salafists, Al-Jamaa Al-Islamiya and the Muslim Brotherhood agreed with us not to ‎chant religious slogans, the Salafists did not honour the agreement,” said Hesham Saied, ‎the Nasserists Party spokesman.

3:00 The Mounira General Hospital, which is adjacent to Tahrir Square has received 18 patients from Tahrir Square. According to Mahmoud Saeed, the head of the hospital’s emergency department, the patients were suffered from a variety of ailments, including sunstroke and low blood pressure and some have fainted. Currently the weather is 35 Celsius (95 Farenheit). The patients were all released after receiving treatment.

2:35 Twenty-eight political movements and parties, including the 6th of April Movement and the Revolution’s Youth Coalition, held the press conference they had announced earlier today that would take place at 2pm. They stated that they will continue the sit-in they began in Tahrir Square on 8 July, but will not participate in today’s mass protests. The group said that they made a decision to officially withdraw from today’s protests because the Islamists have violated the terms of the agreement they made this week, which was: to create a united front, call for common demands and avoid all controversial points. The statement was signed by all of the 28 movements and parties.

2:30 Several people have fainted and were carried out of the square, reports an Ahram Online journalist in the square.

2:20 Thousands of Salafists and other Islamists started to chant, demanding right after ‎finishing Friday’s prayers in ‎Ibrahim Mosque Square, Alexandria. ‎ On a massive podium, they stressed the importance of handing toppled president ‎Hosni Mubarak the death penalty for “ordering the killing of peaceful protesters in the ‎January 25 Revolution,” as well as the prosecution of ex-state security officers indicted on ‎similar charges. ‎

The Islamists, who comprised the majority of the protesters in ‎Ibrahim Mosque Square, also called for the ‎implementation of the constitutional amendments, which were ratified in a referendum held ‎months ago.‎ Other hundreds of demonstrators chanted “Islamic, Islamic,” stressing the ‎Islamic identity of Egypt.‎

A speaker on the podium, which was controlled by the Nour Party, the Salafists political arm, said: “Islam is ‎what will provide the Christians protection.”‎

2:00 “Show the people God's rule. Don't leave the square, if anyone steals this revolution from you, God will not forgive you," says Safwat Abdel-Ghani, a former member of the Shura Council (Upper House) of the Jamaat Islamiya from one of the stages. It is not known yet whether the Islamic groups will leave at 5pm, as agreed, or if they will stay in the square.

1:45 The protesters who have been staging a sit-in inside the square since 8 July have now become isolated in the small tent city on the big, grassy island inside of the square. The rest of the square is completely occupied by Islamists. According to our on-scene Ahram Online reporter, several scuffles broke out between Islamists and the protesters in the tent city because Islamists tried to forcibly enter, but were turned away by the protesters arguing that this has been their home for weeks.

Our Ahram Online reporter also says that the Islamists have begun blocking all entrances to the square by sitting and eating in dense groups so that people could not enter. They have also been sitting on the pavement of most of the downtown streets in Cairo. “It seems that they are purposefully creating an intimidating ambiance,” our reporter said.

Another Ahram Online reporter says that Islamists are sitting all over Talaat Harb Street, a major thoroughfare that leads to Tahrir Square, and are also occupying many of the cafés in the area.

1:40 Around one thousand people marched from El Galaa Street, downtown Cairo, to join demonstrators in Tahrir, chanting “Allah is great” and “We will sacrifice blood and soul for the sake of Islam.”

1:40 Protesters in the city of El Arish have headed to El Horreya (Freedom) Square in solidarity with the “Friday of popular will and united front” protests. The gathering was organised by the Muslim Brotherhood, the Salafist group and various political forces.

1:35 A number of secular protesters who have been in sitting-in Tahrir square for the past two weeks decided to stay in the circular garden in the middle of the square where the tents are (at various points the protesters have considered moving around in the square, due to scuffles).

They chant "The military cheated you, tomorrow they will pull you down." The message is directed to the Islamic forces, who says have breached the agreement reached with non-Islamic groups for unity and non-controversial speech on this "Friday of unity."

1:35 In Alexandria there are now 30 tents with secular protesters and families of the martyrs of the revolution continuing their sit-in at Saad Zaghloul Square. Everything seems quiet in this part of the city. The imam that leads the Friday prayers in the square gave a sermon on the importance of unity between Muslims and Christians. Roughly 200 people participated in the prayers. The imam urged the people to continue their sit-in. After the prayers about 300 people started chanting against the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces.

1:30 During his sermon for Friday’s prayers in Tahrir Square, prominent Islamic scholar ‎Youssef El-Qaradawi called on all political forces to unite and not to accuse each ‎other of betrayal.‎ “The nation’s best interest must come before any other groups' interests,” ‎said Sheikh Essam Khalil, who gave El-Qaradawi’s sermon on his behalf in Tahrir Square. “The youth of ‎the revolution need to keep the spirit of [Tahrir] Square intact.”‎

El-Qaradawi’s sermon also underlined the importance of the fulfilment of the as yet unmet ‎demands of the revolution, including offering medical treatment for those who were ‎injured during the 18-day revolt.‎

Hundreds of thousands from across the political spectrum are now present in Tahrir ‎Square, many of which are Islamists who are seeking to stress the Islamic identity of the ‎country.‎

1:10 Safwat Hegazi, a major Islamic scholar and member of the Muslim Brotherhood, announces on one of the main stages in Tahrir Square that tarawih (night prayers) in Tahrir Square during Ramadan will be lead by Sheikh Mohamed Gebril and that everyone should know that Egypt is an Islamic country, in which all citizens are equal. Hegazi chanted "Egyptians, Egyptians, we are all Egyptians" and "Muslims and Christians are one hand" and thousands around the stage reciprocated. Hegazi estimates the number of participants to be two million, however Ahram Online reporters says this number is exaggerated and estimate the number to be in the hundreds of thousands.

12:55 Islamist protesters in Tahrir Square have begun to chant slogans supporting Egypt’s military ruler, Field Marshall Hussein Tantawi. Among the slogans that are being shouted are “Do you hear us Tantawi, we are the voices of your children in Tahrir." Some have criticised Tantawi and the military's continued detentions and military trials.

12:45 Sheikh Mazhar Shaheen, the imam who gave today’s Friday khutba (sermon) in Tahrir Square, said that the presence of the revolutionaries in the square is the first step to free Jerusalem.

“The Egyptians are coming to free Jerusalem and are more than ready to be martyred for God,” he said.

Khateeb also said that Egypt has an Islamic identity and that the Copts are partners in this nation. He also likened article two of the constitution, which stipulates that sharia (Islamic law) is the source of  legislation in Egypt, to Mokattam Mountain; which towers over Cairo and is impossible to eliminate. He also expressed the need to fulfil all the demands of the revolution and to try all the corrupt figures of the old regime in Cairo. He added that the Tahrir Square is owned by all factions of the nation. He further stated that the Egyptian military is capable of performing miracles and that it serves to protect the demands of the revolution.

Shaheen pointed out that in Egypt’s January 25 Revolution all Egyptians united to eliminate the corruption that existed in the country and the old regime and warned that any other country that tries to create divisions between the people of Egypt will get a aggressive response from the revolutionaries.

12:30 Hundreds of thousands are now in Tahrir Square for the Friday prayers. Mazhar Shahin, the preacher of Omar Makram Mosque is the main speaker in the Friday prayers in Tahrir. While there is an Islamic sentiment haunting the square with protesters chanting that the "people demand to apply sharia (Islamic) law" Shahin discusses from the main stage (the Muslim Brotherhood's stage) the importance of giving Prime Minister Essam Sharaf and his new cabinet a chance to fulfil the demands of the revolution. He also emphasises that Tahrir Square doesn't belong to any one group.

12:25 Three main stages are functioning now in Tahrir Square. The biggest one belongs to the Salafists' El Nour (The Light) Party. Another belongs to the leftist Justice and Freedom Youth Movement and the third to the Muslim Brotherhood.

12:15 Tens of Thousands of Salafists and other Islamists began to congregate in Leader ‎Ibrahim’s Mosque square, Alexandria, since the early hours on Friday, which is expected ‎to witness the largest ever nationwide gathering of Islamists.‎ Most of them held banners that bear pro-Islam slogans trying to “stress the Islamic ‎identity of the country.” They also called on Egyptian authorities to “respect the will of the people, which was ‎reflected in the referendum on the constitutional amendments.”‎ (Islamists pushed for a "Yes" vote to pass the amendments to the constitution months ago because it left Egypt's religious state as is, and they were afraid that any future amendments may change the status to secular.)

A number of Salafists, along with Muslim Brotherhood members – all wearing flourescent vests – worked to control the entrances and exits of the square. ‎

The 6th of April Youth Movement also showed up in the Leader Ibrahim’s Mosque Square.

Meanwhile, hundreds of activists and politicians have been maintaining their sit-‎in in Saad Saghloul Square. They are calling for the fulfillment of the revolution's as yet ‎unmet demands. ‎

Their principle slogan is “The right of the martyrs [victim's of the revolution] comes first.”

12:10 Tahrir Revolutionaries will hold a joint press conference at 2pm today, Friday, to comment on today’s million man march. The conference includes the Revolution's Youth Coalition, the National Front for Justice and Democracy, the Free Egyptian Movement, the Popular Coalition Party, the Egyptian Social Democratic Party, the Coalition of the Lotus Revolution and the Popular Committees to Protect the Revolution. The conference will be held at the Egyptian Democratic Party headquarters.

12:05 Revolutionaries in the square are starting to express their anger that Islamists have violated the agreement to show a united front today. In the past few months youth organisations such as the 6th of April Movement and the Revolution Youth Coalition have called most Friday protests. A few weeks ago Islamist groups began galvanising for an “Islamic Million Man March on 29 July to oppose the military council's plans to adopt the  ‘supra-constitutional’ guidelines on the process of preparing a constitution,” and to defend what it sees as the ‘Islamic identity of the nation’ against those it accuses of attempting to steer the country in a secular, liberal direction. However, 21 political forces went into negotiations as a group with Islamists. The result of these negotiations was an agreement to join forces across Egypt, including Tahrir, to seek common demands and avoid controversial points. Now, political forces are angry and believe that the Islamists have violated the terms of the agreement.

Mohamed Adel of the 6th of April Movement says that the revolutionaries are angry but will not officially withdraw from the square but will desist from participating.

“The nation will not participate in this; this is obviously a Salafist-only march,” Adel told Ahram Online. “They violated the agreement that we made with them and I am very angry. They are also calling us kafirs (heretics) and chanting that they will protect Islam from us as if we are the enemies of Islam.”

11:35 Tens of buses carrying Islamist protesters from the Delta region are heading to Tahrir Square from the neighbouring Abdel Moneim Riyad Square.

11:00: Hundreds of mostly Islamist protesters are standing in line waiting at all entrances to Tahrir Square, waiting to enter. The square is completely full but side streets, like Talaat Harb and Kasr El Nil are still empty. Committees have been stationed at every entrance to secure the square by searching all protesters and checking their identity cards before they are allowed in.  Ahram Online reporter at the scene says that most of the protesters who are securing the square are Islamists, although some other political groups are also collaborating with them to secure the square.

10:50: Ahram Online reporter says that some Islamist proyesters in Tahrir Square have raised  green flags with "There is no God but Allah" scrawled on it. Two huge Egyptian flags written on them "There is no God but Allah" made their appearance now.

1035: Ahram Online reporter in Tahrir says that the Islamist Salafists are the most dominant forces in the square. They are chanting Islamic slogans including “Islamic state, Islamic state,” “There is no God but Allah,” and “What has Allah done to you so you reject his Shariaa (Islamic) Law.”

10:30 Hundreds of thousands of Islamists have been heading to Tahrir Square since dawn today to participate in the “The Friday of the people’s will and united front.”

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