Thousands march for unity in Tahrir Square
May 14 2011
Holding crosses and Qur’an holy books, tens of thousands of Egyptians rallied in Cairo’s iconic Tahrir square on Friday, May 13, calling for national unity and solidarity with the Palestinians on the memory of Nakba Day.
“If you attack a Christian, you’re attacking all Egyptians,” said one man giving a speech at a podium, Agence France Presse (AFP) reported.
“The churches attacked in Imbaba are not less than the mosques attacked in Jerusalem,” he said, linking the two themes of Friday’s protest.
The rallies were called by Egyptian activists as a mass show of unity following Imbaba events last Sunday.
At least twelve people were killed and over 200 injured late Saturday in deadly clashes between Muslims and Christian Copts in the Cairo suburb of Imbaba.
The clashes erupted after rumor that a female Muslim convert was being held inside a church in the area. Another church in the same area was on fire and had been severely damaged.
Denouncing Imbaba attacks, activists confirmed the unity of Egypt’s Muslims and Christians, blaming the remnants of the toppled regime for inciting such incidents.
“National unity was there during the revolt but the remnants of the old regime want to destroy the country,” said Ahmed Muhanna.
Scenes from Tahrir today recalled signs of Muslim-Christian unity during the anti-Mubarak 18-day evolution.
Photos taken during the prayers showed Christians forming a ring around their fellow Muslims to protect them during prayers.
A Sunday mass was also held in Tahrir square during revolution days that gathered both Muslims and Christians.
A report of a fact-finding commission has blamed the deadly clashes on the remnants of toppled president Hosni Mubarak.
The report said that the violence was part of counter-revolutionary attempts to discredit the January 25 Revolution.
Along with national unity, protesters in Tahrir confirmed their support for right of return of Palestinian refugees, calling for solidarity marches towards Gaza strip.
“We are demonstrating to show that the Palestinian cause is in the heart of all Muslims,” Sameh Abu Bakr, an agriculture engineer in Cairo’s Tahrir Square, told Reuters on Friday.
Flooding to Tahrir from pre-dawn to perform Fajr prayers, the square, which was the epicenter of the revolution that toppled former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, was decked with red, white, black and green Palestinian flags.
Egypt was the first Arab country to sign a peace treaty in 1979 with Israel which has always relied on Mubarak as a partner in maintaining peace in the Middle East.
Under Mubarak, Egypt played a big role in stopping the smuggling of goods into Gaza, and in helping Israel in its blockade policy aimed at pressuring Hamas.
Egypt has said it plans to open the crossing into Gaza permanently, but has yet to do so.
One sign read: “The people want the opening of the Rafah crossing, fully and permanently.”
“We want to show the world the inhumane way Israel treats Palestinians,” said demonstrator Hassan Yusri, standing next to the Rafah sign.
Hundreds marched in El-Arish in Sinai after Friday prayers, chanting pro-Palestinian slogans.
In the Mediterranean city of Alexandria, Egypt’s second largest city, thousands marched to the Israeli consulate after dawn prayers at one of the city’s main mosques, chanting: “With our souls, with our blood, we redeem you Palestine.”
“We are here today to show our support for the Palestinian cause,” said Mohammed Abdel-Salam, a 22-year-old activist.
“The victory of our revolution will not be complete without the liberation of Palestine,” he added.
The interior ministry has urged them to cancel the march.
Nakba Day, marking the creation of Israel on the rubbles of Palestine, is commemorated every year by Palestinian refugees worldwide.
The UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) estimates that there are now 5 million Palestinian refugees, including 1.4 million living in refugee camps inside the Palestinian territories.