News / Middle East

Egypt's ‘Third Square’ Protests Reject Army, Islamists

"Third Square" activists shout slogans as they gather to oppose both parties at Sphinx Square in Cairo, July 30, 2013.
Reuters
A few lonely Egyptian activists are trying to stake out middle ground in the nationwide rift between an affronted Muslim Brotherhood and delighted supporters of the army's overthrow of President Mohamed Morsi.

Those rival camps have filled the streets with myriad demonstrators since General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi ousted and jailed Morsi, Egypt's first freely elected leader, on July 3.

Alarmed by the polarization and alienated by both sides, some Egyptians started up a "Third Square" movement promoting a middle way to avert conflict in the most populous Arab state.

"We are stuck between two bad options: an army killing without reason and an intolerant Islamist movement which wants a theocratic state," said Tariq Ismaeli, a 34-year-old civil engineer in jeans and red sneakers at a rally on Sunday.

"We are trying to establish a new voice," he said.

The rally in Cairo's Sphinx Square drew about 300 liberals, leftists and moderate Islamists dismayed by Saturday's carnage,  when security forces killed 80 Muslim Brotherhood partisans in clashes at a protest camp set up to demand Morsi's restitution.

Ismaeli and his colleagues have used Facebook and Twitter to marshal several rowdy demonstrations in downtown Cairo, seeing themselves as heirs of the popular uprising that ended Hosni Mubarak's 30 years of one-man rule in 2011.

Their banners carry the faces of Morsi and Sisi crossed out in red and a blunt message: “Topple all who betrayed us. No to theocracy. No to the military junta. Yes to a civil state.”

They hope Sphinx Square will become the kernel of a new opposition movement, though their numbers are dwarfed by the Brotherhood's month-old vigil and one manned round the clock in Tahrir Square by supporters of the army's intervention.

"Lunatics and dreamers"

Third Square is attracting some attention, if mostly online.

Its Facebook page wins around 1,000 new "likes" a day and is bedecked with jokes and cartoons lampooning political leaders - a contrast to the reverence of their rivals.

"They've created a space where the original attitude of the revolution expresses itself, where the aims of the revolution are remembered. They're keeping an ember alive," Ahdaf Soueif, an Egyptian novelist endorsing the campaign, told Reuters.

But for now, their message is being swept out of public view by the sheer numbers of Egypt's main opposing camps.

When those at Third Square's first protest last week heard that a huge pro-Sisi march was approaching the venue en route to Tahrir Square, they scattered into the night fearing a fight.

Tamarod, the group that organized mass anti-Morsi protests and now supports the army-installed interim government, accuses Third Square of splitting Egypt's "revolutionary forces."

"I see in this moment Third Square dividing the people. They are living in the past. Now is the time for consensus, we need to move forward," Tamarod spokesman Mohammed Abdul Aziz said.

Pro-Morsi demonstrators camped near a mosque in northeastern Cairo say they will tolerate other protest movements as long as they oppose the military's plunge into politics.

"Even if Morsi doesn't come back, at least the army has two squares to deal with," said Abdulrahman Daour, a spokesman at the Brotherhood camp. "I don't mind people opposing Morsi. Just don't betray the revolution. Don't give power to the military."

Third Square may have little impact on the Brotherhood and the army, Egypt's two most organized institutions, analysts say.

"I don't think they will get much traction. The country is too polarized. It's a zero sum game," said Adel Abdel Ghafer, an Egypt scholar at the Australian National University.

"You are against the army which has the monopoly on violence... and the Brotherhood which has a religious legitimacy argument. So you're basically against everybody," he said.

However, Third Square organizers point to the power of ideas.

“Back in 2011 when we started protesting against Hosni Mubarak, we were insulted. They called us lunatics and dreamers,” said 30-year-old Ahmed Nasr. “It's not about the numbers, it's about the cause.”

You May Like

Lesotho Faces New Round of Violence, Political Crisis

Brutal killing of military officer has sent former leaders back into S. Africa where they're watching anxiously as regional officials head in to try to restore peace More

Video US Diplomat Expects Adoption of Bosnian Massacre Anniversary Resolution

Samantha Power says there's broad consensus about killings in Bosnia's war, but Russia calls resolution 'divisive,' backs UN countermeasure More

UN Report Exposes Widespread Boko Haram Atrocities

Damning report graphically details pattern of vicious, widespread atrocities committed by Islamist militants More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Yoshi from: Sapporo
August 01, 2013 2:41 AM
This third square denys army and Islamists. Are they oppose not only Islam brotherhood but all Muslims? So they are secular people, that is Christianity?Anyway, I suppose this kind of minor party would need strong leaders in order to survive the political struggle and implement their ideals, or they would be dismissed automatically before long.

by: Dr. Malek Towghi from: USA
July 31, 2013 4:23 PM
By immediately stopping the too generous $1.5 billion annual aid to the Egyptian military and openly condemning theocracy, simultaneously, my country, the USA, can help this great (Third Square) movement.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountaini
X
July 02, 2015 4:10 AM
Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.

VOA Blogs