Tens of thousands of supporters of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood massed in main squares in several cities on Friday, waving pictures of Mohamed Morsy and chanting that the head of the military is a “traitor,” stepping up denunciations of the army over its removal of the country’s first freely elected president.
Islamists are trying to escalate their campaign of street rallies aimed at forcing the reinstitution of Mr Morsy. At the same time, the new military-backed administration has intensified its crackdown on the leadership of Mr Morsy’s Brotherhood, starting criminal investigations against Mr Morsy and issuing arrest warrants on a host of others.
At the main Islamist rally in Cairo, the crowd poured into a large boulevard in front of a main mosque where Mr Morsy supporters have been camped out for two weeks. During the day, the crowd appeared smaller than in previous days, though it was expected to pick up after sunset and the end of the daily fast of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan.
“We are ready to stay for a month, two months, a year or even two years,” an ultraconservative Salafi cleric, Safwat Hegazi, told protesters from a state set up in front of the Rabaa al-Adawiya Mosque. “Some women proposed to bring ovens to bake sweets for the Eid,” he said, referring to the festive holiday that marks the end of Ramadan, just under four weeks from now.
During Ramadan, which began Wednesday, Muslims abstain from food and drink from sunrise to sunset, which usually cuts down on activity during the day particularly outdoors in warm summer temperatures. Some in the square stayed in tents during the day Friday, sleeping or reading the Quran. Islamists also held rallies in the Mediterranean city of Alexandria and several other cities.
Despite the vows to continue until Mr Morsy is back in the palace, the Brotherhood and other Islamists face the question of how to step up their campaign at a time when the new administration is pushing ahead quickly with its transition plans, in part to create a reality and force isolate the Brotherhood by showing the country is moving toward democracy. At the same time, authorities are pulling out multiple allegations aimed at showing Mr Morsy’s supporters are linked to violence and militancy.
On Friday, some protesters marched from Rabaa al-Adawiya toward the Republican Guard headquarters, where on Monday troops killed more than 50 Morsy supporters in clashes at an Islamist sit-in. The military says the Islamists sparked the clashes by shooting at troops, though the protesters say the troops attacked them without provocation.