06/27/2013, 00.00
EGYPT
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Egypt's rural areas turn against Mohamed Morsi, a president on "another planet"

Mina Magdy, spokesman for the Maspero Youth Union, tells AsiaNews about the success of the Tamarod (Rebellion) movement that collected 15 million signatures in a month as a show of non-confidence against Egypt's president. Most signatures come from rural areas in Upper Egypt, once an Islamist stronghold. Rising poverty, crime, violence and unemployment are evidence of the Brotherhood's failure.

Cairo (AsiaNews) - Members of the 'Tamarod' (rebellion in Arabic) movement are preparing to take to the streets on Sunday to present 15 million signatures collected around the country to express a vote of no confidence in Islamist President Mohamed Morsi. In view of that, Islamists today organised the first pro-president demonstrations, clashing with opponents. In northern Cairo, the violence has already claimed 2 lives and left more than 200 people injured.

Interviewed by AsiaNews, Mina Magdy, a spokesman for the Maspero Youth Union, a Muslim-Christian Human Rights organisation that is one of the main promoters of the initiative, said the situation in Egypt in less than a year saw support for the Muslim Brotherhood turn to opposition.

"Our movement," he said, "is a new way to make the voice of the people heard, especially those who live in areas where the illiteracy rate is higher than 50 per cent and where people live on a few dollars a day."

Born in early May, Tamarod brought together all the organisations and figures from the Jasmine Revolution. Instead of going back to Tahrir Square, they chose to visit every corner of the country to ask people for their views on the current government. "Unexpectedly," he noted, "Egyptians welcome our initiative with respect and awe."

"Since the Muslim Brotherhood came to power, rural regions have become even poorer," Mina explained. Upper Egypt and Cairo's suburbs of Cairo are traditional Islamist strongholds. However, "When we visited villages in the south of the country," the young man said, "residents celebrated."

"After the elections, no one showed any interest in them. They did not vote for the Muslim Brotherhood only for religious reasons, but especially for its promises of development and fight against poverty," Magdy explained. "Unfortunately, nothing happened. It is thanks to them that we reached a record 15 million signatures against President Morsi."

According to the young law student, the government failed precisely because it lied to its main constituents. Under the government's economic policies, car thefts jumped, unemployment skyrocketed, not to mention the cost of fuel, whilst almost no appropriate social policy has been implemented.

In order to appease the tensions of recent weeks, President Morsi spoke to the nation yesterday. In a speech of nearly three hours, the Justice and Freedom Party leader tried to explain the country's situation, stressing that those who are in favour of democracy are with him. At the same time, he said he was willing to admit to his mistakes, and promised immediate and radical reforms.

Nevertheless, in most of his statement, he pointed the finger at the men of the old regime for the country's woes, blaming them for a mysterious plot, as well as opposition parties who refuse talks with the government and hoodwink the population with their slogans. On the issue of the country's economic crisis, the rise of religious extremism and attacks against minority Christians and Shias, he had nothing to say.

People crowded restaurants and cafes to watch the long presidential address, Mina Magdy said. "They listened to his words in silence. A few hours later, they were already saying that Morsi was living on another planet or that he lived in another country, not Egypt."

"Everyone can see the country's crisis," the young man said, including Muslim Brotherhood supporters. "It is useless to lie on the facts or ramble on about some improbable plot by Mubarak cronies."

"All of Egypt supports him, he [Morsi] said, and only a small percentage is against him. Yet, 9,000 anti-Muslim Brotherhood demonstrations were recorded in 2012.

Indeed, some figures describe an alarming picture. In 2012, murders were up 130 per cent, robberies 350 per cent, and kidnappings 145 per cent, according to the Interior Ministry. The average unemployment rate has risen from 10 per cent in the period 2009-2011 to over 14 per cent in the next period.

In addition, the Egyptian pound lost on average 12 per cent and the agreement with the International Monetary Fund for US$ 4 billion in economic aid is still pending.

For Mina Magdy, 30 June will be a historic day for the country. "Maybe there will be fights, but we shall not yield to provocation. We believe that peace is stronger than the verbal and physical violence of the Islamists."

The demonstrations scheduled for the next few days have seen the military go on high alert. As of yesterday, several armoured vehicles have been deployed in key spots like Cairo's Tahrir Square, the Presidential Palace, and the Ministry of Justice. According to Egyptian media, the situation is "hot."

In an interview with al-Ahram newspaper, Khaled Saeed, official spokesperson for Egypt's Salafi Front, said that vigilante groups "will clear the streets of thugs and thieves who make use of protests to rob citizens and institutions." (S.C.)

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