′Irhal!′ shout Egyptian protesters, telling Morsi to ′leave′ | World| Breakings news and perspectives from around the globe | DW | 01.07.2013
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'Irhal!' shout Egyptian protesters, telling Morsi to 'leave'

Millions of Egyptians have taken to the streets in Cairo and beyond to demand an end to Mohammed Morsi's presidency. While the demonstrations were largely peaceful at Tahrir Square, they turned violent elsewhere.

Cairo is in upheaval. Well into the night, millions of anti-Morsi demonstrators flooded into the streets of the Egyptian capital, including the rich, poor, old, young, revolutionaries, military supporters, men and women - veiled and unveiled. Other places saw protests as well. At least five people died in clashes between anti-Morsi protesters and supporters in two southern Egyptian cities, according to local media.

Many demonstrators in Cairo shouted "Irhal!", meaning "leave" in Arabic. A large number of homemade red signs could be seen, along with Egyptian flags and crossed out portraits of the president - the symbols of the country's new revolutionary wave.

Unity could be observed among Egypt's non-Muslim groups. Gone are the days when each party came with its own flags and banners. The message is clear, said a 16-year-old high school student demonstrating in front of the presidential palace: Morsi must go.

"I'm here today because the country has completely changed. Mubarak was corrupt, but still, he was better than Morsi. We realize now that Morsi is even more corrupt," he said.

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Massive protests give voice to frustrations with President Mohamed Morsi

Festival-like atmosphere

On one hand, there were elements of a party mood. People laughed and joked with one another. Colorful vuvuzelas and whistles caused deafening noise. Vendors sold fruit or grilled corn on the cob from hand carts.

But at one of the gates to President Morsi's palace, it was nevertheless clear that the celebratory atmosphere had its limits. Hundreds of young people could be seen climbing onto the heavy metal containers that had been positioned in front of the palace's walls as a barricade, stamping loudly with their feet on the rusty iron and generating a monotonous thunder that could be heard throughout the area. As if in a trance, people waved Egyptian flags and shouted, "Leave!"

Protesters wanted to show that they have resolved not to tolerate the Muslim Brotherhood's politics any longer. Millions had already taken to the streets on the anniversary of the revolution, but this time, it's clear that the goal is to topple Morsi as president.

Amr Shavy is among those calling for his resignation. "I will continue to demonstrate and insist that he step down. Everyone here agrees and wants to stay until he goes. In my family, we're all in agreement. And if I go now, then someone else from my family will just replace me," he said.

A protester opposing Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi holds an anti-Mursi poster during a protest in front of the presidential palace REUTERS/Suhaib Salem

The mood at the demonstrations ranged from cheerful and celebratory to dark and violent

Views differ when it comes to how demonstrators could end Morsi's presidency. Ali Saiyid, a 35-year-old teacher, supports peaceful protests. If that doesn't work, he says, then a civil disobedience campaign around the country must be started. That's exactly what members of the April 6 Youth Movement, one of the most influential revolutionary groups for young people, officially called for on Sunday.

Ali Saiyid openly calculates with a military intervention. In his view, the army would not permit the country to come to a standstill for long and would ultimately take power back from the Muslim Brotherhood.

Many demonstrators have a fairly positive attitude toward the army. Slogans suggesting an alliance between the people and the military could be heard repeatedly from the palace. As a military helicopter circled over demonstrators during the night, the protesters targeted it with hundreds of green laser pointers and broke out into jubilatory cries, while some applauded.

However, not everyone was cheering. Many of the young activists who suffered under the military regime that took power after the revolution took a more skeptical view.

40-year-old Salma is among them, saying, "I am not against the military. It should assume power - but only temporarily during the transitional phase through to a presidential election without voter fraud. The army is necessary to protect the country, but not to rule it."

Prepared for violence

There are also those ready to take a violent course among the demonstrators at Tahrir Square. Accompanied by loud cheers and cries of "Leave!", some protesters unrolled an enormous banner down a house façade located near the presidential palace. The sign bore a crossed out image of Morsi's face along with the words, "You have ruled this country, but you were unjust, and that's why you will be executed!"

Salma also sees the possibility of violence ahead. "It can definitely get violent, but the violence will come from the Muslim Brothers. We hope that God will protect us and the young people here. Even if the Muslim Brothers have weapons, there are more of us than of them."

However, attacks at the Muslim Brotherhood's central headquarters in Cairo overnight prove that violence is also coming from other parties. The building was set on fire. The police did not intervene after having repeatedly announced they would not be keeping watch over Muslim Brotherhood facilities.

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