‘We will support Morsi to the last drop of our blood’

Mixed gathering at university calls for return of deposed president

Protesters carry posters of ousted Egyptian president Mohammed Morsi during a rally in the Nasr City neighborhood of Cairo. Photograph: Tara Todras-Whitehill/the New York Times

Protesters carry posters of ousted Egyptian president Mohammed Morsi during a rally in the Nasr City neighborhood of Cairo. Photograph: Tara Todras-Whitehill/the New York Times

Sat, Jul 6, 2013, 01:00

Cairo University’s Nahda Square is sealed off by a few threads of wire and string, and pieces of flattened tin. Access is granted by male volunteers in T-shirts who pat down the men. Women enter without checks, although the square is a strident voice in the campaign to restore the Muslim Brotherhood’s Mohamed Morsi to Egypt’s presidency.

Just beyond the wire Hele, a bareheaded blonde woman carrying a portrait of Morsi, takes my arm, steering me round little piles of broken paving stones, positioned to repel attacks. “I am a liberal, I am a liberal,” she says as we cross the square to a marqee sheltering a dozen women, who shake hands and offer water.

Stretched out on the pavement nearby is a 20-metre long, slightly soiled red, white and black Egyptian flag. Absent are the small flags that fill Tahrir Square, 15 minutes’ drive away.

Hele says: “This man is a Marxist, I am a liberal, we are not all Brotherhood. What we want is democracy. Democracy not a coup.”

A young woman in a purple hat pulled down over a headscarf joins us.

“I am a pharmacist at Kasr al-Aini hospital,” she says before introducing herself as Mariam. “On Tuesday there were 22 eye injuries as well as 16 dead. If you come to the hospital I can show you the records.

“I am not pro-Morsi as a president. I am against the coup. The people did not dream that the old regime would come back. This is a revolution against January 25th [the day the 2011 uprising began]. We were all united on January 25th. Now we are divided.”

From a small platform an ex-minister speaks but few are listening. Among the men are a few ultraconservative Salafis, distinguished by their big, ragged beards. Most others are clean-shaven or sport a day’s growth.

Women are largely in headscarves but there are a few covered from head to foot in black veiling with eyes peering from slits. Children hang onto their parents.

Hele, Mariam, and I make for the stage, decorated with Morsi photos and bunting, but are overwhelmed by men and women who want to have their say. It’s deja vu for me. I am back in Tahrir Square in 2011 when Egyptians were happy to see foreign journalists and wanted to tell their stories. Tahrir no longer holds revolutionary seminars.

Mariam says, “The people holding Morsi [the presidential guards] are telling him they will kill his children if he does not sign his resignation.”

Hanan, who wears a niqab covering her face, is from Cairo’s poor Boulaq quarter downriver from Tahrir. She interrupts to say, “I respect him more than ever. He is a national hero . . . He calls for justice not for blood.”

Youssef, an English teacher says, “This is an Islamic revolution. The millions in the street in Minia, Zagazig, Assiut and Alexandria make this clear. The media are against the Muslim Brotherhood. The local media do not report our protests and the foreign media ignore us.”

Mahmoud Fawzi, another English teacher, breaks in, “We want to tell the world that we will support Morsi to the last drop of our blood.”