News / Middle East

Behind Cairo Barricades, Morsi Supporters Make Most of Camp Life

Children of supporters of deposed Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi jump on a trampoline in a makeshift funfair in Cairo's Rabaa al-Adawiya Square, August 11, 2013.
Children of supporters of deposed Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi jump on a trampoline in a makeshift funfair in Cairo's Rabaa al-Adawiya Square, August 11, 2013.
Children have water fights in the sun while ice cream and soft drink vendors do a roaring trade. The protest camps at the heart of Egypt's political crisis feel more like a village fair than a bastion of resistance to military-backed rule.
The thousands of supporters of deposed Islamist president Mohamed Morsi, camped out for more than six weeks, know they could soon face a violent eviction, but most seem to be enjoying the sense of community rather than worrying about how the party might end.
“We play football, we play ping-pong, we just don't want to get bored. We want this to be a happy atmosphere,” said Talaat Mahmoud, 32, an interior designer who joined protesters around the Rabaa al-Adawiya mosque, the biggest of two camps to spring up in Cairo.
The camps are the last political card in the hands of the Muslim Brotherhood, which has seen its leaders jailed and their assets frozen since the army toppled Morsi on July 3 after mass protests against his rule.

Making the best of it

The protesters have sworn to stay until he is reinstated. Aside from defiant rhetoric and calls for holy war, most seem to be having a good time while the camps expand every day.
While elsewhere in the city Morsi supporters were fighting their opponents and being hit with police teargas on Tuesday, at the Rabaa camp, boys ran around with water dispensers strapped to their backs, spraying people and laughing.
Despite the Muslim Brotherhood members standing guard with sticks near sandbags or piles of rock, everyone in the camps knows that security forces will have overwhelming firepower if they do decide to force them out.
Until then, life goes on at the gatherings, where electricity cables reach most tents. Vendors sell pocket-sized Korans, hairbrushes and plastic toys and a field pharmacy offers antibiotics, eye drops and other medicines for free.
“We have the army on our doorstep, but there are no weapons here,” said Salah Mahmoud, 42, as he cheered on young boys playing ping-pong at Rabaa, the biggest camp.
Local media have reported that government forces had bolstered security around the camps to prevent weapons from getting in.
Fearing a bloodbath
Over 300 people have died in political violence since army chief Abdel Fattah al-Sissi toppled Morsi.
Fearing a bloodbath, Western envoys and some senior members of the interim government have urged the military to avoid using force to disperse the camps, where ice cream vendors and food and clothes stalls line the streets.
The sites have become highly organized communities. Men read the Koran, discuss politics or crack jokes in tents, surrounded by posters of those killed by police and considered martyrs.
But there is no sense of siege at Rabaa or the other camp at al-Nahda Square, or worries that supplies will run out. Communal kitchens with brand new refrigerators are feeding the thousands.
“Maybe somebody comes and says 'I've brought 100 kg of meat,' so we cook meat,” said Mohamed Mosad Ghitani, an engineer volunteering in one of the kitchens.
“Another day, somebody says 'I've brought 200 chickens', so we cook chicken,” added he.
The Rabaa camp cannot expand further.
Some entrances are blocked by riot police and army vans or fortifications set up by protesters. So Morsi's supporters are adding floors to the makeshift wooden buildings that have sprung up among the tents.
Shop owner Mustafa, 24, is not a protester, but he is enjoying the carnival atmosphere at least as much as those who are.
“Business is better in the camp than outside. I sleep here. I'm here every day,” he said, unloading hundreds of cans of soft drinks from a truck.

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Comment Sorting
by: ali baba from: new york
August 13, 2013 9:17 PM
Egyptian crisis need Egyptian solution. the Egyptian people understand that Muslim brotherhood has no place in politics. since Nasser, the Egyptian solution is rejecting their view. many had been detained for years and it looks that only way to deal with them is the same that general Hamza el bosunis dealt l with them and they need the same treatment

by: William Norman
August 13, 2013 6:29 PM
In political terms, Egypt has been in a downward spiral since the revolution, and downward spirals have an end.. Yes, there are many in Egypt and throughout the Middle East who are very excited about the idea of President Mursi being pushed out of power. Using a street mob to topple a government in such a manner, which will most likely be accompanied by heavy violence, should always be the “nuclear option” (if at all). Should we really believe Egypt needs two such interventions in the span of only two years? Are we to believe this revolution will be so much better than the last one? We have no reason to think so.

Albert Einstein said insanity is doing the same thing, over and over again, and expecting different results. Egyptians would be wise to take note of his words. Repeating the same mistakes will not produce the desired ending. Banging your heads against the wall will not break it down. It's only going to give you a headache, not much different from the ones you have now. New ideas are required. Our Egyptian friends can learn from the example of others.

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