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Pro, anti-Morsi protesters stage rival Ramadan rallies


Supporters and opponents of ousted president Mohammed Morsi staged rival demonstrations on the first Friday of Ramadan as tensions soar following the bloody run-up to the holy month, which has left the nation bitterly divided.


Supporters and opponents of ousted Egyptian president Mohammed Morsi took to Egypt’s streets on the first Friday of Ramadan for rival protests, as those loyal to him demanded his reinstatement.

The Muslim Brotherhood, the influential group from which Morsi emerged, has vowed to keep protesting until he is back in power. But their ability to mobilise remains in question as much of the movement’s leadership has been detained in sweeping arrests made by the army.

The anti-Morsi camp has also called for rallies, including a mass iftar, or the breaking of the Muslim fast, in Cairo’s iconic Tahrir Square.

Ramadan is traditionally a time of personal reflection and for feeling a sense of brotherhood with fellow Muslims, but the military overthrow of Morsi has left Egyptians sorely divided as they enter the holy month.

“It’s a very hard time for Egyptians, to see footage of blood and violence during the holy month of Ramadan, and everyone I speak to says the same thing,” Fateh Ali, a 54-year-old civil servant in Cairo, told Reuters.

“I really hope the situation gets resolved soon. I don’t think we can afford this economically or psychologically.”

The last two weeks in Egypt has seen protests by millions, the overthrow of the country’s first democratically elected president and the deaths of dozens of people in clashes with the military.

“Ramadan last year came at a time when we were happy to have a democratically elected president after the revolution. But this year, whether you're a supporter or opponent [of Morsi], we're all distracted by the political situation and don't really feel the spirit of Ramadan,” a young resident of Alexandria, Omar Walid, told AP.

Politically charged iftar

In Cairo’s Tahrir Square – the symbolic centre of the revolution that overthrew Hosni Mubarak – anti-Morsi activists gathered on Thursday to celebrate their first iftar, the breaking of the daily fast.

Meanwhile across town in an eastern district, tens of thousands of Morsi supporters coalesced around a major intersection in front of the Rabaah al-Adawiya Mosque in northeastern Cairo.

Breaking their fast outdoors, the people in the two camps expressed bafflement and disdain for the other side.

“I don’t know if the people at Rabaah al-Adawiya are out of their minds or if they are brainwashed,” Shenouda William, a 35-year-old lawyer, told AP. Others described the Morsi supporters in the Muslim Brotherhood as ignorant peasants or possibly Palestinian and Syrian refugees looking for food and a place to sleep.

At the Rabaah al-Adawiya Mosque, Morsi supporters expressed the same scepticism for their rivals across town.

“In Tahrir Square now, it is just those from the previous regime, the businessmen, and the military,” Ali Awad, an elderly teacher trainer from the northern town of Zagazig, told AP. “Those who want things to be right want Morsi.”

Officials say Morsi is still being held at the Republican Guard compound in Cairo, where troops killed 53 Islamist protesters on Monday in a clash that intensified the anger his allies had already felt at his ousting. Morsi’s supporters say those who died were praying peacefully when troops opened fire.

Those gathered at the Rabaa Adawiya mosque held prayers for the victims. A large screen showed graphic footage of hospital scenes immediately after the shooting, with corpses on the floor and medics struggling to cope with the number of bloodied casualties being carried in.

(FRANCE 24 with wires)


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