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August 23, 2013

Egypt Protests Weaken Amid Crackdown

by Heather Murdock

Muslim Brotherhood supporters are protesting Friday for the first time in days, despite reports that recent violence and the military crackdown on the leadership has crippled the organization. But the mass protests they called for have, so far, failed to materialize. 
 
Protesters looked grim as they marched, shortly after Friday prayers. The men chanted “Get out Sissi!” referring to General Abdul Fatah al-Sissi, the army chief who is now essentially in charge of the government. 
 
But the demonstration had no more than a couple hundred participants, as planned protests throughout Cairo showed little strength in numbers or intensity.
 
Amnesty International said about 1,000 people have been killed in violence associated with protests organized by the Muslim Brotherhood since the military destroyed two major sit-in demonstrations last week.   
 
Troops and police showed low-key security measures before the "Friday of Martyrs" processions that were to begin from 28 mosques in the capital after weekly prayers.
 
But midday prayers were canceled at some mosques, and there were few signs of major demonstrations unfolding in Cairo.
 
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Journalist Sherif Elhelwa said the Muslim Brotherhood may have been weakened by the recent violence and the arrest of many of its leaders, but he vowed the organization will continue to stage demonstrations.
 
“They are regrouping.  They are trying to reorganize," he said. "In the next couple of weeks we are going to see new faces.  The old faces are probably gone now having been cracked down upon, and they are imprisoned.  So I’m going to see the second line of Muslim brothers coming to the scene.”
 
Elhelwa added that the protesters will continue to demand Morsi's re-instatement. He was ousted by the military on July 3.
 
But Mohammad Hisham, a spokesperson for the Democratic Revolutionary Alliance that supports the army-lead interim government, said the crackdown is the only way to free Egypt from violence. He said the Brotherhood protesters need to be curbed as they often carry weapons.
 
“They consider the struggle against these terrorist groups is closely related to the struggle for democracy and for achieving all other measures which are necessary for the interests of the poor people of Egypt,” he said.
  
Muslim Brotherhood supporters responded that a small number of protesters may appear at rallies with weapons, but the group is committed to non-violence. 
 
At the protest in Maadi in southern Cairo Friday, demonstrators marched slowly and calmly.  Many carried yellow signs showing a hand displaying four fingers. It's a symbol of enduring solidarity in memory of what happened last week at Rabaa, a protest camp destroyed by troops in a siege that left hundreds dead. Rabaa means “fourth” in Arabic.

Related story by Al Pessin:

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