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Egyptian Protesters Demand Morsi's Ouster


It's WEEKENDS on ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Jacki Lyden.

Once again, Egypt's iconic Tahrir Square has been inundated with hundreds of thousands of protesters.


LYDEN: This time, they're demanding the resignation of the country's first democratically elected president, just one year after he took office. But President Mohammed Morsi and his Islamist supporters have rejected that demand, and it has led to violent clashes. Some 250 Egyptians were injured across the nation today and at least four people have died.

We go now to NPR's Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson in Cairo, who's been at the protest. It's late at night in Cairo, Soraya. What's happening now?

SORAYA SARHADDI NELSON, BYLINE: Well, there are more people in the streets than there were during the daytime for sure. I think the cooler temperatures and the fact that the jobs, you know, people's jobs are - have let out for the day have drawn them into the streets. It's quite festive. You see fireworks. People are singing and chanting and socializing. And it's just a really strange atmosphere, I mean, a very uplifting atmosphere even though the message or the things that are going on are so negative.

A lot of these people are holding up these red cards like you would see at a soccer game, you know, the referee would hold up to get the players to leave. I guess in this case, they're asking Morsi to leave.

LYDEN: So a bit of a fluctuating picture there. Now these demonstrations are still larger than any this year. Who are all of these people? Remind us. And remind us why they want Mohammed Morsi gone.

NELSON: Well, they range from all levels of the economic stratosphere here. I mean, you're talking about the very poor to the very elite, people who are loosely organized by a grassroots youth movement called Tamarod or rebel. They don't agree with each other politically, but they're united in being fed up with the economic situation, which has been quite difficult here in Egypt since the initial revolution two and a half years ago. And they're also tired of what they see as a power grab by the Muslim Brotherhood.

LYDEN: So where is the president, and what are his supporters doing?

NELSON: Well, he's certainly not at the presidential palace, which is sort of the flash point for all these protests tonight. He's at another presidential palace - or I should say the main presidential palace is not where he's at. He's at a presidential palace that's near the Defense Ministry. And so far, people have not been really going there to protest, although we've heard that people are now moving in that direction.

Meanwhile, his supporters have been out in the street doing their own demonstrations and rallies, if you will, and looking quite aggressive. They're carrying sticks and clubs and shields, and they're threatening to go after anyone who goes after them, if you will.

LYDEN: Soraya, what's happening with the Egyptian army and the police? Are they intervening?

NELSON: Very much - or very little, I should say. It's quite disturbing to many Egyptians here. They don't see really any police presence or any army presence certainly here in the capital. And the fear is that if they don't intervene that there will ultimately be far more violent clashes than we've seen already. I mean, as you mentioned, the feeling is that this could rise significantly if there isn't somebody maintaining law and order.

LYDEN: Soraya, there have been many protests in the two and a half years since Egypt's dictator Hosni Mubarak was forced from power. Little has changed in Egypt since then. What's different now?

NELSON: Well, I think tonight, people feel that there's hope again. I mean, they're out in large numbers. We have not seen this kind of numbers in a while. I wouldn't say two and a half years. I mean, perhaps six months ago. And I think people somehow feel that their message will get across to President Morsi that he won't see them as being criminals and, you know, foreign agents, that perhaps he will recognize them as being the voice of the Egyptian people.

LYDEN: Well, thank you so much. NPR's Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson in Cairo. Thanks for watching it for us.

NELSON: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Longtime listeners recognize Jacki Lyden's voice from her frequent work as a substitute host on NPR. As a journalist who has been with NPR since 1979, Lyden regards herself first and foremost as a storyteller and looks for the distinctive human voice in a huge range of national and international stories.
Special correspondent Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson is based in Berlin. Her reports can be heard on NPR's award-winning programs, including Morning Edition and All Things Considered, and read at NPR.org. From 2012 until 2018 Nelson was NPR's bureau chief in Berlin. She won the ICFJ 2017 Excellence in International Reporting Award for her work in Central and Eastern Europe, North Africa, the Middle East and Afghanistan.
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