Text size:

  • Small
  • Normal
  • Large
Opponents of Mr Morsi gather outside the presidential palace in Cairo.
Opponents of Mr Morsi gather outside the presidential palace in Cairo.
Protesters opposing Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi set off fireworks during a protest at Tahrir Square in Cairo.
Protesters opposing Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi set off fireworks during a protest at Tahrir Square in Cairo.

Egyptians tell Morsi: quit now

Hundreds of thousands of protesters take to Egypt's streets in the biggest showdown in the country's troubled experience of democracy since Hosni Mubarak's resignation in February 2011. Bradley Hope reports from Cairo

CAIRO // At least one person died in clashes between supporters and opponents of Mohammed Morsi yesterday as hundreds of thousands of protesters took to the streets throughout Egypt to demand that the president resign.

The Cairo headquarters of Mr Morsi's ruling Muslim Brotherhood was attacked by scores of protesters firing shotguns and throwing petrol bombs and rocks. The Brotherhood said the building's fortified perimeter had not been penetrated.

Several of the movement's provincial offices have been attacked in recent days, and opposition protesters were marching on the presidential palace last night.

Supporters of Mr Morsi were also on the streets for a third day of rallies in the biggest showdown in the country's troubled experience of democracy since Hosni Mubarak's resignation in February 2011.

Many of the several hundred thousand anti-Morsi protesters said they would not stop their demonstrations until he stepped down.

"I am not here because of laws or elections," Nehad El Ganzoury, 60, a grandmother from the Agouza neighbourhood of Cairo, said in Tahrir Square. "I am here for everyday people who are facing an even worse life than before. No electricity, no water, no bread, nothing. I am not insulting Mohammed Morsi as a man, but as a president he has failed us terribly."

Mr Morsi has insisted he will not resign, and his spokesman said yesterday that dialogue was "the only way through which we can reach an understanding".

"The presidency is open to a real and serious national dialogue," Ehab Fahmy said, and pointed to the protests as proof of freedom of expression.

Anti-Morsi protests also took place in the coastal city of Alexandria, the Nile Delta cities of Mansura, Menuf, Tanta and Mahalla, the canal cities of Suez and Port Said and in the president's hometown of Zagazig.

In the Nile city of Beni Suef, south of Cairo, one person died and more than two dozen were injured. At least nine people have been killed in clashes in the past week, including an American student stabbed while photographing protests in Alexandria, and hundreds injured. Three Muslim Brotherhood offices were torched in the Nile Delta.

Some of Mr Morsi's supporters yesterday carried sticks and makeshift shields that they said would be used to defend the "legitimacy" of the president.

The military sent four low-flying Apache attack helicopters over Tahrir Square in a show of force. Instead of ducking for cover, the crowds cheered, exemplifying a widely held belief that the country's generals would support them against the presidency. The military played a critical role in the 2011 uprising by refusing to crack down on protesters, escalating the pressure on Mubarak to step down.

Protesters in Tahrir Square, where fireworks were fired into the sky at midday above tens of thousands of people waving flags and signs calling on Mr Morsi to "Go out!", expressed no interest in anything other than the president's prompt resignation.

Accountant Abdel Nabi El Nahas, 58, said Mr Morsi "has proved himself a liar and an illegitimate president".

"We toppled one dictator and I won't leave Tahrir until we topple another," he said. "It won't be easy, but no one can hold on to power when the people are this angry."

On the other side of Cairo, near the Rabaa El Adaweya mosque, several thousand of Mr Morsi's supporters prepared for conflict. Young men performed drills and said they would not let anti-government protesters attack the presidential palace.

"I believe that there are some good people among the opposition, but there are bad people among them who go into the protests and stir up trouble," said Abdul Rahman Youssry, 18, a high school pupil from Alexandria who was among the volunteer security force.

Around him, men chanted "strength, determination, faith", while Brotherhood members sprayed mists of water to keep them cool under the beating sun.

Ahmed Gamal, 58, a teacher of the Quran, said the protesters against Mr Morsi had been misled.

"The opposition is against democracy," he said. "They don't want to see their own revolution realised."

His views reflected the Brotherhood's statements in recent weeks, which cast the opposition as trying to overthrow Egypt's first democratically elected president against the wishes of the vast majority.

The size of yesterday's demonstrations, estimated to have reached hundreds of thousands by nightfall, presented a stark rebuttal of those claims.

The protests were staged to coincide with the first anniversary of Mr Morsi's inauguration. A former official in the Muslim Brotherhood and an engineer, he narrowly won the election with 51.7 per cent of the vote thanks in some part to liberals who could not stomach the alternative, Ahmed Shafiq, Mubarak's last prime minister, who was seen as a vote against the 2011 "revolution".

Mr Morsi quickly lost that support after a series of unilateral decisions, including a rushed vote on a constitution that many saw as having been written with only Islamists in mind. He has also clashed with judges, claiming they were acting on behalf of a conspiracy by remnants of the Mubarak regime.

Adding fuel to the fire is the economy, which has deteriorated badly over the past year. The Egyptian pound has lost 15 per cent of its value against the US dollar, making food more costly. Petrol shortages and power cuts have become chronic.

Mr Morsi had campaigned on an Egyptian "renaissance" last year, promising a better quality of life for people who had suffered under 30 years of crony capitalism presided over by Mubarak.

In an interview with Britain's Guardian newspaper on Saturday, Mr Morsi re-emphasised a pledge he made during a speech last week to allow a committee to review proposed amendments to the constitution.

"There is no room for any talk against this constitutional legitimacy," he said. "There can be demonstrations and people expressing their opinions. But what's critical in all this is the adoption and application of the constitution. This is the critical point."

bhope@thenational.ae

* With additional reporting by Jahd Khalil

twitter: For breaking news from the Gulf, the Middle East and around the globe follow The National World. Follow us

Back to the top

More articles


Editor's Picks

 Iranian President Hassan Rouhani greets supporters after his arrival in Zahedan, the regional capital of Sistan and Baluchestan province on Tuesday, April 15, 2014. During Mr Rouhani's two-day visit, he will tour several other cities and hold meetings with local scholars and entrepreneurs. Maryam Rahmanian for The National

On the road with Hassan Rouhani

Iran's president is touring some of Iran's most underdeveloped provinces. Foreign correspondent Yeganeh Salehi is traveling with him.

 The Doha-based Youssef Al Qaradawi speaks to the crowd as he leads Friday prayers in Tahrir Square in Cairo, Egypt in February, 2011. The outspoken pro-Muslim Brotherhood imam has been critical of the UAE’s policies toward Islamist groups, adding to friction between Qatar and other GCC states. Khalil Hamra / AP Photo

Brotherhood imam skips Doha sermon, but more needed for GCC to reconcile

That Youssef Al Qaradawi did not speak raises hopes that the spat involving Qatar and the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain might be slowly moving towards a resolution.

 Twitter photo of  Abdel Fattah El Sisi on the campaign trail on March 30. Photo courtesy-Twitter/@SisiCampaign

El Sisi rides a bicycle, kicks off social media storm

The photos and video created a huge buzz across social media networks, possibly a marker of a new era for Egypt.

 An Afghan election commission worker carries a ballot box at a vote counting centre in Jalalabad on April 6. A roadside bomb hit a truck carrying full ballot boxes in northern Afghanistan, killing three people a day after the country voted for a successor to President Hamid Karzai. Eight boxes of votes were destroyed in the blast, which came as the three leading candidates voiced concerns about possible fraud. Noorullah Shirzada / AFP Photo

Two pressing questions for Afghanistan’s future president

Once in office, the next Afghan president must move fast to address important questions that will decide the immediate future of the country.

 Friday is UN Mine Awareness Day and Omer Hassan, who does demining work in Iraqi Kurdistan, is doing all he can to teach people about the dangers posed by landmines. Louise Redvers for The National

A landmine nearly ended Omer’s life but he now works to end the threat of mines in Iraq

Omer Hassan does demining work in Iraqi Kurdistan and only has to show people his mangled leg to underscore the danger of mines. With the world marking UN Mine Awareness Day on Friday, his work is as important as ever as Iraq is one of the most mine-affected countries in the world.

 Supporters of Turkey's ruling AKP cheer as they follow the election's results in front of the party's headquarters in Ankara on March 30. Adem Altan/ AFP Photo

Erdogan critic fears retaliation if he returns to Turkey

Emre Uslu is a staunch critic of Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Now, with a mass crackdown on opposition expected, he is unsure when he can return home.

Events

To add your event to The National listings, click here

Get the most from The National