Our solidarity with Egypt

SOME 80 members of San Francisco's Egyptian community gathered December 8 at UN Plaza to show their solidarity with Egyptians protesting President Mohamed Morsi's proposed December 15 referendum that would him dictatorial powers.

People in Cairo and other cities across Egypt are showing their outrage with Morsi's attempts to put himself above judicial review and ensure that the military's power remains untouched.

Among the organizers of the San Francisco protest was Momen El-Husseiny, a student at the University of California-Berkeley, who also was an organizer of the January revolution. He was arrested just days before the start of the revolution.

According to El-Husseiny, the revolution's "challenges went beyond deposing Mubarak. The generals appointed by Mubarak who wielded economic power also needed to be removed."

The grassroots movement that El-Husseiny was a part of in Egypt made connections with socialist organizations in the country. He was also a part of the April 6 Youth Movement, which formed in support of striking Mahalla textile workers four years ago.

Morsi claims to represent the revolution, while the opposition sees the steps taken by Morsi and his supporters in the Muslim Brotherhood as counter-revolutionary. Ahmed Salah, one of leaders of the January revolution and the April 6 Youth Movement, emphasized that the Muslim Brotherhood did not start the January revolution and initially was not part of the organizing.

Today, the Muslim Brotherhood is the most organized political force in Egypt, with significant support in rural areas. "The government neglected rural areas for years," explained Mona Osman. This, she said, allowed the Muslim Brotherhood to step into the void, assisting the rural population while the government remained indifferent, and building a base of support.

"I want my country back," demanded Osman. "The Muslim Brotherhood needs to leave or give us a constitution that is more democratic."

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SINCE MORSI came to power, many Egyptians have increasingly become disillusioned with his rule. "Once [Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood] took over, they proved not to be for the people, but for their own interest," said Hussein Moustafa.

At the demonstration, protesters held signs reading, "Long live the Egyptian Revolution" and a sign with a Time magazine cover of Morsi which was made to read "Time to go." Another sign read "Morsi=Tyrant." Activists also held a banner that read, "Stop U.S. military aid to Egypt. Defend the Egyptian Revolution." The crowd chanted, "Morsi no more. Egypt is for all" and "From Cairo to the Bay, solidarity all the way."

Some held Egyptian flags, and many demanded that the Obama administration end its support of Morsi.

A debate existed regarding the upcoming referendum. While one speaker urged Egyptians to vote no and reject the constitution, Osman and others support a boycott. Explaining that she voted in the first round of the presidential election and regrets it, she characterized the second round as a choice between "the old regime and the crazy regime."

Osman believes most Egyptians will participate in the December 15 referendum. Regarding the left opposition, Osman stated, "it's too divided, we need to form coalitions."

According to Osman, Egyptians have put too much of their hopes in individuals rather than ideas. The next step, she said, is "to understand we have the power."

She also spoke of the significance of some one-time Muslim Brotherhood supporters participating in protests against Morsi, adding that Morsi has also brought out the "sofa revolutionaries" (so-called because they didn't participate in the revolution).

"People would say, 'How can you take your kids to the streets?'" said Dina Salim. "They feared violence from Mubarak's forces. Now these same people are out in the streets [against Morsi]. This portends something that can be even larger than the movement that toppled Mubarak."

Despite Morsi rescinding most of a decree giving him extraordinary powers not subject to judicial review, the December 15 referendum is scheduled to proceed. Opposition protests will continue--in Egypt and around the globe, including in San Francisco on December 15.