In Tahrir Square, cheerful protesters scent victory over Morsi

It was reported that Sunday’s combined demonstrations across Egypt were the largest political rallies in the history of mankind

Military helicopters fly above Tahrir Square while protesters opposing Egyptian President Morsi shout slogans against him and Brotherhood members during a protest in Cairo yesterday. Photograph: Mohamed Abd El Ghany/Reuters

Military helicopters fly above Tahrir Square while protesters opposing Egyptian President Morsi shout slogans against him and Brotherhood members during a protest in Cairo yesterday. Photograph: Mohamed Abd El Ghany/Reuters

Tue, Jul 2, 2013, 09:51

In Cairo’s Tahrir Square, the epicentre of the revived Egyptian uprising, the people respond to the call issued by the army for the ruling Muslim Brotherhood and president Mohamed Morsi to reconcile with opponents by chanting: “The people have toppled Morsi”.

As evening closes in, the square fills with protesters seeking to soak up the revolutionary atmosphere and take part in the events shaping Egypt’s history. Vendors hawk water, tea, chili omelettes cooked on the spot, badges, and red cards for Mr Morsi that say: “Erhal, Go Out!”

The country is stunned by the massive popular demonstrations citizens mounted on Sunday against Mr Morsi and the Brotherhood. No one expected to see such an outpouring of cheerful, largely peaceful nationwide protest. Those taking part in rallies in the capital have gleeful grins on their faces and a cheerful sparkle in their eyes in the expectation that Morsi and the Brotherhood will have to share power with other parties and factions – or step down.

Marianne Khoury, a film-maker who has attended many protests, says she was unable for the first time ever to get into Tahrir Square, the cradle of the uprising that toppled president Hosni Mubarak in 2011. “A lot of people went for the first time,” swelling the numbers, she says. “The street has developed into an almost organic movement” which has been seriously underestimated, she says. Even though the Brotherhood “played the powerful religion card” it is under challenge because of the country’s economic crisis.

“I don’t think Morsi can survive. People have to continue [protesting] for a few more days. The scenario has to be redone,” she says.

Downtown traffic is sparse instead of locked in a hooting, snarling jam, trapping drivers and passengers in an endless, unhealthy cloud of petrol and diesel fumes. Cars do not have to line for hours at petrol stations because many people, exhausted by protesting, are staying at home.

Several people relate reports that Sunday’s combined demonstrations mounted across Egypt are the largest political rallies in the history of mankind. The military says 14 million people took part, a figure deemed credible by Ahram Online analyst Dina Samak. “People who wanted to remain in their home territory or could not afford to go to main rallies went out to their local squares in their dozens and hundreds here in Cairo and all over Egypt,” she says.

“Morsi and the Brotherhood made the fatal mistake of taking power alone and now alone bear the responsibility for failing to deliver over chronic problems that cannot be solved in a year, such as shortages of power and fuel and soaring prices.

“The Brotherhood committed suicide. Morsi did nothing. If you don’t take radical steps and make radical changes, you get radical opposition . . . The Brotherhood is too conservative.”

She expects large crowds to protest today and Friday since Morsi has, so far, rejected the call to resign.

“When Kom Ombo in upper Egypt goes out into the streets, you know Morsi and the Brotherhood are in trouble,” she says, predicting that Egypt could “for many years” face a “cycle of revolution and counter-revolution. It’s all about economics”.