‘The army and the people are one hand’
Thousands of protesters flocked to the centre of Abbassiyah in a mass show of support for Egypt’s ruling military, just kilometres away from a competing demonstration in Cairo’s Tahrir Square.
The Cairo neighbourhood of Abbassiyah lies just nine kilometres from Tahrir Square, both areas boast a vibrant mix of street vendors, eclectic shops and colonial-era buildings featuring balconies that overlook the organised chaos below.
For several hours on November 25, however, Abbassiyah and Tahrir stood worlds apart, divided over the question of the military’s role in a transitioning Egypt.
Several thousand protesters bearing gigantic Egyptian flags flocked to the centre of Abbassiyah on Friday in a mass show of support for the country’s ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF).
The voices of those who back the SCAF have largely been overshadowed by the thousands, who are demanding an immediate end to military rule in Egypt.
Friday’s protest was no exception, taking place at the same time as an anti-military rally attended by far greater numbers in Tahrir. Despite the discrepancy in numbers, demonstrators in Abbassiya appeared determined to make up for the void with the sheer power of their chants. “The army and the people are one hand,” they yelled in unison, to the background harmony of drum beats and car horns bleating in agreement.
Protesters filled every inch of free space beneath the Abbassiyah bridge in the centre of the neighbourhood, standing atop cars and lining up on highway overpasses and rooftops to shout their support of the SCAF.
“Where is Al Jazeera,” they chanted, “the Egyptian people are here.”
The message of the rally, protesters said, was to show the world that Tahrir does not represent all of Egypt.
“The people of Egypt stand with our military,” Mohamed Abdul Magid, one of the Abbasiya protesters, told Al Jazeera.
Hoarse from chanting, he added: “Those in Tahrir are only a small number and we will not let them stop our election and democracy in Egypt. We love Egypt and we are the people of Egypt. Tahrir is against Egypt and against democracy.”
As the protest continued, the crowd erupted into cheers when Kamal el-Ganzouri, the man appointed to lead a new national salvation government, addressed a news conference on television.
Ganzouri, a former prime minister under deposed president Hosni Mubarak, called on the nation to give him a chance, adding that he would not have accepted the new position of prime minister if Mohammed Hussein Tantawi, the head of the SCAF, had intended on staying in power.
The message – though largely rejected in Tahrir Square – was welcomed by those gathered in Abbassiya.
And as night fell across the city, the sky above this busy neighbourhood lit up with the spark of red, green and white fireworks with no end to the celebrations in sight.