Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 21 September 2014

Egyptians braced for more protests

Opponents of Egypt's Islamist president Mohammed Morsi protest outside the defence ministry in Cairo (AP)
An Egyptian protester waves her hand painted in the colors of the national flag with Arabic reads "Egypt" during anti-Morsi demonstration in Cairo (AP)
Opponents of Egypt's Islamist president Mohammed Morsi protest outside the defence ministry in Cairo (AP)

Egyptians were preparing for the worst as streets once again filled with protesters eager to oust President Mohammed Morsi and Islamists determined to keep him in power.

Households already beset by power cuts, fuel shortages and rising prices were stocking up on goods amid fears that the demonstrations could drag on for days or weeks and turn their neighbourhoods into battlegrounds.

Businesses near protest sites were closing until the crowds subside. Fences, barricades and walls were going up near homes and key buildings. And local communities were organising citizen patrols in case security breaks down.

Yet again, Mr Morsi's palace in the upmarket Heliopolis area of Cairo is set to become the focus for popular frustration with his rule. Some protests outside the capital have already turned deadly, and weapons - including firearms - have been circulating more openly than in the past.

"We're worried like all Egyptians that a huge crowd will come, and it will get bloody," said Magdy Ezz, owner of a menswear shop across from the walled complex, a blend of Middle Eastern and neoclassical architecture. Besides ordinary roll-down storm shutters, storefronts on the street are sealed off with steel panels.

"We just hope it will be peaceful. But it could be a second revolution," he said. "If it lasts, we'll have to keep the store closed. But it's not like business has been booming here anyway, especially since the problems last year."

Last winter, the area saw some of Cairo's deadliest street violence since the 2011 uprising, with Islamists attacking a sit-in, anarchists throwing petrol bombs, and police savagely beating protesters.

Mr Morsi's opponents aim to bring out massive crowds starting on Sunday, saying the country is fed up with Islamist misrule that has left the economy floundering and security in shambles.

They say they have collected 15 million signatures - around 2 million more than the number of voters who elected Mr Morsi - calling for him to step down, and they hope the turnout will push him to do just that.

Mr Morsi's Islamist allies say they will defend the mandate of the country's first freely elected president, some with their "souls and blood" if necessary, while hard-liners have vowed to "smash" the protests.

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