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Egypt Protesters Defy Warning to Disperse

  • Elizabeth Arrott

Egyptian authorities have warned again that a siege of anti-government encampments is imminent, but tens of thousands of demonstrators camped out in key areas of Cairo remain defiant.
At the main anti-government encampment in Cairo on Monday, it's hard to tell the threat of a crackdown looms.
On the streets outside Rabaa al Adaweya mosque, a group of young men played an informal game of football. Children cheered them on, seeming oblivious to a government warning that actions against the camp will come soon.
But the protesters were ready. They had food, water trucks, generators, even satellite dishes.
It's a city within a city, and despite the threat of a siege, police remain far away and more people keep arriving.
Past the barricades on the outskirt of the camp, Mustafa Mahmud, a retiree with two young children arrived for the day - as he has each day since early July when President Mohamed Morsi was ousted by the military after massive rallies against him.
Mahmud pointed out the places where people died in previous battles with police. He hoped there wiould be no more violence, but said people are accepting of what may come next.
“Aren't we all a martyr's project?” he asked.
Government warns protesters
The government calls the encampment a threat to security, pointing to provocations from some among the protesters, and the near daily marches that disrupt traffic throughout the city.
International envoys have been trying to find a way out of the impasse, and on Sunday, the Sheikh of Al-Azhar offered mediation.
But the leading Sunni cleric's offer has been rejected by those inside the camp. Mohamed Soltan, the camp's volunteer media coordinator, explained the position.
“The Ahmed el Tayeb, who has taken a huge part, who is the religious face of this military coup, is now coming and saying 'Hey we're coming up with some sort of mediation, whatever,'" he said.
"That's unacceptable," he added. "Imagine telling that to the mother of a martyr?”
Morsi remains jailed
On Monday, the Egyptian interim government extended Morsi's detention for 15 days.
Soltan said the demand that Morsi be reinstated is non-negotiable
“We have nothing but that," he said. "The other side has guns, has armies, has media, has a judiciary system, has money. They have everything and they're the ones not willing to compromise. We don't have anything. we're out on the streets. We have nothing.”
The government has portrayed those camped here as dangerous radicals and certainly the rhetoric of Islamism is everywhere. But for some that's not the point.
Mostafa Mahmud, standing by his children, explained he is not a Muslim Brother and he is not defending Morsi.
Mahmud said he took part in a democratic process, repeatedly waiting in long lines at the ballot box.
"Where is my vote?" he asked.

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