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Pro-Morsy protesters heartened by absence of crackdown

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By The Los Angeles Times
Monday, Aug. 12, 2013, 9:39 p.m.

CAIRO — When the military didn't come, the protesters went to sleep.

The supporters of deposed Egyptian President Mohamed Morsy stayed up all night, expecting — based on rumors and media reports — that security forces finally would act on the interim government's vow to clear out their encampment in Nahda Square by Cairo University.

Some sang songs throughout the night to pass the time. Others played pingpong. But when morning broke uneventfully, the protesters laid down to rest.

The calm Monday at Nahda and the other gathering outside the Rabaa al-Adawiya mosque has further emboldened Morsy's supporters, who are as defiant as ever. The protesters say they won't leave until the president, deposed by a military coup last month, is reinstated.

For those in the square, the decision not to storm the camp reflected the interim government's indecisiveness and fear of what many have warned could be a bloodbath, even as Morsy's detention was extended for 15 days by Egypt's judiciary.

Ahmad Abdo Shaboon, a minister of the recently dissolved parliament and a member of the Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party, said the rumors on Sunday were intended to frighten Morsy supporters out of the squares.

“They don't want to get themselves in a bigger problem,” he said. “Militarily, they are in a predicament. Politically, they are in a predicament and, internationally, they are in a predicament.”

He did not expect the military or police to storm the two sites, occupied for more than six weeks, and instead suggested that a negotiated deal could occur soon because the government could not afford to let the crisis go on much longer.

The crowds, many said, would only continue to grow, especially now that the Muslim month of Ramadan and the subsequent Eid celebration have ended.

Hana Fathi, an elementary school teacher in Cairo, had spent Ramadan with her parents, who live five hours from the city. She had been following the unfolding events on TV, and when she returned to Cairo on Sunday, she heard the rumors of a crackdown.

“When I heard that they were going to clear the square, a person could hesitate or be afraid but, no, it was a motivation for me to come,” she said.

She arrived at Nahda alone and soon found a women's tent where she spent the night. She said she would remain at the encampment until Morsy returns to power.

“They think these threats will rattle people, but instead it makes them stronger,” she said.

Seeking a reprieve from the sun, Fatima Sayid Muhammad had been sitting in the shade provided by a SpongeBob SquarePants blanket. Throughout the day, she traded calls with her son and grandchildren, who are encamped near the Rabaa al-Adawiya mosque, comparing notes. None of them planned to leave.

“When I heard that Monday morning they were going to empty the square, I came specifically to welcome the bullets and to welcome the abuse from the military. I don't fear death,” said Muhammad, who runs a small charity for orphans and widows.

“We are here not weeks, not months, but years,” she said.

Shabaan Idriss was making his way first through the crowd of men and then the women, spraying everyone with a mist of water from a plastic pack he wore on his back.

“We are here for as long as it takes,” he said. “We will create an entire city here. The supermarket will come soon and then the hospital will come, and we'll even start schools for our kids. And look, we have the university already here.”

Down the road, toward the entrance of the encampment, men were unloading large metal rods from the back of a pickup. Other men were already using the rods to erect a new tent, one much sturdier than its rope-hung neighbor.

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