Notes from Tahrir: July 3rd
By Howaida Kamel, Cairo Community Manager
The entire country waited in apprehension for the 48-hour ultimatum to end. Local media had placed a countdown timer on the screen while showing the live feed of Tahrir, Itahedaya, and other major squares around the country. Large numbers of protesters started taking the streets around 3:30pm, waiting for the 4:30pm mark. With the Muslim Brotherhood supporters occupying the square at Cairo University, I stayed in the suburb of Maadi rather than go to Tahrir, especially considering the rumors that they had stopped traffic on all major bridges.
However, 4:30pm came and went without an address by the General Sisi, Head of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF). We kept on getting tidbits from the media that SCAF officers were meeting with significant political figures such as Ahmed el Tayeb, the Grand Imam of Al Azhar, Tawadros II, the Egyptian Pope, Mohamad Badr, the head of Tamarud, and Nobel laureate Mohamed El-Baradei. At around 5:30pm, warrants were granted for the arrest of head Muslim Brotherhood officials that had incited violence during the protests, and others were banned from leaving the country. The apprehension in the country increased. The reign of the Muslim Brotherhood had clearly exceeded its time limit, but nobody knew how SCAF planned on taking power away from them. Anxiety is the only word to describe what the country was feeling at that moment.
At 7pm, Morsi's presidential powers were officially stripped.
It was already well past 8pm when this appeared on all local TV channels. Egyptians felt slightly relieved, and definitely confused,while waiting for the press release to fill in more details. Shortly afterwards, General Sisi appeared on the screen to address the nation. Sitting on both sides of him were the political leaders mentioned above, as well as members of SCAF and the head of Hezb al Nour, the Salafi political party. In his speech, General Sisi made strong remarks about the will of the Egyptian people to continue to fight for a better Egypt, and about the army's duty to protect this will. He emphasized that SCAF has no intention of staging a military coup, but has to abide by the decision of the majority. As such, the latest constitutional amendments were nullified, and the Head of the Egyptian Supreme Court will be appointed as an interim President for the nation until new parliamentary and presidential elections are held.
And with that, Egypt took to the streets in celebration. Cars were honking, people were chanting, blowing whistles and foghorns. I immediately left my house and went down into the streets to find everyone celebrating and cheering. Fireworks and firecrackers were going off left and right, people brought down cans of Pyrosol and were lighting them on fire above the crowd. Everyone was congratulating each other proudly. We took to the streets in masses to show that the Egyptian people cannot and will not settle for anything but "bread, freedom, social justice, and human dignity," the same demands that were made in 2011. This is not considered a second revolution, even though a second regime was removed from power; it is a continuation of the struggle for the past two years to find a model of democracy in which every Egyptian has an equal voice.