Massive Crowds of Egyptians Take to Streets in Protests Calling for Morsi to Step Down

Massive Crowds of Egyptians Take to Streets in Protests Calling for Morsi to Step Down

Washington, D.C. (ICC) -- International Christian Concern continues to monitor the situation in Egypt as millions of Egyptians took to the streets in protest against Islamist president Mohammed Morsi. June 30 marked the one-year anniversary of Morsi's entrance to office, but the majority of Egyptians feel betrayed due to his dictatorial style, his now-apparent radical Islamist agenda and his economic mismanagement. They are demanding that Morsi step down.  

Estimates of the number of demonstrators who opposed President Morsi are as high as 14-17 million, according to the Egyptian Interior Ministry, Al-Jazeera reported. The opposition group represents people from a wide swath of Egyptian society, including liberal secularists, moderate Muslims and Egypt's Christian community.

Tamarod, or "Rebel," one of the organizing groups of the demonstrations, reportedly collected more than 22 million signatures calling for early presidential elections and urging the masses to work to "achieve a society of dignity, justice and freedom." The 22 million signatures are nearly 10 million more than the number of votes Morsi received in the 2012 elections. Hal Meawad, a spokesman for Coptic Solidarity, told ICC, "He is not the president of the majority; he was only voted in by 14 percent of Egyptians."

The massive crowds filled Cairo's Tahrir Square, the area outside the presidential palace in Cairo's Heliopolis district, and cities throughout Egypt. The clashes between Morsi's opponents and supporters resulted in the death of at least seven people; and more than 600 were injured, Ahram reports.

The protests continued through the night. Early Monday morning, the headquarters of the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) was stormed and set on fire, though no MB members were thought to be in the building. "The millions of Egyptians who demand Morsi step down don't understand that they face a strong [movement], not just one person [Morsi] or even a group [the Muslim Brotherhood]," Yasser Khalil, a journalist from Cairo told ICC. "The [Islamic movement to turn Egypt into a theocracy] is backed by many groups and supporters. The Muslim Brotherhood though [which Morsi is a member of] is the biggest loser of popularity. However there are more than 26 Islamic political parties and religious groups still popular, and they back the [movement] and some of them are ready to fight for it," Khalil continued.

"The huge demonstrations of June 30, 2013, reflect that the experience of political Islam is at the beginning of the end," Khalil said. The Tamarod group has issued an ultimatum calling for President Morsi to step down before 5 p.m. on Tuesday, July 2, threatening a civil disobedience campaign if he does not. "This date [July 2 at 5 p.m.] can be considered the beginning of a general civil disobedience for the sake of implementing the will of the Egyptian people," Tamarod said in a statement published on its website.

The economic collapse under the Morsi government, the growing Islamization of the country, and the abuses of human rights are at the center of the protests. "The country is suffering in every area of life, unemployment is sky-rocketing. There is no security. The country is suffering from a total breakdown of law and order. The only industry that is booming is kidnapping for ransom," said Meawad.

There is a fear that the removal of another president via massive public protests makes the establishment of a stable political system even more challenging. Yet, the opposition feels that Morsi has lost all legitimacy and that dialogue will not change anything fundamentally.

Despite pressure from Morsi to keep Christians from joining, many took part, as they have been especially abused during Morsi's year in office. "Christians were struggling under Mubarak; but there is a huge difference between Mubarak rule and Brotherhood rule. Morsi and the Brotherhood want to establish an Islamic state in Egypt. Now we have active persecution. We have the government actively participating in the persecution," Meawad told ICC.

Todd Daniels, ICC regional manager for the Middle East, said: "The opposition protests taking place in Egypt represent a huge swath of society that are opposed to Morsi and his MB's Islamist government. Morsi's Islamist agenda has alienated large segments of the population, pushed the country to the brink of economic collapse, and contributed to a culture of violence and abuse especially directed toward Christians. Whether this movement leads to a new government and fundamental rights for all of its citizens remains to be seen."

International Christian Concern is a Washington, D.C.-based human rights organization that exists to help persecuted Christians worldwide. ICC provides awareness, advocacy and assistance to the worldwide persecuted church.

Publication date: July 1, 2013