Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood fails to show street power with protests
Small crowds gather for 'day of martyrdom' post-prayer demonstrations
A man stands near supporters of Muslim Brotherhood and ousted Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi as they shout slogans against the military and the interior ministry during a protest in front of Al Tawheed mosque which leads to Ramses Square in Cairo. Photograph: Amr Abdallah Dalsh /Reuters
Mass protests called by Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood mostly failed to materialise on Friday as the movement reeled from a bloody army crackdown on followers of ousted president Mohamed Morsi.
Troops and police had taken relatively low-key security measures before the Friday of Martyrs processions that were to have begun from 28 mosques in the capital after weekly prayers.
But midday prayers were cancelled at some mosques and there were few signs of major demonstrations unfolding in Cairo.
“We are not afraid; it’s victory or death,” said Mohamed Abdel Azim, a retired oil engineer who was among about 100 people marching slowly from a mosque near Cairo University.
“They intend to strike at Muslims,” the grey-bearded Mr Azim said. “We’d rather die in dignity than live in oppression. We’ll keep coming out until there’s no one left.”
Some marchers carried posters of Mr Morsi, who was toppled by army chief General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi on July 3 after huge demonstrations against his rule. “No to the coup,” they chanted.
Egypt has endured the bloodiest civil unrest in its modern history since August 14th when police destroyed protest camps set up by Mr Morsi’s supporters in Cairo to demand his reinstatement.
The violence has alarmed Egypt’s Western allies, but US president Barack Obama acknowledged that even a decision to cut off US aid to Cairo might not influence its military rulers.
Some US lawmakers have called for a halt to the $1.5 billion (€1.1bn) a year in mostly military assistance to Egypt.
“The aid itself may not reverse what the interim government does,” Mr Obama said in an interview with CNN. “But I think what most Americans would say is that we have to be very careful about being seen as aiding and abetting actions that we think run contrary to our values and our ideals.”
He said the United States was re-evaluating its ties with Egypt. “There’s no doubt that we can’t return to business as usual, given what’s happened,” he said.
The United States has nurtured an alliance with Egypt since it signed a peace treaty with Israel in 1979. Military cooperation includes privileged US access to the Suez Canal.
The Muslim Brotherhood, hounded by Egypt’s new army-backed rulers, had called for demonstrations across the country against the crackdown, testing the resilience of its battered support base.
A few dozen Islamists, many of them women, marched in an old Cairo district. Some carried Egyptian flags or rolled-up Morsi posters. Others held umbrellas to ward off the afternoon sun.
Asked if she was afraid, a fully veiled nursery teacher with four children, who gave her name only as Nasra, said: “God will make us victorious even if many of us are hurt and even if it takes a long time. God willing, God will bring down Sisi.”
Low Key Approach
Security forces kept a watchful eye, but did not flood the streets, even near Cairo’s central Fateh mosque where gun battles killed scores of people last Friday and Saturday.
The mosque’s metal gates and big front door were locked and chained. Prayers were cancelled. Two armoured vehicles were parked down the street, where people shopped at a busy market.
Only one riot police truck stood by near Rabaa al-Adawiya square in northeastern Cairo, home to the Brotherhood’s biggest protest vigil until police and troops stormed in, killing hundreds of people, bulldozing barricades and burning tents.