Live Updates: Friday protests against Egypt's draft constitution, Morsi's 'power grab'

Bel Trew, Nada Rashwan, Yasmine Fathy, Yasmine Wali, Friday 30 Nov 2012

Opposition forces protest Egypt's new draft constitution passed in the early hours of Friday morning; Demonstrations expected across the country against President Morsi's contentious Constitutional Declaration

People gather at Tahrir Square to protest Egypt's new draft constitution (Photo: Mai Shaheen)

17: 10 With 10,000s still in Tahrir Square, Ahram Online's afternoon shift bids you farewell.

17:05 Abdel-Hakim Abdel-Nasser, son of former president Gamal Abdel-Nasser, joins Tahrir protesters, to cheering crowds.

17:00 Osama Najdi, member of Nasserist Karama Party, talks to Ahram Online's reporter Osman Sharnoubi

"We are not against Morsi's legitimacy; we are for it as long as he follows the revolution's principles, which he is not.” Najdi explained:

"The Constitutional Declaration is unnecessary and entrenches a dictatorship. He is not taking concrete steps to hold accountable those who killed protesters and is not targeting the Ministry of Interior or punishing those who withheld evidence. Instead, he is asking the families of martyrs to bring evidence themselves. He also did not hold the Supreme Council of Armed Forces (SCAF) responsible and is now going to trick the Egyptians by referendum like the Brotherhood did in March 2011."

16:45 Shifting South to Upper Egyptian governorate of Minya, 1000s of Salafists and Muslim Brotherhood members are demonstrating in support of Morsi's decree.

The gathering crowds chanted against opposition figures Mohamed ElBaradei and Hamdeen Sabbahi, according to Al-Ahram Arabic news website.

16:30  Father of slain activist, Saleh Gaber, or "Jika", who was gunned down by security forces on 20 November, speaks from the 6 April Movement stage on Tahrir Square. Jika was a member of the youth group.

"Jika is not one of Morsi's sons he is the son of Egypt, Morsi's real sons are ones with American passports not concerned with Egypt," Jika's father said, slamming Morsi's yesterday's statement on state TV.

The father saluted the youth of 6 April movement "for what they have given to Egypt."

16:25 Former presidential candidate Hamdeen Sabbahi takes to the main stage on Tahrir and addresses 1000s of protesters.

“Egypt will not be forced to choose between a dictatorial declaration and a rushed constitution written by a fraction of Egyptian society. Egypt will not bow down to the will of a few,” he said, as crowds chanted back, “The people will overthrow the regime.”

Speaking to the Constituent Assembly directly, the Nasserist figure continued "You are afraid that the High Constitutional Court’s verdict on Sunday will be against you so you are racing to finish the constitution.”

Mostafa Mahmoud
Mostafa Mahmoud March (Photo: Nihal Akl)

16:20 The freshly completed Constitution remains Egypt's hottest topic, with the country's top political actors continuing to exchange barbs over the document's content.

Senior adviser to the Muslim Brotherhood and Freedom and Justice Party, Gehad El-Haddad speaking to Ahram Online reporter Bel Trew, responds to some of the criticism leveled at the national charter:

“The constitution is is extremely balance - it walks a fine line between right and left and the end result is satisfying for the majority. We were expecting more but it’s a big step forward. I have some concerns with the document - for example, we want the decentralised management of the state on a municipality level which is not yet stated clearly in the constitution.

“However, my analysis is that it removes 50 per cent of the powers that the president had in the 1971 Constitution and balances it with the power of the parliament. “

In response to Human Rights Watch report criticising the lack of key articles protecting human rights El-Haddad said that there are grey areas, as nations have different perspectives on what is acceptable or not, the constitution reflects the cultural specificity of Egypt.

“The constitution is not a single document that suits all nations in the world but is tailored to the country’s own specificity.”

ElBaradei’s criticism of the national charter El-Haddad said was unfounded, as he was panning articles that don’t actually exist. The opposition figure had earlier said that the constitution belonged in the “garbage can of history."

“At the end of the day, the constitution was passed by two-thirds majority, which is pretty unanimous, when there is a parliament in place, there can be amendments made the constitution as was done in France and the US.

The constitution in my mind is one of the most successful initiatives during Morsi’s presidency, it is very sad for me to see this political bickering from opposition figures, which is against finalising the transition of egypt.”

16:00 Meanwhile ex-presidential candidate Amr Moussa is heading a 1000s-strong march from the Wafd Party headquarters.

Wafd chairman Al-Sayed Al-Badawi is also in the march together with the party's senior committee, as they enter Tahrir Square to participate in the million-man Tahrir rallies.

"Egyptians will not lose their political conscious and will not allow their will to be broken," Al-Badawi told the crowds, “They won’t give up their right to the quality of life they demand.”

The head of Al-Wafd Party called for unity, confirming that Egyptians will stand together and face up to the Constitutional Declaration until it gets cancelled.

“Egyptians will stand against every attempt to destroy national unity.".

"Down with the supreme guide rule. Void the constitutional declaration; down with Morsi," the crowds shout back.

15:55 Opposition leader Mohamed ElBaradei is expected to give to a speech on the main stage in Tahrir Square at 4pm, ElBaradei's media spokesman announces.

15:50 The Nasserists are out in full force again. On Tuesday posters of former president Gamal Abdel-Nasser were being sold by every vendor on the square- now a symbolic museum has erected near KFC restaurant to commemorate the late state leader, whose era is famously remembered for its intolerance of the Muslim Brotherhood.

The museum, dubbed the "Museum of the Revolution", also displays newspaper clippings of notorious Islamist figures.

One example is FJP member Azza El-Garf, who sparked uproar when he recommended the removal of articles in the constitution calling for gender equality.

In the revolutionary museum, protesters have also laid floral wreaths to the martyrs of the January 25 Revolution.

15:45 Moving further south, more counter protests are being held by Brotherhood members and Salafists in Assiut.

Hussein Lazoomy, the youth secretary of the Freedom and Justice Party in Upper Egyptian city said that “the purpose of the march is to show support and to demand that the remnants of the old regime are purged from Egypt.”

15:40 Not all the protests in Egypt today are against the president. A pro-Morsi march has erupted in the southwestern governorate of Wadi El-Gedid.

Members of the Muslim Brotherhood and the Salafist Nour Party are out on the streets chanting: “Yes, to Egypt’s new constitution,” and “Morsi is the people’s president.”

15:35 More marches are streaming into the square from El-Fateh mosque in Cairo’s downtown area of Ramses.  Thousands of protesters participating in the march chant against the declaration as well as the Constituent Assembly that finalised the draft of the constitution overnight early Friday.

15:24 After a long march from Mostafa Mahmoud Mosque in Mohandiseen, the thousands of protesters are still high spirits as they enter Tahrir Square, waving Revolutionary Socialists and Egyptian Popular Current flags and chanting for social

justice and a representative government.

Leading the chants is labor activist and lawyer Haytham Mohamadein. He is joined by familiar faces including former presidential contender Hamdeen Sabbahi, former MP Ziad El-Eleimi and Egyptian actress and dancer Sherihan.

Security towers
Security towers (Photo: Zeinab El-Guindy)

15:20 Staying in the Nile Delta, thousands are now taking the streets of the industrial city Mahalla to denounce Morsi's declaration.

Mahalla saw brutal clashes between rival protest groups on Tuesday following a mass demonstration against the president's "power grab", which left more than 100 injured.

For more information on unrest in the Delta, read Ahram Online journalist Yassin Gaber's report

15:15 Moving north to the Nile Delta city of Damanhour, 250 protesters are marching form Autobis Mosque to Saea Square against President Morsi’s controversial Constitutional Decree.

The protesters chanted against the Muslim Brotherhood, yelling, “The Brotherhood used religion to lie to us,” and “Oh Brotherhood, Egypt is for all Egyptians!”

Last week there bloody clashes in Saea Square, which houses the Brotherhood headquarters, between supporters of the Islamist group and opponents to Morsi resulting in the death of Brotherhood member Islam Maasoud, 15.

15:10 Meanwhile, fierce debates continue about the draft constitution. Abdul Aziz Husseiny, organisational secretary for the nationalist Karama Party tells Ahram Online his thoughts on the subject:

“The public opinion division over the constitution, and the persistence in completing the constitution in a very short time period is unheard of in any part of the world.

The Constitutional Declaration that was issued by the president recently allocated more time to finish off the constitution. So, when they draft the constitution quickly, they end up passing something bizarre. Also, the court appealed against the Constituent Assembly’s legitimacy. Plus, there are lots of members who were not happy and resigned from the assembly.

Putting the Constitution to referendum overrides the legitimacy and power of the judiciary. Thus, there will be no national consensus. They have to learn from the mistakes made by others and what the consequences were. In the end, the regime has lost its legitimacy, and that is what happened in the January 25 Revolution.”

15:05 Despite reports of sexual assault on Tahrir during Tuesday's protests, Ahram Online reporter Hani Shukrallah, says that there are many women of all ages in the square today.

“It seems that the incidents of sexual harassment that have reported in the last few days have not been put off. Every now and then a woman leads the chants on the main stage in the square,” reports Shukrallah.

15:00 More marches are beginning to pour into the square, the latest 300 people holding banners that read “The residents of Azhar and Hossien (Fatimid working class areas near downtown Cairo) rejects Morsi’s constitutional declaration.” The march was saluted by the protesters in the square.

14:55 Around 2000 people have entered Tahrir Square on a march from El-Fatah mosque chanting “Bread, Freedom, and down with the Constituent Assembly,” says Ahram Online reporter Zeinab El-Guindy.

Protesters are holding pictures of Gaber Salah, also known as Jika, a 16-year-old member of 6 April movement, who was killed during clashes with Egypt’s police force last week.

14:50 Moving north to Egypt’s coastal city of Alexandria, a march of around 10,000 protesters has began from Kaed Ibrahim mosque.

According to Alexandria activist Mahienour El-Massry, the march is heading to the Sidi Gaber district of the city. He says, “When we get there, a group of us will head to Tahrir to support the protests there, and the rest will continue holding marches and protests in Alexandria.”

A popular conference will also be held at the end of the march by the different political forces. El-Massry says Muslim Brotherhood supporters and Salafists are also planning to hold a protest in the same area.

“They will gather in Sheikh Street, which is only one street away from where we will be. I am not sure what will happen.”

The march was organised by the liberal Constitution Party, the Egyptian Social Democratic Party, the Popular Coalition Party, the Revolutionary Socialists, the 6th of April Movement, and the Alexandria based “We are all independent” group.

14:45 Two wooden watch towers have been constructed on the Arab League entrance to Tahrir and one near the Egyptian Museum to maintain security, reports Ahram Online journalist Zeinab El-Guindy.

Protesters plan to man the towers to keep an eye on sexual assault and thuggery - particularly as there were several reports of mob sexual attacks on women during Tuesday's million-man protest.

Simon Bolivar
A burnt out car by the new security barricade on Simon Bolivar Square (Photo: Bel Trew)

14:30  Reports are coming in that the march at Istaqama Mosque in Giza has been attacked by pro-President Morsi supporters - the second opposition protest to be confronted by pro-Brotherhood groups.

14:15 There are a number of first-time protesters who say they have "had enough" and so joined the thousands-strong march which has yet to leave Shubra Square, Ahram Online reporter Ekram Ibrahim reports.

Ramez Fawzi, 35, is one of them:

“I am here to get rid of Morsi, I am fed up. We wanted the Constitution first but they brought the president first and now he has given us a tailored constitution."

“Egypt has been ruined after the revolution," added 56-year-old housewife Soad Gerges, who admits that she has never demonstrated before, "I am praying that Egypt is fixed."

"The groups are mostly shouting “Yes, we are chanting against the supreme guide”, “Morsi, leave", “Egypt, some thieves have stolen you from us” and “we do not want a Wahabi constitution”," reports Ahram Online's Ibrahim, "In addition, the liberal Egyptian Social Democratic Party and Coptic group Maspero Youth Union are the leading organisers of this march. The Liberal Adl and Free Egyptians parties also sent representatives."

14:10 Moving back to Tahrir Square, where the numbers are increasing, Ahram Online reporter Zeinab El-Guindy says protesters have hung signs saying "No entry for sexual harrassers."

Following a rise in reports of mob sexual assaults on women in the square, "Tahrir Bodyguards" a new initiative was launched by independent activists and rights groups such as Nazra for Feminist Studies, Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, HarassMap. Ahram Online reporter Bel Trew spoke to Leil-Zahra, an activist who has been working on the project and similar campaigns like the End Sexual Harrasment Campaign.

"First of all we're working on a guide to advise women on how to dress when going to the square,and for men on how to help a girl who is being attacked. So for example, give the girl your back to protect her, don't smother, get her to a safe space then make sure you get woman to look after her and give her emotional support. The guide will be distributed among activists and then a simplified version will be blown up to A3 size and hung around the square. We are also running a hotline phone number,which is essentially a phone tree to reach volunteers who will intervene and get the girl out. All the volunteers wear a pink band to identify them, as one of the biggest problems the girls who get attacked face in the chaos is trying to work out who is helping them and who is actually attacking them. On friday "Tahrir Bodyguard", will set up an awareness tent on the square."

14:05 Brotherhood figures, meanwhile, are praising the draft Constitution passed in the early hours of this morning. Leading member of the Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) Essam El-Erian, hinted that divine inspiration was behind the national charter on his Facebook page:

“When people read the draft constitution they will all know that it is an honor for every Egyptian. Perfection belongs to God only but we have produced a draft constitution that suits revolutionary Egypt; one that achieves the hopes of the martyrs and the injured revolutionaries. Every Egyptian will realise that there is an organised campaign of rumours and lies promoted against the draft, and that it will fail.”

14:00 Tensions rise in Cairo's suburbs: protesters participating in a march from Raba El-Adwyia Mosque in Heliopolis to Tahrir told Ahram Online reporter Salma Shukrallah that their demonstration have been blocked by Muslim Brotherhood supporters.

“There were tens of us and we expected more to join as made our way to Tahrir, however a group of Brotherhood supporters blocked our way and kept chanting in support of the president and the Constitutional Declaration”, one of the protesters said, “as it got nasty we thought we'd have to leave and join other marches. However we gathered again and decided to go on with our march.”

13:50 "This is the worst constitution in Egypt's history," Hana Abul-Ghar, a leading member of the Egyptian Social Democratic Party and child rights advocate, tells Ahram Online.

“It is not fit for Egypt whatsoever especially after all the sacrifices made before and after the revolution. We are going to Tahrir today and we will sit-in with all the other revolutionary forces and movements because everybody is angry. There was a chance yesterday to contain the anger of people but now they are forcing us to accept the status quo. When we didn’t agree with Mubarak so we made him step down, and if Morsi continues we will make him lose his legitimacy.We accepted that he is Egypt's president but if he doesn't act as a president for all Egyptians so we will not accept him. He wants to be president for part of the Egyptians living here, that's it."

13:45 Back to Tahrir Square, Ahram Online journalist Ekram Ibrahim speaks to 50-year-old ex-Islamist protester Ibrahim Abul-Kheir, who came to demonstrate against Muslim Brotherhood and the constitution:

“I was a member of the [hardline Salafist] Call and Proselytism group in the 1970s, from my experience I can tell you these [Islamists] are all frauds. The Muslim Brotherhood is a fascist group that we need to get rid of. I was arrested during the Mubarak regime and I participated in the 18-day uprising against it, but now I’d rather have him in power than the Brotherhood.”

"I own a medical supplies factory," he continued, "As a member of the industrial section, I see the article about industries in the draft constitution is too ambiguous and does not uphold the industrial section at all.”

13:30 Marches from Fatah Mosque in Ramses, Dawaram square in Shoubra, Mostafa Mahmoud Mosque in Mohandiseen and Istaqama Mosque in Giza have left and are on their way to Tahrir Square.

13:20 Liberal forces continue to slam the last minute constitution. Elham Aidarous of the Socialist Popular Alliance Party, which lost one of its members Tuesday to a heart attack during the clashes just off Tahrir Square, explained his reservations with the draft national charter:

“The military have super powers in the new draft constitution, much more than they had in the 1971 Constitution in terms of allowing military trials for civilians and appointing military officials.

The Armed Forces has a separate board and budget away from the parliament or any other civilian authority. The Shura Council that we wanted to dissolve is now strongly tied to the president. There are no articles added on the personal freedoms. They refused criminalising human trafficking and specifying an age for marriage.”

13:10  Not all in the presidential camp are happy with the way the Constitution has been put together. Consultant to the president, Ayman El-Sayad, says on his official Twitter account that what we saw yesterday with the Constituent Assembly “marathon” session proves that this is not the right enivronment for writing a constitution.

13:00 The reactions are coming in thick and fast to the passing of Egypt’s draft Constitution. Leading member of the Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party, Dr. Ahmed Okeil spoke to Ahram Online:

“Its called the project of the Constitution now not the constitutional draft. I think it is a very good document, that honors Egypt after the revolution and its martyrs. It fulfilled most of the demands, however there some reservations that I have, that need to be discussed, such as the National Defense Council .. at the end of the day its all in the hands of the public. The real judge will be the people.”

12:45 Protesters in Tahrir chant “leave” and “the people want to bring down the regime,” as they finish prayers. The planned marches are expected to start setting off to Tahrir Square now.

12:30 Just off Tahrir Square, Ahram Online’s Zeinab El-Guindy describes the devastation left over from week long clashes between police and protesters:

“The square is almost empty now as private cleaning companies are now removing the remains of the street battles. The smell of tear gas remains strong around the area - the air stings. Protesters have also installed barbed wires to block entrance. Some of them are standing at the entrances to prevent further clashes, where the army built roadblocks in front of the US Embassy at the square. The damage from the clashes has reached the school attached to the Qasr El-Doubara church, its walls are partially destroyed and its windows broken. Groups of Christians are arriving at the church for the sermon, many of them carrying Egyptian flags.”

12:00 The subject of the Friday’s prayers on Tahrir Square is very much centred around the surprise vote on the constitution.

A sheikh leading the prayers tells protesters that the Muslim Brotherhood and the Salafists have tarnished Islamic Shari’a Law. He accused the Brotherhood of taking advantage of the “blood of the martyrs” of the revolution, in collaboration with the United States to secure themselves power.

11:45 “The constitution belongs in the garbage can of history,” said leading figure Mohamed ElBaradei in a televised interview with Egyptian private channel Al-Nahra, last night.

The draft nation charter, which has sparked uproar among the opposition forces, ElBaradei said was rushed and “not up to people’s expectations.” However, he did add that Morsi still has a chance to retreat and return the authorities he assumed in Thursday’s Constitutional Declaration back to the people.

11:30 The security forces have been busy erecting barricades around Cairo’s flashpoint square ahead of today’s expected million-man protest, says Ahram Online's Zeinab El-Guindy on Tahrir.

“Protesters at the entrance checkpoints block traffic to Tahrir completely as they search incoming people into the square.

There is a new wall just off the square on Simon Bolivar near the US embassy. Surrounding the barricade is the wreckage of last night’s fierce battle between protesters and the police: I can see a burnout car, a smashed shop, broken up pavement and a lot of rocks strewn across the street.

The entrance to Mohamed Mahmoud Street, the site of many clashes between protesters and police in the past, has also been blocked off, with barbed wire fences.

Patriotic songs can be heard playing through the tents erected on the square's central garden - protesters have been camping out here since Friday last week, when Presdient Morsi released his decree.

Ahead of the marches that will converge on Tahrir following Friday noon prayers, a few hundred protesters are already in the square - the focus of dissent is now divided between the new draft constitution and Morsi’s contentious Constitutional Declaration.

Banners decorate the square - one popular slogan is a list of key demands: 'bread, freedom, bringing down the Constituent Assembly.'

The liberal Egyptian Social Democratic Party, part of the 'Revolution Salvation Front' a coalition of opposition forces behind the sit-in, also has a large sign reading "down with the unconstitutional declaration.”

The liberal Constitution party, meanwhile opted for the sign 'No to monopolising power'."

Above the anti-corruption “Shayfenkom” movement the banner reads 'no to the infringement on the independence of the judiciary' while a farmer rights group has a sign that says 'farmers are in Tahrir because they do not feel any change.'"

11:10 Dozens are already gathered on Tahrir for today's expected milion man protest. Fierce clashes between protesters and police continued through the night just off the flashpoint square on the Nile Corniche.  In response, security forces erected another concrete security barrier in the early hours of the morning on near the American Embassy, walling in downtown Cairo. 

11:07 Eleven Egyptian newspapers will not to publish their editions on Tuesday, and three privately owned satellite channels will not broadcast Wednesday in protest of the political events happening in Egypt, reports Reuters. 

11:05 The subject of Egypt's draft national charter is expected to be the hot topic on Tahrir, together with Morsi's contentious Constitutional Declaration, as it was passed in the early hours of the morning, despite mass walkouts by liberal and leftist members. 

Hossam El-Gheriany, head of the assembly, confirmed after the marathon session which ended in the early hours of Friday morning, that they had passed the national charter and would "call the president  today at a reasonable hour to inform him that the assembly has finished its task and the project of the constitution is completed."

The president's critics see the Constitutional Declaration and the rushed draft charter as an attempt to push through the text which they say ahs been hijacked by the Brotherhood.

11:03  "There is no place for a dictatorship," President Mohamed Morsi said in a speech late last night in an attempt to reassure the nation ahead of a weekend of planned protests and growing unrest within the country.

The power grab, he said was "for an exceptional stage," and "will end as soon as the people vote on the constitution," Morsi told state television 10pm Thursday.

Morsi also reiterated that he was "very happy that Egypt has real political opposition," and stressed that the country need to attract investors and tourists to Egypt.  

11:00 Good morning, we are opening our live coverage of today's protests across Egypt.  Dozens are already in Tahrir Square as part of the ongoing sit-in until President Mohamed Morsi rescinds his controversial Constitutional Declaration.

Thousands are expected to gather in Egypt's main squares Friday, in protest called by opposition forces against President Mohamed Morsi's "authoritarian" Controversial Declaration.

Egypt also wakes up to a new draft constitution, which was passed by the beleaguered Constituent Assembly in the early hours of the morning. Just 85 members sat for the marathon session, after mass resignations by liberal and leftists forces and the representatives of the church.

Leftist, liberal and independent political forces met Thursday at the headquarters of Egypt's Socialist Popular Alliance Party headquarters to discuss Friday's demonstrations.  Attendees included the Constitution Part, the Popular Current Movement, the Egyptian Social Democratic Party, April 6 Youth Movement and the Maspero Youth coalition.

"The only way to break the current impasse is to listen to the pulse of the street," the opposition statement read, "as opposed to following a group that has attempted to steal the revolution."

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