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July 27, 2013

Behind Barricades, Egyptian Protesters Vow Resistance

by Heather Murdock

In the aftermath of clashes that left dozens of people dead, some Cairo streets are in rubble and tear gas still hangs in the air. Protesters count their dead in a barricaded camp.

In this makeshift morgue, some men weep as they pray.  More than a dozen bodies lay on the stone floor, wrapped in white sheets.  Only their feet are uncovered.

In the packed main hall of the hospital, men leave a path in the crowd for health workers to remove the bodies.

“There is no god but God,” they chant, as workers bring out the bodies one by one. “Our martyrs are our darlings.”

A crowd gathers outside the hospital.  Women weep and shout while reporters take videos. Cameras were not permitted by police on the other side of the barricades.


One man, Yasser, was injured in the fighting Saturday morning.  He said it started with a conflict between supporters of ousted president Mohamed Morsi and supporters of Army Chief Abdel Fattah el-Sissi.  Sissi, who now said he is detaining Morsi, has demanded that the rest of his party, the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood, reconcile with the army politically.
 
Last week, Sissi called for mass protests against “terror.”  For many Egyptians who came out to protest in Tahrir Square, the call was synonymous with protesting the Muslim Brotherhood.

As crowds packed into the square Friday night a man by the name of Gameel said Morsi’s ouster was the will of the people after mass public protests demanding his removal, and not a military coup.

Gameel said that the enemy, in his mind, is the Muslim Brotherhood.

But at the pro-Morsi protest camp, media coordinator Mohammad Soltan said Sissi intentionally called on his sympathizers to attack Morsi supporters and that they were all unarmed. “They call it a war on terror. This is terror? We have peaceful protesting that all they have is their voices and their bodies. And their sitting at the other side of the barrel saying we’re going to fight for this freedom," he explained. "And you’re going to shoot at them?”

He said that even though many Egyptians believe Morsi has failed to live up to his promises and to lead the country in a democratic way, Egyptians agreed on a democratic government and voted for Morsi.

“It's not how democracy works. You don't get to choose when you want to oust a president," Soltan said. "You wait until the term is done.”

Egyptians have been protesting almost continuously since demonstrations toppled the 30-year reign of Hosni long-time president Mubarak in February of 2011.  But activist groups have splintered, alliances have shifted and competing protests across the country have left more than 100 dead in recent weeks.

But at this camp in Cairo, protesters said, despite the recent violence, the Egyptian people kicked out a dictator with peaceful demonstrations and that they would rather die than stop protesting before their demands are met.