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Two people were killed and dozens injured in street fighting on Wednesday north of Cairo between supporters and opponents of Egypt's Islamist president, hours before Mohamed Morsi was to address the nation.
With Egypt gripped by fears of a showdown between Islamists and their opponents, security sources said 90 people wounded in the city of Mansoura after hundreds of men were involved in rock-throwing street skirmishes. Witnesses heard gunfire and state television showed a man in hospital with birdshot wounds.The violence in the coastal city of Masoura, north of Cairo, began Wednesday when opponents of President Mohamed Morsi pelted his supporters with garbage as they gathered outside a mosque to stage a march to back the president.
Similar outbursts of violence, often prompted by one side or the other staging rallies, have hit towns across the country in recent days. At least two men died last weekend. The opposition plans mass protests this weekend, calling for Morsi to resign.
Anti-Morsi protest. Cairo (Photo: AP)
He shows no sign of doing that and is expected to blame the deadlock that has aggravated an economic crisis on resistance from those loyal to his ousted predecessor Hosni Mubarak.
The army has warned politicians it could effectively take charge again if they fail to reconcile. Some in the anti-Morsi camp might welcome that, but Islamists say they would fight any "coup" against Egypt's first freely elected leader.
--> Fears of a violent stand-off in the streets between Morsi's Islamist supporters and a broad coalition of the disaffected have led people to stock up on food. Long lines of cars outside fuel stations have snarled roads in Cairo and other cities.
Morsi, who marks his first year in office on Sunday, has given little hint of the contents of a speech due to start after 9:30 p.m. (1930 GMT) at a Cairo hall before an invited audience. Aides have indicated he will defend familiar positions, though there has been speculation he might also reshuffle his cabinet.
Some observers fear Egypt may be about to erupt again, two years after the revolution that toppled Mubarak. Politics are polarized between Morsi's disciplined Muslim Brotherhood and disparate opponents who have lost a series of elections.
The deadlock has contributed to a deepening economic crisis and the government is running out of cash.
Liberal critics worry about Islamist rule – a coalition of local human rights groups accused Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood on Wednesday of crimes rivaling Mubarak's and of setting up a "religious, totalitarian state". But many Egyptians are simply frustrated by falling living standards and fear chaos.
--> After the violence in Mansoura, state television put the number of injured at 160 and said rival factions were on the streets of other nearby towns in the Nile Delta as night fell. Crowds were also gathering in Cairo, in separate locations.
Lining up at a bank machine in downtown Cairo, IT trainer Amgad al-Fishawi, 40, said he feared cash could be hard to find in the coming days and echoed the resignation felt by many at the deadlock: "Morsi won't promise too much," he said. "Nobody's paying attention. The people don't expect anything from him."
The army is held in high regard by Egyptians, especially since it pushed aside Mubarak following the 2011 uprising. Its chief issued a warning on Sunday, urging compromise while also defending the legitimacy of Morsi's election.
One senior Western diplomat in Cairo said the army might try to impose a solution, especially if the political deadlock turns violent: "The margin for a political solution is definitely very narrow," he said. "If (violence) crosses a certain threshold, the role of the army might become by default more proactive."
Islamists, oppressed for decades, fear a return of military rule and hardliners warn of a fight if the generals intervene. They accuse Mubarak-era institutions, including courts, state media, police and civil service, of working to undermine Morsi.
An officer in one of Egypt's internal security agencies told Reuters this week that the country needed to be "cleansed" of the Islamists who he described as terrorists.
The army, still heavily funded by Washington as it was under Mubarak, and Western governments have been urging Morsi to bridge differences with his non-Islamist opponents. He says he has tried. They say he and his Muslim Brotherhood, along with harder line allies, are trying to monopolize the state.
Morsi says a petition demanding he quit - which liberal organizers say has 15 million signatures - is undemocratic. In that, he has support from Islamists, who have staged shows of strength in recent days and plan a major Cairo rally on Friday.
Nationwide opposition rallies are due to start on Sunday but could begin earlier.
"This demonstration is spontaneous and comes from the Egyptian people. We hope that it will bring the government ultimately to a place where the reforms are affected and choices that need to be made about the economy are implemented," U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said on Tuesday in Saudi Arabia.
"We will obviously hope that it will not produce violence and be a moment of catalyzing positive change for Egypt itself."
The opposition has low expectations of the speech which Morsi appears to be planning to make before a partisan crowd.
After dark, thousands gathered on Cairo's Tahrir Square, cradle of the 2011 uprising, and in the centre of the second city Alexandria to listen to what the president says.
Liberal coalition spokesman Khaled Dawoud likened Morsi's address to increasingly desperate speeches made by Mubarak during the revolt. He added: "It's too late for any possible measures, short of early elections, to stop the demonstrations."
At the International Crisis Group, Egypt analyst Yasser El-Shimy said he still doubted the army wanted, or would try, to take control and was more likely to push parties to compromise.
"What is going to be a game changer," he said, "is whether the violence is so massive or out of control that the government is unable to function - which might be a scenario that some are hoping for in order to prompt the military to intervene."
Abbaseya Egypt Abbassiya Activists Citizen Journalism Coptic Coptic Cathedral Copts Documentary egypt Egyptian X-Files ENGLISH Islam Muslim Brotherhood OccupyEgypt social_media Society video
Video documenting the attack on the Cathedral of St. Mark Abbassiya
توثيق بالفيديو للاعتداء على الكاتدرائية المرقصية بالعباسية
من قوات الداخلية والبلطجية....
طبعا التوثيق ده للتاريخ مش عشان القانون يتفعل!!
بالفيديو أشتباكات الكاتدرائية المرقسية بالعباسية وسقوط مصابين 7-4-2013
Video of saint Marcos cathedral clashes in Abbaseya and people injuring 07-04-2013
اطلاق الرصاص على الاقباط
Shooting on the copts
مهاجمة المقر البابوي بقنابل الغاز
Attacking the papal residence with tear gas
اشتعال النيران - من داخل المقر الباباوي
fire from inside Papal residence
اطلاق قنابل الغاز علي سيارات الاسعاف والمصابين
Firing tear gas on injured and ambulance vehicles
مدونة اكسجين مصر
إحتراق احد مباني الكاتدرائية
A building of the cathedral on fire
الشرطة تطلق الغاز علي كنيسة الكاتدرائية
Police firing tear gas on the cathedral
مهاجمة الكاتدرائية بقنابل "المونا"
Attacking the cathedral with bombs made of construction materials
مدونة اكسجين مصر
إشتعال النيران بالمنازل امام الكاتدرائية
A residence in front of the cathedral on fire
مصري يتحدي الموت ليوقف الاشتباكات
A Egyptian challenging death to stop the confrontations
صور البلطجية المتسببين في احداث الكاتدرائية
Photos of the mobs involved in attacking the cathedral
احداث الكاتدرائية تكشف الطرف الثالث
demonstrators in the Cathedral incidents
Muslims chant Allah is great while attacks on Coptic Cathedral in Cairo is underway
مينا ثابت: الإشتباكات بدأت بمجرد خروج الأهالي بجثامين الضحايا
Mina Thabet: the clashed began as soon as the relatives of the victims got out of the church with the bodies of the victims
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#April6 : An Anniversary or a new start "Live blogging"
Today is April 6 , it is the anniversary of a great political and social event that many believe to be the real introduction for 25 January Revolution : The April 6 Strike in Mahalla and rest of Egypt especially in Cairo.
Today the April 6th Youth movement is celebrating this day with its two fronts in its own way : Protesting against President Morsi and the Muslim brotherhood. In another words to bring down the regime once again.
In Cairo and Giza there will be at least four rallies organized by April 6 : Shubra roundabout and Siyada Zeinab square “Cairo” and Mostafa Mahmoud square and Imbaba “Giza”. I do not know to where these rallies will head up till now. Most probably to Tahrir square. These rallies should start at 4 PM but from what I see in Cairo the April 6th Youth Movement members are starting early and are having small stands in different areas whether in Downtown at the Stock market or the presidential palace.
There will be other rallies in other governorates and cities like in Alexandria,Damietta Mansoura, Suez and Mahalla.
Other parties and movements are participating in the rallies too like Free Egyptians Party.
The main demands of these rallies according to the statement of the movement issued on Thursday is to :
- To dismiss this government
- To dismiss the prosecutor general
- To release all the detainees of peaceful protesting and political opinion.
- To restructure the MOI.
Some people hope that day will the start of bring down the Muslim brotherhood and even have called today “The Day of wrath”
You must know that the April 6th Youth Movement has been accused for months now of being supportive to the Muslim brotherhood and one of their tools.
Now to keep it up with the rallies and what will happened tonight , here is a live storify report.
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Egypt needs IMF money to stay afloat, but the international lender is demanding tough subsidy cuts from an already-embattled government.
It was a perilous time for Egypt. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) was demanding subsidy cuts in exchange for a loan Egypt's leaders desperately wanted. So they complied, cutting subsidies on the bread, cooking fuel, and gasoline average citizens relied on to live.
Within hours, workers were pouring off the docks in the Suez Canal zone and Alexandria and out of the factories in the Nile Delta, and attacking symbols of the government everywhere – furious about the sudden rise in the price of daily staples.
In Cairo's Tahrir Square, angry youth tore up sidewalks to hurl stones at riot police when they ran out of Molotov cocktails; the police responded with tear gas and baton charges. By the time the smoke cleared, at least 80 Egyptians were dead in the worst rioting the country had witnessed in a generation.
The Egyptian government restored the subsidies.
While this probably sounds familiar, it describes the 1977 bread riots that almost brought down the government of Anwar Sadat and left ransacked the home of his young vice president, Hosni Mubarak. This history should be top of mind for the current president, Mohamed Morsi, who is facing decision time on a national financial crisis that dwarfs the one Sadat faced 35 years ago.
President Morsi's government recently announced a rationing plan for subsidized bread that it claims won't affect the poor. But few are convinced that the plan won't either jack up prices or reduce availability of the bread that is now sold at one-quarter to one-fifth of its production cost.
Beyond the bread, more tough choices lie ahead. Morsi's room to maneuver, however, is shrinking. Political turmoil has frozen high-level decisionmaking, even as the Egyptian pound has plummeted and foreign creditors look askance.
While it's been a long-held theory that Islamist movements like Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood can easily come to power in Muslim-majority states, they often lose public support as they fail to manage the economy to their citizens' satisfaction.
"In one way, what's happening might be good, so people can see that they're inept, they're politicians like everyone else, and they get booted out," says Erin A. Snider, a postdoctoral fellow at Princeton University in Middle Eastern political economy. "But it's going to be very ugly in the interim ... and it's going to make them incredibly resistant to admitting defeat."
Past solution, present options
As in the 1977 crisis, Egypt once again faces an IMF demand for subsidy cuts, a working poor whose struggles are mounting and who feel betrayed and oppressed by their political classes, and a loan the government desperately wants but fears could be its undoing.
Then, Egypt muddled through some desperate years for its poor as Sadat (and after him, Mr. Mubarak) pivoted toward the United States and ultimately reaped lavish aid in return.
Late in 1977, Sadat made his historic trip to Israel, and while that cost him Arab financial support, it led to a tight partnership with the US and international lenders like the IMF, which gave the country credit on easy terms, and debt forgiveness when times got tough.
After Egypt supported the US-led coalition to drive Iraqi troops out of Kuwait, Mubarak was rewarded with at least $15 billion in international debt forgiveness.
But Morsi is neither Sadat nor Mubarak, and Egypt is in far more chaos than it was at any other moment in recent decades. The US doesn't see his Muslim Brotherhood as a reliable partner, and members of Congress are likely to keep loans and aid at a trickle. The IMF has balked at coughing up money without concrete, short-term change in how the government spends that money.
The turmoil, infighting, and occasional rioting of the past two years have scared away foreign and local investment, left the pyramids and the grand temples of Luxor bereft of tourists, and seen already-low wages for the poor deteriorate in real terms.
Morsi is on the hook for all of this, with the elected parliament dissolved by court order last year and yet to be replaced. So far, he and his loyalists have seemed far more interested in consolidating power than in addressing the needs of average Egyptians, despite the rising unrest.
Rioting in February in Cairo and Port Said, the key Suez Canal city, has already dwarfed the events of 1977.
"What we've learned since Mubarak is that the new parties, including the Muslim Brotherhood, but not just them, are only interested in pursuing their own interests," says Mustafa Eid, a young Egyptian businessman who cheered Mubarak's fall, participated in street protests demanding democracy in 2011, and stepped back from politics in disillusionment after watching fellow protesters shot and killed by riot police in central Cairo in late 2011.
"The country is filled with petty corruption, with people that need help, and the people in power are just looking after themselves," he says.
The country's coffers are draining fast. The exchange rate was at 5.8 pounds to the dollar at the end of 2010, shortly before the massive street protests began that drove Mubarak from power. Today, it is trading close to 6.8 to the dollar, a 17 percent drop, most of which has come since the start of the year.
Since so many Egyptian consumer goods – like much of the nation's food – are imported, the collapsing pound has driven up local inflation and put a strain on the government, which planned to spend at least $4.5 billion on subsidized fuel in the first three months of 2013.
Though spending on wheat subsidies has fallen, that's because the government has been drawing on a strategic wheat reserve to keep the ovens on at government bakeries, which sell flatbread for pennies a loaf. The wheat reserve now holds enough to supply demand for three more months, down from six months in the middle of last year.
The pressure on the pound and total subsidy spending of about $20 billion a year has put the central bank in dire straits. Foreign reserves that stood at $35 billion in January 2011 are now hovering close to $13 billion.
That's why the IMF money, about $4.8 billion in all, is so crucial. While the IMF's cash by itself wouldn't make Egypt's problems go away, it would signal other governments and subsidized lenders to dip into their pockets as well.
If the IMF loan were granted, "that would probably see our debt ratings upgraded; more money would follow it," says Mohamed Osama al-Khely, a banker and an appointed member of Egypt's Shura Council. "But if you increase taxes or cut subsidies, you're going to hit the poor, the streets. To recover, we need a political rest. Not more turmoil."
The traditionally ceremonial and powerless Shura has been legislating in the absence of parliament. It is packed with both appointed and elected members of the Muslim Brotherhood. (Since Egyptians didn't expect parliament would be dissolved, few voted in the Shura elections, which had only 7 percent turnout.)
Mr. Khely isn't from the Brothers and has a jaundiced view of his new colleagues. The people the Brothers put up for the council were at best the B team, he says. "These guys aren't really professionals; they spend most of their time waiting for orders from outside."
Islamic banking focus
What kind of orders have they been receiving? They spent much of the first part of the year trying to hammer out legislation on Islamic financing. This involves borrowing arrangements that dress up payments to creditors not as interest but as equity returns, since usury is forbidden by Islam in the eyes of the Muslim Brotherhood.
Such Islamic financial instruments are popular with devout lenders, but Khely says his colleagues are under the impression that there's a groundswell of religiously motivated capital that's about to head their way thanks to their efforts.
"It's like talking [about] fixing the windshield wipers when the engine of the car is broken," he says. "They're totally consumed with doing something 'Islamic' ... when the crisis is growing."
A few months ago, Samir Radwan sat in his elegant flat in Cairo's Maadi suburb, equal parts rueful about and detached from Egypt's economic predicament.
The longtime economic consultant with a PhD from the University of London had been called in as interim Finance minister by the military-ruled government at the time Mubarak fell. Egypt was at the brink of a deal with the IMF.
Egypt's finances were stronger, optimism was high for a country coming out of decades of a military-backed dictatorship, and he was close to a deal. He'd taken the job, working for Field Marshal Mohamed Tantawi (acting president in all but name) despite family objections. "I had to. Maybe I could help."
By June 2011 Mr. Radwan had worked out a loan with the IMF for more than $3 billion at 1.5 percent interest – a steal – and without any of the IMF's often onerous, and potentially destabilizing, subsidy cuts. Then Egypt's military leaders stepped in.
There were rumblings about Egypt's "dignity" being compromised from the street and in the country's halls of power.
Before the deal could be done, "Tantawi said to me that he didn't want to leave a legacy of debt when he left," Radwan says. So the deal was abandoned.
Egypt's economy, as well as the trust that can be as valuable a commodity as cash, continued to deteriorate. IMF demands started to go up along with Egypt's needs. Radwan says he doesn't envy Egypt's current financial stewards.
"The situation has changed ... in my time I had $35 billion in reserves and a stable currency," he says. The wheels really came off at the end of last year, when Morsi decided to decree to himself legislative powers that allowed him to rush through a new constitution, but which polarized Egyptian politics to such an extent that international lenders like the IMF don't trust he'll be able to make good on any promises he makes.
"The government found themselves caught in a paradox," says Radwan. "They wanted the loans on the one hand, and on the other they wanted to rush through the constitution."
A constitution and a fissure
Morsi got his constitution. But he also got a badly split, furious country. Protests almost every Friday since have racked Cairo and other cities; in mid-March, clashes outside the Muslim Brotherhood's headquarters sent another paroxysm through the body politic.
The situation is burning up the political capital the Brothers had when Morsi was elected president last summer. Never tested by power in their 80-year history, they had projected to Egypt's public a can-do, clean, religious image. Their fall from grace may open the door for more secular-oriented politics, in the view of some analysts.
For now, Egypt is caught between two old imperatives: the need for international aid and the need to look after its poorest citizens. The clock is ticking.
Sadat, with the cold war raging and the option of pivoting toward the West, for which Egypt was handsomely rewarded, staved off subsidy cuts and ended up getting the money his country needed.
Morsi's situation is as dire – if not more so. But finding new friends, or rekindling old friendships, may prove harder for him.