Saturday,24 February, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1153, 20 - 26 June 2013
Saturday,24 February, 2018
Issue 1153, 20 - 26 June 2013

Ahram Weekly

Fearing the worst

Heliopolis shop owners and residents are anxious about what will happen on 30 June, reports Ahmed Morsy

Al-Ahram Weekly

“Though the organisers of the 30 June demonstrations say they will be peaceful we are preparing for the worst. Clashes are routine with any demonstration nowadays,” says Mohamed Hamdi, owner of a sportswear shop close to Al-Ittihadiya presidential palace. “My shop will be closed from Friday 28 June and I’ll take the decision to reopen it as events dictate.”

The area around the palace is expected to witness massive protests on 30 June as demonstrators push for early presidential elections.

The Tamarod campaign, launched in May with the aim of expressing a public, if not legalistic, withdrawal of confidence in the presidency of Mohamed Morsi, has called for mass protests in front of the presidential palace on the first anniversary of Morsi’s swearing in as president. Almost all opposition forces have rallied around Tamarod’s call.

“My windows were smashed in February’s protests and the shop looted. Since then I have invested in metal shutters,” says Hamdi.

Al-Ittihadiya palace has been the scene of a number of violent clashes. On 4 December thousands of protesters marched towards the palace demanding the annulment of the constitutional declaration by which Morsi granted himself extra judicial powers. A day later Muslim Brotherhood supporters marched to the scene and clashed with the demonstrators.

On 11 February, the second anniversary of president Hosni Mubarak’s ouster, crowds of demonstrators who accused Morsi of hijacking the revolution and of seeking to monopolise power for the Brotherhood, marched towards the presidential palace. Clashes with Central Security Forces ensued after some protesters threw rocks and Molotov cocktails at the palace.

Morris Fawzi, owner of a nearby jewellery store, said that jewellery shops would be closed on 30 June regardless of the demonstrations since Sunday is their weekly holiday though “many jewellers will close their doors ahead of the demonstrations in anticipation of early marches towards the palace”. He predicts that many shop owners will take advantage of the enforced holiday to take part in the demonstrations.

“I’ve installed an advanced security system already,” he says. “Unfortunately policemen turn a blind eye to protecting private property during demonstrations.”

Even hairdressers will close on 30 June. Mohamed Salah, a barber whose shop is behind the presidential palace, says he will close between 28 June and 1 July and hopes “things won’t escalate and prevent us from re-opening on 2 July”.

Amira Mamdouh, a 29-year-old employee of a PR company located 500 kilometres away from the presidential palace, told Al-Ahram Weekly that her office has had its weekend extended to include Sunday 30 June.

“Since December we have become used to these disruptions. Reaching the office is impossible when large numbers of demonstrators cut off the streets around the palace,” she said.

There is a palpable feeling of disquiet in the upmarket suburb. Residents express their unease that once again the neighbourhood will witness large scale unrest. Adding to their concerns is the announcement by Islamist forces that they intend to stage a rival demonstration in support of Morsi.

“It is dreadful to see Egyptians clashing with each other anywhere,” says housewife Ferial Zaher, a Heliopolis resident. “It is even worse when it happens on your doorstep.”

A week ago a security source told the independent daily Al-Masry Al-Youm that 14 streets around the palace will be closed with concrete walls and barbed wire. Tanks and armoured vehicles will also be deployed in the area.

“The preparations smack of civil war,” laments Zaher, adding that she has already stocked up on basic foodstuffs fearing that the situation may escalate and shops remain closed for longer than expected.

“Things were very different before Morsi moved into the palace. Then no one could have thought of protesting in the area. It is the lack of certainty about what will happen on 30 June that is feeding residents’ panic,” she says.

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