Pro-Morsi supporters in Cairo yesterday. Photos courtesy of Tom Dale and Max Siegelbaum.Yesterday, Egypt saw the culmination of the Tamarod Campaign, a massive petition calling for the impeachment of President Mohamed Morsi. In the year since Morsi was elected, the economy has plummeted, state security has largely retreated from the country's streets, electricity cuts have increased, inflation has risen, and gas has become scarce. Now the country is in the grips of a confusing push and pull between supporters of Morsi's government and the Muslim Brotherhood, those who had ties with the previous Mubarak regime and the left-leaning, loosely grouped anti-Morsi camp.
The latter group took to the streets last night in the largest Egyptian protest since 2011's uprising. In anticipation of that, on Friday, Morsi supporters gathered at Rabaa Al-Adawiya Mosque in Cairo’s Nasr City district. I headed down to see what exactly they were demonstrating about.Arriving on bus or by foot, the largely male population traveled to the Square from throughout the country to rail against what many deem as threats to their religion and president. Despite calls for a peaceful rally, groups of protesters were patrolling the grounds, wearing helmets, and idly dragging wooden sticks “to protect our people,” one said.Mohamed Hussein, a carpenter, traveled to Cairo from the nearby city of Gharbiya to attend the rally. “Morsi is a legal president. We live in Egypt’s first democratic period in 30 years. We must accept the elections,” he said, before adding, “We didn’t come here for Morsi. We came to protect the legislative body.”Most protesters reiterated some version of this idea. “I’m here to protect the legislative league and Dr. Morsi from Tamarod, but he can't work because people rebel over the legislative league and it’s illegal,” said Essam Abdullah, a lawyer from Mansoura. The point of contention between Muslim Brotherhood supporters and the opposition is that the Tamarod (or “rebel”) campaign provides no legal standing for the proposed ousting of the president.
Pro-Morsi protesters with a poster of Morsi in Nasr City on Friday. As the speeches wore on, Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamist political officials continuously attempted to affirm the religiosity of themselves and those in attendance. "Bring me a man here who smokes cigarettes. Bring me a man here who drinks alcohol. Bring me a man who takes drugs,” shouted Assem Abdel Maged, head of Egypt’s Sunni Islamist movement Gamaa Islamiyaa, considered a terrorist organization by the United States and EU. “Anyone who touches an Egyptian soldier, we will cut his hand,” he continued, invoking the Sharia punishment for theft.“I am here to stand for our president. He is smart, knows God, and is a good president,” said Amr Sheroui, a member of the Muslim Brotherhood Youth. “Tamarod are all felool [members of the ex-Mubarak Regime]. They could possibly succeed because they ran the country for 30 years,” he added.
Muslim Brotherhood supporters in Rabea Adaweya square in Nasr City, Cairo on Sunday. Photo courtesy of Tom DaleConspiracy theories were rampant among the crowd. “There are people paying money for the destruction of this country. Felool, like Mohamed El Baradei, Hamdeen Sabahi, Amr Moussa. They were controlling the economy before and they want to again now,” I was told. Many also consider the opposition to be out of touch with the needs and desires of the working classes: “The opposition has no presence on the street. They sit in their air-conditioned buildings with their computers but have no contact with the real people,” said a man who told me his name was Hussein.
As the speeches wore on and ashes from fireworks rained down on the crowd, I turned to leave the rally. As I made my way through the throng of people, I stopped next to a horse-drawn cart to rest. Making small talk with the owner of the cart, Saber, I asked him what he thought of Morsi and Tamarod. He explained that he had traveled to the rally from an outer-lying area of Cairo to make a little extra cash from the influx of people, before telling me that he was poor and thought little of politics, but that, “As long as the president is with God, I am with him.”UPDATE: Egypt's army has given Morsi two days to respond to the protesters demands.Follow Max on Twitter: @SaxMiegelbaumMore chaos in Egypt:Ultras, Anarchists, and Street Fighting in EgyptEgypt's Second RevolutionThe Revolution Is Still Going on in Egypt—in Tiny Flashes