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Why Egyptians risk more protests

Despite a very real threat of death, government crackdowns have spurred a new wave of protesters to take to the streets
Last modified: 16 Aug 2013 22:25
Protesters in Ramses Square [Reuters]

The sounds of bullets being fired and plumes of tear gas coming out of Cairo's Ramses Square were not unexpected. Neither were the scores left dead as a result.

Marches - at least two dozen -  were called for by a number of groups protesting against Wednesday's violent clearing of two sit-ins held in support of deposed president Mohamed Morsi, which resulted in an estimated 600 people killed and hundreds more injured.

All were to head to Ramses Square on Friday, where police, military and roaming packs of plain-clothed thugs were waiting for them.

State media carried warnings telling Cairenes to avoid certain areas and, indeed, apart from the areas where marchers set off, most of Cairo - a crowded, noisy city of roughly 18 million - resembled a ghost town.

Given that there is a state of emergency curfew backed up by a will to use deadly force, why would so many choose to participate in such marches?

Are all of the protesters violent and extremist? No. 

Some, like Dina Badry, said that Friday's march was the first they'd participated in. "I came because when they shot the first person [on Wednesday] they shot every Egyptian," said Badry. "They killed us all."

Ahmed Awad, 33, who said he did not stay at either of the pro-Morsi vigils in Cairo, said: "I don't belong to any political party, I'm here to fight for justice and for democracy, and to fight against military rule."

"Everything is expected," said Awad, a civil engineer, when asked if he feared violent clashes at Ramses Square. "But the goal of these marches is the goals of the January 25 revolution... and I hope these can be reached peacefully."

Mohamed Mohsin, 28, also said that while he didn't participate in the vigils, what happened on Wednesday was wrong.

"What happened in Rabaa was so depressing - all the dead people," he said. "None of it should have happened."

He wasn't alone. Others we tried to contact for reactions to Friday’s marches - including former jihaddists and ex-military men - gave the same answer: They were too depressed to talk.

And with the events in Ramses Square to add to their sorrow, they will not likely wish to speak tomorrow either.