Show of strength for people power in Tahrir Square
Protesters at epicentre of Egyptian uprising say President Morsi has hijacked revolution
“The people want the regime to fall,” protesters in Cairo’s Tahrir Square shouted. Photograph: Reuters/Mohamed Abd El Ghany
Chanting, “Erhal, Erhal! Leave, Leave,” the marchers turn on to 26th July Avenue from Shagaret el-Dor, where they had gathered in front of the culture ministry to protest the actions of the current Muslim Brotherhood minister. Men and women of all ages and classes walking together, children skipping alongside, waving Egyptian flags, carrying portraits of president Mohamed Morsi with an X across his face, brandishing red cards commanding, “Get Out”.
Painters, film-makers and musicians add spice to the throng of cheerful Egyptians walking along the iconic avenue, named for the date of the 1952 coup that ended the monarchy and ushered in the republic. “The people want the regime to fall,” they cried, returning the slogan of the 2011 uprising as they stride along the western bank of the Nile, merging into the crowd in front of the exclusive Gezira Sporting Club.
Qasr al-Nil bridge is packed with people making for iconic Tahrir Square, the epicentre of the people power movement that toppled president Hosni Mubarak 28 months ago. On the eastern bank, Egyptians from the Boulaq slum are also on the march, chanting, “Erhal, Erhal!” as they pass the round belly of the television building.
The entrance to Tahrir is blocked to traffic and all who enter have to squeeze through a narrow checkpoint at one end where young volunteers in yellow-green vests check for weapons.
We make our way through the crowd toward the stage where speakers lead chants. Flags wave slowly to the chants, to the beat of drums.
Thousands upon thousands are here and tens of thousands pour in from every direction. Women are back in their droves: bare-headed girls dressed in T-shirts and jeans, elderly women in flower print dresses, conservative women in headscarves and long coats or enveloped in black with only their eyes showing sporting red cards – “Leave” – round their necks. A few months ago women risked rape and battering in the square.
Vendors selling tea, bottled water, flags, headbands and red cards are doing a roaring trade. A group of men sit under an awning. Asked how long they plan to stay, Said, a Cairene in a blue turban, says, “As long as it takes to get rid of Morsi. During the revolution, Egyptians were united. Now we are divided.”He adds: “There is no fuel, electricity is cut, food is more expensive, the pound is collapsing, everything costs more.”
He names three of the most prominent members of the opposition National Salvation Front: Nobel laureate Mohamed El-Baradei, former foreign minister Amr Moussa, and leftist Hamdeen Sabahi. “Morsi has hijacked the revolution and put the [Muslim] Brothers in power. They have to share power with others. They have to carry on with the revolution and make it a revolution for all Egyptians.”
As Tahrir fills up, my companion Habiba and I wend our way through the masses, past the wrought iron gate of Arab League Headquarters, to Qasr al-Nil, now nearly blocked by newcomers. We take shelter behind a horse-drawn carriage trying to cross the bridge against the tide. As we make our way along the river bank, three well- dressed men with flags get out of a gleaming Mercedes. “Even those people are coming,” says Habiba. This display of people power more than matches the throngs of the great days of the 2011 uprising that captured the imagination of the world.