Major demonstrations are taking place across Egypt Sunday on the first anniversary of President Mohammed Morsi taking office. Morsi, backed by the Muslim Brotherhood, was elected after the January 2011 Arab Spring, which led to the ousting of former president Hosni Mubarak.
Observers have grown increasingly concerned, as there have been outbreaks of violence in the lead-up to this weekend’s protests, with as many as eight killed, including one American.
From CBS News:
As the streets once again fill with protesters eager to oust the president and Islamists determined to keep him in power, Egyptians are preparing for the worst: days or weeks of urban chaos that could turn their neighborhoods into battlegrounds.
Households already beset by power cuts, fuel shortages and rising prices are stocking up on goods in case the demonstrations drag on. Businesses near protest sites are closing until crowds subside. Fences, barricades and walls are going up near homes and key buildings. And local communities are organizing citizen patrols in case security breaks down.
For yet another time since President Mohammed Morsi took office last year, his palace in Cairo’s upscale Heliopolis neighborhood 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.
Protestors stormed a Muslim Brotherhood office in Alexandria, and seven other of its offices are said to have been attacked in cities across the country.
A 21 year old American teacher from Maryland was killed when he was reportedly stabbed in the chest during the Alexandria attack. Driving the protests are calls from opponents for Morsi to step down. From CBS News:
Morsi’s opponents aim to bring out massive crowds starting 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 22 million signatures — compared to around 13 million voters who elected Morsi — calling for him to step down, and they hope the turnout will push him to do just that.
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.
On Friday, thousands of Morsi supporters launched a counterdemonstration, which some plan to continue as an open-ended sit-in at a mosque near the presidential palace — the endpoint of the main protest march two days later.
Sunday’s protests are seen by many of Morsi’s critics as a crucial turning point for Egypt.
From the Washington Post:
There is a sense among opponents and supporters of Morsi that Sunday’s rally is a make or break day. The opposition feels empowered by the petition, known as Tamarod, or Rebel, but it offered no proof regarding the figures. If verified, it would mean that nearly double the number of people who voted for Morsi a year ago are now calling for him to step down.
“Honestly, if (Sunday) is not a game changer, we might all just pack up our bags and leave,” said Mahmoud Salem, a prominent blogger known by his blog’s name Sandmonkey and a vocal critic of the Muslim Brotherhood, from which Morsi hails.
While violence is likely in such a tense atmosphere, Salem said it would not play out in favor of Morsi supporters because they will be outnumbered.
“They have alienated everybody,” he said. Even if no violence breaks out, Salem said civil disobedience is expected in a movement designed now to “save the country.”
Morsi’s supporters, on the other hand, question the petitions, saying his opponents are led by members of the ousted regime of Hosni Mubarak who are trying to orchestrate a comeback and are instigating violence.
“Today and tomorrow will be the real birth of this nation,” said Hani Salaheddin, a presenter on the Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated TV station Misr 25, predicting that Sunday will bring an end to the questioning of Morsi’s mandate.
“Tomorrow is the end of every corrupt person,” he said, as the slogan “legitimacy (of the ballot box) is a red line,” appeared on the screen.
Meanwhile, some US Embassy employees in Egypt voluntarily began leaving on Saturday.
US Embassy official confirms embassy employees who have chosen to leave began leaving today.#egypt
— Richard Engel (@RichardEngel) June 29, 2013
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