Egypt’s day of the dead is put on hold

Kim Sengupta reports from Cairo as rumours grow that funerals are being delayed amid fears of fresh violence

Cairo

The family of Mohammed Khair Gamal had been looking for his body for the last three days after he was shot dead. They found him at the end in the morgue at Zinhom, a place which his mother, a doctor, knew well, among a pile brought in from the massacre on Monday, when troops fired on Muslim Brotherhood supporters.

Not many of the corpses were going to be released in time for a mass memorial the Islamist Brotherhood movement had planned for their dead supporters yesterday, amid apprehension that it would be the catalyst for another round of the vicious strife which has convulsed Egypt since Mohamed Morsi was deposed as President by the military.

Yesterday the first steps towards the country's new political future were announced by the interim administration with Hazem el-Beblawi, an economist, named as Prime Minister and Mohamed ElBaradei – whose own appointment to that post was blocked by the conservative Islamist party al-Nour – becoming a Vice-President.

The army also reminded politicians who wields the real power now. General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, its chief, stated: "The future of the nation is too important and sacred for manoeuvres or hindrance" – a message believed to be aimed at al-Nour, which had backed the departure of Mr Morsi but had subsequently proved problematic.

The acting President Adli Mansour also proposed a "fast-track road map" in which amendments to a constitution Mr Morsi had forced through while in power will be put to a referendum in four months, followed by parliamentary and presidential elections next year.

The appointments and the constitutional proposals were immediately rejected by the Brotherhood which repeated its call for an uprising first made after more than 51 of its supporters died and 440 were injured in what it called a "cold-blooded massacre" outside the headquarters of the Republican Guard.

The deputy chairman of the Brotherhood's political wing the Freedom and Justice Party, Essam el-Erian, described the move as a "decree issued after midnight by a person appointed by putschists, usurping the legislative power from a council elected by the people and bringing the country back to stage zero".

The movement's spokesman, Gehad el-Haddad, declared that its campaign will continue in the streets, with more marches and sit-ins.

Zinhom morgue, meanwhile, was a place of chaos with dozens of bereaved families and friends angry that they were being denied the Islamic religious rite of burial within 24 hours.

The view among many was that the proposals for the new constitution were a sham.

"We have already had elections and Morsi won democratically. Why should there be another election?" asked Yusuf Shahdi, a friend of Mohammed Khair Gamal. "People died to defend Mohamed Morsi's right to remain as President – that should not be given away. What about the sacrifice of my friend?

"They would not even tell us where his body was. His poor mother had to be told that he has been found here. She is now inside, crying."

Mr Gamal, 27, died after being hit by gunfire during clashes when followers of the Brotherhood had attempted to storm Tahrir Square where their opponents had gathered in their thousands. Mohammed Sorwar, a relation, said: "A man in civilian clothes came from behind the soldiers and shot him. That is the kind of people who are now trying to hijack our constitution."

Dr Mohammed Abu Sayed was also there to collect the body of a friend, 27-year-old Mohammed Abdurrahman, who was killed in the confrontation at the Republican Guard barracks. "The morgues were not expecting to deal with so many bodies coming in at once. They haven't had the time to wash them and prepare them properly" he said.

"Not having a funeral for all the martyrs is one matter; what is happening with our government is another. It is not just the army which got rid of President Morsi, but also the other political parties. What we have discovered is that there are many types of liberals, but they are united in one thing; they do not see us Islamists in the political process. We know now that we cannot depend on anyone else. We will go our own way."

But there were a few at the morgue who have decided that the current crisis was, at least partly, caused by Mr Morsi and a group around him going too much their own way. Ashraf Ali Marwan, a 48 year-old surveyor, wanted to speak away from the crowd because he did not "want to start loud arguments at a place like this". He continued, "My nephew is in there, dead. I blame the soldiers for killing him, but how did we come to such a situation?

"I voted for Morsi because he was the better alternative to Shafik [Ahmed Shafik, deposed President Hosni Mubarak's last Prime Minister] and I didn't want anyone associated with the old regime. Morsi was meant to represent the whole opposition, but it became more and more just the Islamists and they did not know what they were doing: the economy was collapsing. The deaths of people like my nephew will not save the Muslim Brotherhood. I will not vote for them in the future, and there are a lot of people like me. And, without our kind of voters, they'll never win again."

A senior Western diplomat in Cairo spoke of how Mr Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood had wasted a golden opportunity. "They had the backing and the goodwill of the international community and people like Essam [el-Erian] seemed competent.

"But in reality they proved to be pretty incompetent; everyone could see the economic car crash, that they were simply running out of money, but they kept on saying 'There'll be a way', they had a plan. As we know, they didn't. It does seem to be the case that they have lost the floating voters."

Last night, there was still a large crowd at the Brotherhood rally at the Rabaa al-Adawiya mosque, near where the killings took place: and there were still people waiting at the morgue. Mr Marwan was going to take his nephew's body for burial straight to the home town of Damietta. "He is going to be with people who loved him, we do not want to play politics with the dead from our family," he said.

A nation divided: The various players

The military

Led by the Defence Minister, General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, the military has shown that it is Egypt’s most powerful institution and that ultimately it holds the balance of power. The army’s decision to remove President Morsi last week was one that only it could have taken – despite evidence that it has shot protesters, many Egyptians are still looking to the army to restore order.

Tamarod

If it was the military that ultimately removed Mr Morsi, the protests that led to the army’s intervention were led by Tamarod, a grassroots movement that took to the streets on 30 June to demand the former President’s removal from office. After garnering the support of millions of Egyptians, it was Tamarod that gave Mr Morsi the ultimatum: leave or face crippling civil disobedience.

Adli Mansour

After removing the democratically elected Mr Morsi, the army appointed Mr Mansour – the head of the supreme constitutional court – as Egypt’s new interim President. He has praised the protests and told those on the streets that he won’t allow any tyrants to replace him, but his words have done little to quell the anger on the streets.

Mohamed Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood

On the face of it, President Morsi represented all that was good about the 2011 revolution – he was Egypt’s first democratically elected President, he had a mandate from the people and an organised political base. However, his year in office was plagued by accusations that he had concentrated power in the hands of his party. Mr Morsi is under house arrest and about 50 of his supporters were killed on Monday in clashes with the army.

Mohamed ElBaradei and the National Salvation Front

Mr El Baradei – the former head of UN’s nuclear agency – has been a prominent player in post-revolution Egypt and had been tipped to be head the new interim government having organised a loose alliance of liberal parties. His appointment was blocked, however, by al-Nour, the only Salafist group to have sided with last week’s coup; he has instead been appointed Vice-President with the economist Hazem el Beblawi appointed Prime Minister.

Saudi Arabia and UAE pledge $8bn in aid

Egypt has received two pledges of significant financial aid as its political crisis continued.

Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah – who lauded the armed forces chief General Abdel Fatah el-Sisi for helping Egypt escape from “a dark tunnel” in the aftermath of Mohamed Morsi’s removal – has approved a $5bn (£3.4bn) package comprising a $2bn central bank deposit, $2bn in energy products and $1bn in cash.

The United Arab Emirates (UAE), which also professed its “satisfaction” at the toppling of Mr Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood, has promised a total of $3bn in grants and interest-free loans. The UAE claims the Brotherhood has supported Islamist groups attempting to oust its Western-backed leadership. King Abdullah personally called General Sisi on Friday to stress his support for Egypt’s new rulers.

AP

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