Voices from pro, anti-Morsi crowds

Dina Ezzat , Sunday 28 Jul 2013

Throughout a month of demonstrations for and against ousted president Mohamed Morsi, protesters share sentiments that go beyond rhetoric and slogans

Rabiya AlAdwiyah
Supporters of Egypt's ousted President Mohammed Morsi attend Friday prayer during a protest at Nasr City, where protesters have installed their camp and hold their daily rally, in Cairo, Egypt, Friday, July 26, 2013 (Photo: AP)

Mohamed Morsi
Supporters of deposed President Mohamed Morsi (Ruters)


Rabaa Al-Adawiya sit-in

"I came from Port Said to join this sit-in after President Morsi was ousted by the military coup. I had one clear demand: that the president be re-instated. This is an elected president.  However, after today, when the president was ordered to be put under custody for 15 days, I know this objective is now impossible to achieve," said Mahmoud.

A doctor in his mid-50s, Mahmoud said that "it is time to realise that the Muslim Brotherhood's moment of ruling the country has come to an end."

"People say we failed, but I say we were forced to fail by reluctant state institutions who were working against the president all the way through – the coup was just the last act in a long play."

According to Mahmoud, who spoke in a clear, sad tone, "it is time for a realistic deal to end the crisis." One option, he said, is to accept the offer made a day earlier by Morsi's prime minister Hesham Kandil, allowing safe exit for the ousted president and Brotherhood leaders in exchange for an end to the sit-ins and demonstrations.

The saddest part for Mahmoud is not the coup that removed Morsi, but rather "how people have come to dislike us as the Muslim Brotherhood."

"I cannot believe that we have reached this point, but I have to admit people really dislike us," he said.

In late 2012, an uprising erupted against the ousted president in Port Said over the failure to penalise the alleged perpetrators of a massacre against football fans in February 2012. Mahmoud says that many Muslim Brotherhood members were forced to keep a low profile during this time. "Some Brotherhood members took their families and left Port Said for a few days to allow the anger to calm down,” he recalled, remembering the backlash he and others experienced following the killing of anti-Morsi protesters during the uprising.

"It is very hard to be walking down the street to buy groceries and hear passerby's saying things like 'we will clean Port Said of the Muslim Brotherhood'," he said.


Opponents of Egypt's ousted President Mohammed Morsi (AP)



A civil servant in her late 30s walking with her 11-year old son, Amal joined the crowds surrounding the Ittihadiya presidential palace in response to army chief Abdel Fattah El-Sisi's call "to grant the army and the police a license to carry out a war on terror."

Wearing a headscarf of white, black and red - the colours of Egypt’s flag - Amal shouted slogans calling on El-Sisi to "eradicate the terrorists."

"Yes, I think that the Muslim Brotherhood are terrorists; I did not used to think of them this way but now I do," she said firmly.

Amal's new stance was taken, she said, after "the terror threats [the Brotherhood] has made against the people throughout the past two years."

Amal said she fully believes that the Brotherhood threatened to "burn the country" during the transitional phase following Hosni Mubarak's 2011 ouster if the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) appointed either Amr Moussa (a former presidential runner) or Mohamed ElBaradei as prime minister.  She believes they threatened to do the same before the presidential results were announced in summer 2012, landing Morsi the presidency over Ahmed Shafik only due to fear of the Brotherhood.

"If I had any doubts about these stories before, I am now forced to believe them due to the terror attacks taking place in Sinai since Morsi's removal" Amad said. She added that the "openly violent threats" made by Brotherhood leaders at the Rabaa Al-Adawiya sit-in "could only be made by a terrorist group that is trying to scare an entire nation."

"We cannot live in eternal fear of an attack, especially since they have openly threatened to use time-bombs and trapped cars," Amad argued, referring to statements made by some radical Muslim clergy showing sympathy for the president ahead of calls for the 30 June demonstrations.

As a nearby resident to the Nasr City sit-in, Amal is often "forced to hear the threats" made by leaders to the crowds, "and they are full of hatred; they just hate us; they hate everybody who is against them.  They are free to hate us – and by the way we hate them too – but they are not free to terrorise us."

Amal is not "at all" concerned about possible mass arrests of Islamist group members, saying "it is their choice, they are threatening us...should we just wait for them to come and kill us?"



Cairo University
Supporters of Egypt's ousted President Mohammed Morsi, shout slogans during a demonstration in front of Cairo University (AP)


Al-Nahda sit-in

"I originally came to this sit-in to show support for the legitimate president who was democratically elected, but now it is much more than this," said Ashraf, owner of small IT services company. "Today, it is about the demonstrators who were killed in front of the Presidential Guard and those who were killed yesterday close to Rabaa Al-Adawiya."

On 8 July, over 50 Muorsi supporters were killed outside Heliopolis' Presidential Guard after they allegedly attempted to break into the building and free the ousted president they believed to be inside.  Early Saturday, some 80 Brotherhood demonstrators were killed as they attempted to extend the Rabaa Al-Adawiya sit-in.

"I know there are threats that the police will break-up the sit-in but I cannot just go. I no longer hope that Morsi will be reinstated, as some still do, but I am here because I owe it to those who were killed," Ashraf said.

In his early 50s, Ashraf said that he always knew "it was not a good idea for the Muslim Brotherhood to run a presidential candidate."

"We had been persecuted for so many years and we were forced to live in the dark; we should have taken time to get to know things. The leadership got too eager ... it was a big mistake," he added.

Ashraf insisted that Morsi's rule was also "full of mistakes." To Ashraf, Morsi's worst mistake "was his failure to reform the interior ministry...Morsi was weakened by a lack of institutional support and he thought that he would win these bodies over by tolerating their mistakes, but it did not work."

Ashraf said he would not have minded early presidential elections. "Whether we like it or not, we have to admit people were feeling angry with Morsi," Ashraf stated. While he believes "Morsi was set-up to be defeated and that there were deliberate interventions to force a decline in fuel supplies and electricity services," in the end, "there were so many people who wanted Morsi to go."

Ashraf is convinced that "Morsi's removal by military coup was a big blow to democracy," and that "there could have been a democratic way to remove him."  According to Ashraf, "it would have taken more time, but it would have been more faithful to the path of democracy."


Tahrir Square
Supporters of Egypt's top military officer, Gen. Abdel-Fatah el-Sissi chant slogans against the Muslim Brotherhood and ousted President Mohammed Morsi during a rally near Tahrir Square in Cairo (AP)



"We worked hard for Morsi's removal. For weeks and weeks we were collecting signatures to call for early presidential elections and we made it - but I just hope that things move in the right direction from here onwards.  I hope that we do not make the same mistakes as before, when we got too confident with the military following Mubarak's ouster and then woke up to a very sad reality that the military was using lethal force to disperse sit-ins," said Nadine, a 28-year old graphic designer who had participated in the Tamarod ‘Rebel’ Movement collecting petitions demanding Morsi's resignation.

Nadine boycotted the second round of presidential elections to avoid voting for either Morsi or Shafik. "I could not imagine Muslim Brotherhood rule with their reactionary views," she said, yet it "would have been a nightmare to have one of Mubarak’s closest aides as our president after a revolution to remove Mubarak – the world would have laughed at us."

Deep down, Nadine was "less uncomfortable with Morsi than with Shafik. I had hoped he would make something out of this chance he was given," yet she became disillusioned as Morsi not only "failed to improve the quality of life but also started attacking critics."

What worries Nadine most is the "day after," that is, the nine-month transitional period following Morsi's ouster. "I am not sure we can write a good constitution now with all these confused sentiments, and we also cannot overlook the anger of the Islamists.  If we want to have a peaceful society we have to work hard to accommodate, rather than alienate them," Nadine said.

Nadine says she wants "absolute legal transparency" on any case brought against Islamists, adding "a nation cannot build a democracy on the basis of collective punishment."

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