Egypt’s Revolution Continues: the Talk of Tahrir

Click to listen to three middle-class “revoltionaries” with Chris Lydon renewed protests in Cairo’s Tahrir Square (26 min, 11.8 meg)

Three Revolutionary Voices: Law Professor Hossam Issa; Engineer Mamdouh Hamza; and Architect Abbas Mahmoud Abbas. Photo Credit: Mark Fonseca Rendeiro

CAIRO — We’ve been in Tahrir Square all day till nearly midnight, recording the sound of Egypt’s democratic revolution coming back strong on the street against President Mohamed Morsi’s assertion yesterday of sweeping personal authority.  As someone just said to me: “The first wave (Jan 2011) dropped Mubarak. The second wave dropped the military. And the third wave (today) is dropping the Muslim Brotherhood.” Another says: “Say goodbye to the Square (Tahrir).  The demonstrators will not leave until Morsi leaves.”

This is a very big reversal of “the story,” which took the form in the NYT analysis today that Hillary Clinton had embraced Morsi in Cairo two days ago for brokering peace in Gaza between his friend Hamas and our friend Israel; further, that the US had its strong, safe partner back in Egypt, a recovery of the US old palship with the ousted president Mubarak.  

In Cairo from a score of people I encountered today, this is taken as incitement: “Hillary comes and gives Morsi a star they way they do with kids in kindergarten.  She gives him a green light to be a dictator, a fascist.  So the US has a new dictator in Cairo.  A new Mubarak? No! Worse than Mubarak.” Another version: “Every time the US government comes to Egypt, we get hurt.”

So a crowd of many thousands — festive, strong, various, good-tempered, completely welcoming to me with my Radio Open Source T-shirt that says (not that they read it) “Here to Listen” on the back — pretty well filled Tahrir by early afternoon, then grew in size and energy (reinforced by soccer-fan “ultras”) into the night.  “It’s the end of Morsi and of US policy,” said the respected novelist Ibrahim Abdel Meguid (who has published four books with the American University in Cairo Press). “The secular people and the liberals made the Revolution. The Muslim Brotherhood are thieves. They come in with the Americans, the Israelis and others and they take over… It’s the most important moment since January 25 last year,” meaning the start of the anti-Mubarak protests. “And it’s a turning point for Egyptian history — whether we will be Egypt, or be reduced to religious tribes from Saudi Arabia.”

“Not since the Pharoahs,” said a lively middle-aged civil engineer and architect, Abbas Mahmoud Abbas, speaking of Morsi’s claim of one man rule. “And the Pharoahs had to face judges in the afterlife! The Muslim Brotherhood goes by Mafia rules, exactly like the Mafia! This protest will go on all night. The people want to drop the regime. Don’t worry — Morsi must leave.”

It’s taken as given by everyone I met near Tahrir today that the US government helped engineer the election last summer of Mohamed Morsi and the elevation of the Muslim Brotherhood, long in outlawed opposition; and further that money and manhood are deeply engaged in the next round, too.

“The Muslim Brotherhood are capitalists,” said Said Abdel Nasser, who makes and sells fine jewelry in the tourist market here. “They don’t want Egypt to be a production nation. They want it to be a supermarket. They are castrating the Egyptian craft and industry, to replace it with new trade capitalism, without any industry for Egypt, just McDonalds.”

The demonstrators — for all their determined purpose — looked all day and night like a loose, inclusive, sober sporting crowd. “I see representatives of all Egypts here,” said the writer Ibrahim Abdel Meguid, who was being embraced continously as a cultural star and friend of the revolution from the beginning. “I see activists, merchants, villagers, peasants, actors and actresses, musicians and artists. But the majority is young men who made the January revolution, and many will continue.”

They were exuberant and good-humored today, happy to be taking President Morsi on directly. “The people want the regime to fall,” they chanted. Then simply, in a single word in Arabic, “Frauds… Frauds… Frauds!” One playful little band led a donkey around the Square, named “Morsi,” of course.

Nobody we met in the Square professed to have plan, or to know what will happen next. Tear gas was fired sparingly from the vicinity of the Interior Ministry in the early evening, but we did not see police intervening anywhere with the crowds. Might the Muslim Brotherhood attack in some fashion? Probably not, people said. Word was around that protesters in Alexandria had trashed, or maybe burned the Brotherhood’s headquarters there — and that the police had made no concerted move to stop them. “If the Brotherhood does attack us,” a 60-year-old demonstrator told me, “we will defeat them.” 

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