Live Updates 2: Protesters gather for anti-Morsi demonstrations

Hazel Haddon, Randa Ali, Salma Shukrallah, Friday 30 Nov 2012

Tens of thousands protest in Tahrir Square in opposition to President Morsi's Constitutional Declaration, with smaller opposition protests and pro-Morsi rallies nationwide

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

21:00 That’s all for Ahram Online’s live updates today. You can read the first part of the day’s coverage here.

20:40 Back to Tahrir Square, where Ahram Online correspondent Osman El-Sharnoubi is talking to demonstrators.

Adel Rabie, a member of the Higher Council of the Egyptian Social Democratic Party, comments:

“If the declaration is not withdrawn we will call for civil disobedience. As for the constitution, we will call for a no vote if it is is put to referendum.”

“How can we pass a constitution written in the absence of representatives of 80 per cent of Egyptians - workers and farmers?” he asked.

20:35 The Constitution Party is calling for Cairo University students to march from the university in Giza to Tahrir Square on Saturday at 2pm, protesting the president’s Constitutional Declaration, according to the party’s Facebook page. The Muslim Brotherhood and various Salafist parties will be holding their demonstration in support of Morsi’s decree on the same day, in front of Cairo University where the student march is planned to depart from.

20:30 The National Salvation Front, a coalition of opposition groups and figures formed last Saturday to counter Morsi’s Constitutional Declaration (including Mohamed ElBaradei, Hamdeen Sabbahi, the Free Egyptians Party, the Wafd Party, the Nasserist Coalition, among others) are currently meeting at the headquarters of the liberal Wafd to discuss their response to recent events regarding the Constitutional Declaration and the constitution-drafting process.

20:20 Ahram Online's Sara Rashidi reports that the square is very crowded, the mood is upbeat, with drums being played loudly and lots of cheers and clapping from the crowd.

20:10 Privately-owned newspaper Al-Watan has reported that the house of Saad El-Husseini, who is the governor of Kafr El-Sheikh and a Muslim Brotherhood member, was attacked today. The house, which is in the Nile Delta city of Mahalla, not in neighbouring Kafr El-Sheikh, was attacked by protesters who threw rocks at the building, the paper reported.

Saad El-Husseini
Saad El-Husseini, Governor of Kafr El-Sheikh

20:00 Outside the capital, some pro-Brotherhood demonstrations have reportedly been taking place.

The northern coastal city of Damietta saw a pro-Morsi rally today organised by the Brotherhood, reported the Al-Ahram Arabic news website. The rally marched from Ezbet El-Lahm Mosque, chanting "Stand fast, president" according to the site.

An Ahram Online correspondent reported that Beni Suef also saw a pro-Morsi demonstration of more than a thousand in one of the governorate’s districts on Friday. There was also a mass demonstration in support of the president on Thursday, organised by all local Islamist factions, which numbered more than ten thousand.

19:45 Sara Rashidi has also been talking to protesters in the square about the ongoing problems of sexual harassment and assault. One volunteer anti-harassment guard, Amr Rico, told her he had encountered several incidents today.

Mona Prince, a professor at Suez University, told Rashidi that she didn’t feel that sexual harassment in the square was bad today or on Tuesday, although she was very happy to see that there are now volunteer security initiatives protecting women from harassment.

19:30 In Tahrir, Ahram Online reporter Sarah Rashidi spoke to Ali Ismail, the owner of a management consultancy firm in his 60s, who told her that his main fear is Egypt becoming a religious state like Iran.

"This is the first time in my 61 years that I have come to Tahrir to demonstrate. We have always been the gate between East and West, and now we are becoming a fascist state," he said.

"What is happening is a shame. I will come tomorrow too I have nothing to lose; I'm 61 and I'm willing to die."

19:15 Several members of the April 6 Youth Movement in President Morsi’s home governorate of Sharqiya have gathered at Morsi's house chanting "Down with the president."

Security forces are at the scene but have not interfered with the protesters, given their small numbers and the non-violent nature of the demonstration, Al-Ahram’s Arabic website reported.

The protesters also chanted against the Muslim Brotherhood.

19:10 After speaking to the masses in Tahrir and announcing that he will be sleeping in the square overnight, Mohamed ElBaradei further denounced the president's decree via Twitter.

"The president & his constituent assembly are currently staging a coup against democracy. Regime legitimacy fast eroding," said ElBaradei.


19:05 Ahram Online reporters in Tahrir say that the square is less full than on Tuesday.

Tahrir Square
Tahrir Square at 7pm, 30 November 2012 (Photo: Reuters)

19:00 The imam of Sidi Gaber Mosque in Alexandria, Hassan Abdel-Baseer, has resigned from his position, complaining in a statement that he has been facing pressure from the Ministry of Religious Endowments to support President Mohamed Morsi’s Constitutional Declaration in his speeches.

Al-Ahram Arabic news website reported that Abdel-Baseer read his statement in front of thousands of Muslim Brotherhood members and loyalists at the mosque on Friday, while they were demonstrating in support of the declaration.

The sheikh announced that he had received instructions from the ministry to urge people who come and pray at his mosque to support the president’s decision, a demand which he refused. He further condemned the instructions as being similar to those given to imams by the former regime.

Abdel-Baseer was attacked by Brotherhood supporters at the mosque and was forced to leave, Al-Ahram reported. Muslim Brotherhood member Talaat Fahmy then took the pulpit, urging people not to believe Abdel-Baseer, claiming that he was a member of the state security apparatus and was instructed to make such statements.

18:50 Human Rights Watch released a report slamming the constitution for not protecting human rights. Ahram Online journalist Bel Trew caught up with HRW's Egypt Director Heba Morayef.

"If you look at the freedom of expression section of the constitution, it is worse than the [Mubarak-era] 1971 constitution," she commented.

"The article which worries me the most is Article 71, a provision which says that 'every rights article in the Rights Chapter is subject to conforming with Chapter 1' which is on state and society. The language of Chapter 1 is full of very broad terms, such as the state has to maintain 'moral behaviour' and guarantee the 'true nature of the Egyptian family' - you could use any of this vague language to negate any part of the Rights chapter."

"The language on women in the current constitution now will not stop regression in legislation for women's rights - the constitution sets a worrying precedent linguistically and technically."

"For example, in 2009 the State Council ruled that they didn't want women to work at the body; this was overturned by the Constitutional Court, who were able to say, because of the non-discriminatory provision in the Constitution, that you couldn't prevent women from assuming these roles."

"In the current constitution, it doesn't specifically say you cannot discriminate on the grounds of gender; therefore it would be harder to push through the Constitutional Court's verdict. The language instead says that women must balance their work and family life - it makes these battles more difficult."

"Article 11 says that you cannot 'insult an individual' - what does this mean? One of the biggest problems today is prosecuting people on the grounds of insulting the judiciary, or insulting the president or insulting the army - anything can be interpreted as an 'insult'."

18:40 Earlier in the day, Ahram Online's Bel Trew spoke to senior adviser to the Muslim Brotherhood and Freedom and Justice Party, Gehad El-Haddad.

“The constitution is extremely balanced - 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," he commented.

“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 a 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, and the constitution reflects Egypt's culture.

“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 was unfounded according to El-Haddad, sayinng that the liberal figure was discussing 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 a 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.”

18:35 Ahram Online reporter Bassem Abou El-Abbas spoke to former leading Muslim Brotherhood member Kamal El-Helbawi.

"Even if the Muslim Brotherhood manage to gather big numbers at their protests tomorrow, the heart of the ones in Tahrir [today] will give them the will to fight," said El-Helbawi.

18:30  Singer Ramy Essam, famous for performing revolutionary songs in Tahrir Square during the revolution in 2011, is in the square now, singing on the stage.

18:25 Al-Ahram’s Arabic news website has reported that the general assembly of the State Council has recommended that Morsi's legal advisor, Judge Mohamed Fouad Gadalla, and members of the group Judges for Egypt, have their names removed from the Judges’ Club list, a symbolic move that would not have an impact on the judges’ work.

‘Judges for Egypt’ have recently voiced their support for the president's constitutional declaration.

18:15 Egyptian Islamist cleric, Sheikh Youssef El-Qaradawi, chairman of the International Union of Muslim Scholars, is supporting the project of the constitution.

"Egypt has never witnessed a constitution like this at any point in time," he stated during Friday prayers in Doha.

"What has been achieved is great and the people have the last word by either accepting or rejecting it."

"The constitution contains values and principles of freedom and justice, which is all that Egyptians need, in all aspects."

"Over time we can make additions to the constitution; this will be over the years. We cannot achieve everything at once. That is why we are persisting and we are optimistic about this constitution."

"People should not withdraw from the Constituent Assembly, since withdrawal will not lead to a result."

He also stated, regarding the president's interview on Thursday evening: "What President Morsi said was absolutely just and righteous. People have the right to oppose, but they don’t have the right to fight."

18:05 Egyptian Communist Party leader Moustafa El-Gamal says that the party is in the square today to topple President Morsi.

“The constitutional decree and Constituent Assembly are illegitimate and we are most concerned that the constitution does not protect social justice,” he told reporter Sarah Rashidi.

18:00 Ahram Online’s Sara Rashidi speaks to Heba, an unveiled woman in her mid-30s, who describes herself as a former “sofa party” supporter, or politically-indifferent.

“I came from Alexandria to tell Morsi...I didn’t elect you and I don’t approve of you. You made a constitution in 48 hours and you’re changing everything for the worse. Women are scared now of not wearing the veil...Now we have ignorant people writing our constitution - they should talk to our brains, not through ignorant religious talk...This constitution is a shame to Egypt.”

17:55 In Egypt's Nile Delta, around four thousand Beheira residents, including members of the Muslim Brotherhood and the Salafist Nour Party, took to the streets to voice their support for Morsi's constitutional decree, according to Ahram’s Arabic news website.

Forming human chains and holding pictures of the president, the protesters chanted: "Oh president, keep moving on, millions are following you."

It was reported earlier that several hundred had been protesting against the president and his controversial decree in the city.

17:45 Mohamed ElBaradei spoke on the stage in Tahrir as crowds cheered loudly, repeating the famous phrase: “The people want the downfall of the regime,” says Ahram Online’s Osman Sharnoubi, reporting from the square.

ElBaradei added that: “It is necessary to go back to the stage before the declaration. We say the current draft constitution is illegitimate...We hold Morsi fully responsible for the state of division and civil strife the country may experience.”

Founder of pro-democracy movement Kefaya, George Ishaq, told Al-Ahram’s Arabic news website in Tahrir that he will be participating in the overnight sit-in with other political figures like ElBaradei, Hamdeen Sabbahi and Amr Moussa. He also announced a general strike, to start on Tuesday if the president does not back down, starting with various satellite channels which will cease transmission and newspapers that will not publish their daily editions.

17:40 Famous football player and former parliamentary candidate for the moderate Islamist Wasat Party list, Nader El-Sayed, speaks in Tahrir Square, pointing out the large numbers of Egyptian flags displayed and commenting:

“This is because all Egyptians are comparison it will be hard to see the veiled and the unveiled next to each other in tomorrow’s protest [organised by the Muslim Brotherhood and Salafist parties] at Cairo University.”

Meanwhile in Upper Egypt's Qena, hundreds of Salafists and members of the Muslim Brotherhood are protesting in Manshia Square.

"These marches are for saving sharia law," Ammar Hanafi, spokesperson of the Brotherhood in Qena, told Al-Ahram Arabic news website.

17:35 Political groups in the city of Ismalia, on the Suez Canal, organised an anti-Morsi rally through the city. Marchers chanted “No to the Brotherhood constitution,” and “Down with the rule of the Brotherhood Supreme Guide.”

Among those who participated in the rally are the liberal Wafd Party and the Constitution Party, as well as the Nasserist Karama Party, the Popular Socialist Coalition and the 6 April Youth Movement.

17:30  Leading opposition figure Mohamed ElBaradei takes to Tahrir Square's main stage. Meanwhile, the news announced by stage speaker that ElBaradei, Hamdeen Sabbahi and Amr Moussa will sleep over in the square is met with applause and cheers by the 1000s-strong crowd.

Mohamed ElBaradei
Leading opposition figure Mohamed ElBaradei takes to Tahrir Square's main stage

17:15 We're back in Tahrir Square, where clashes between protesters and police are still ongoing on the periphery by Simon Bolivor Square and the Corniche.

Early this morning security forces built another concrete barricade by the US embassy, walling in the area. Khaled Mahmoud, a field doctor in the square told Ahram Online journalist Sarah Rashidi that they are in urgent need of medical supplies.

"Most of the injuries are caused by glass and stones," said Mahmoud.

Meanwhile back in Tahrir Square, Soheir, a teacher wearing the niqab (the full face veil) told an Ahram Online reporter she is against Morsi's decree and the Muslim Brotherhood.

Breaking the stereotype of ultra-conservative Muslims supporting Islamist political groups, Soheir says that she supported Mubarak-era prime minister Ahmed Shafiq in the presidential elections run-offs against Mohamed Morsi.

Her husband, Atef, agreed with her, saying that "if Morsi doesn’t change the constitution then he must go."

17:10 Welcome to the second part of Ahram Online's live coverage of a day of protests against President Mohamed Morsi's constitutional declaration. You can find the first part here.

Protesters are also opposing the draft constitution, which was finalised by the controversial Constituent Assembly in the early hours of this morning. Opposition groups argue that Morsi's recent moves have shored up his own power and moved Egypt closer to dictatorship, while presidential supporters argue that the measures are temporary and necessary for Egypt's transition – and that the majority of Egyptians support the president.

So far this morning, protests have been taking place in Cairo's Tahrir Square, the Nile Delta cities of Damanhour and Mahalla, and in Alexandria, while pro-Morsi rallies have been reported in Wadi El-Gedid, Minya and Assiut in Upper Egypt.

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