As a part of delegations over the past four years that have made their way to Gaza, we have stopped in Cairo to pick up needed authorizations. This week as a part of an “emergency” delegation to Gaza after the 8 day Israeli attack that killed 165 and wounded several thousands, we arrived in Cairo as Egyptians opposed to President Morsi’s massive assumption of powers took to the streets.
We’ve been in and out of Tahrir Square all day. It’s almost midnight and tens of thousands of Egyptians have been to the square in the middle of Cairo that was the center of the revolution against dictator Hosni Mubarak, to protest the new President’s decrees on the judiciary and legislative branches of government.
In contrast to the large amounts of tear gas, large police and military presence, and the camels with which thugs trammeled crowds during the January 25 revolution, this mobilization on November 27, 2012 has been large, vocal and strident, but was not met with large-scale government violence on protesters that occurred under the Mubarek regime.
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Families were in the streets, parents and small children, grandparents all sharing a serious mission, but done with good and high spirits and seemingly without concerns about possible violence from the government security apparatus or Morsi supporters. Fortunately, the Muslim Brotherhood had ordered Morsi supporters to stay away from Tahrir Square and other Morsi protests across the country.
We talked with Egyptians who had manned the barricades during the Revolution and who showed us their scars from police violence. Many were not supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood that ultimately won the Presidential and legislative elections.
Some said that Morsi since had been elected, that they had supported him as a duly elected official. However, now that he is assuming even more powers than the dictator Mubarek had, they could not support him any longer.
Others were more strident saying that they never believed any representative of the Muslim Brotherhood had any intentions other than taking as many powers as possible and ruling as another dictatorship.
In Tahrir Square, Egyptians said that economic conditions in the country have not improved since Morsi has been in power and that the same security state exists now, as under Mubarek. Getting rid of one dictator has led to another dictator in their eyes.
Supporters of former UN weapons inspector El Baradai, said that they are trying to build a base that will be able to challenge the Muslim Brotherhood in the next elections. They were very frank that they were out-organized in the last election and could not compete with the broad base of the Brotherhood.
I came away with great respect for those in Egypt who, at great personal risk, challenged the Mubarek dictatorship and who are quickly challenging his replacement whom they feel has tremendously over reached his constitutional authority and is endangering the changes for which they had fought.