CAIRO: Around 1,000 protesters gathered in the center of El Tahrir Square in downtown Cairo, expressing their solidarity with the Lebanese people. It was the largest protest outside El Azhar mosque to be held in the city since the start of the most recent Israeli-Lebanese conflict, which has resulted in the deaths of more than 400 Lebanese and Israelis.
The political component of the crowd consisted of Kefaya (Enough) movement activists, Leftists, the Labour Islamic Party and Nasserists. They were joined by non-partisan Egyptians seeking to express support for the Lebanese. Also present were many Lebanese protesters, foreigners and even some well known Egyptian actors.
A mass of Lebanese, Egyptian, Palestinian and Iraqi flags waved in solidarity above the milling crowds. Some protesters carried red flags reading “The Left is with Lebanon, while other flags bore Hezbollah logos. Many also held up pictures of Hezbollah leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrullah, while others waved pictures of the former president Gamal Abdul Nasser, famous for his Pan Arabist rhetoric. Pasted along the bottom were the words, “We will fight.
High ranking police officers ordered plain clothed anti-riot police to surround the protestors. Later they were joined by a large force of uniformed, shielded police.
The police ordered passers-by to steer clear of the protest, saying, “You’d better leave, for your own good, they will be beaten up.
Amidst the swarming crowds were a few children dressed in army fatigue, carried on their parents’ shoulders and waving fake guns, in an eerie echo of the Palestinian protests.
Most protesters held banners and shouted cries of support for Hezbollah and the Lebanese people. One banner read, “From my heart, peace to Beirut.
The crowd also chanted anti-American and anti-Israeli slogans, but directed some of their anger at the Egyptian and Arab governments, shouting “You leaders brought shame on us.
Although the common ground of the protest was support of Lebanon, protestors held some dramatically contrasting views on the conflict. Mohammed Hashem, a publisher, insisted that the only solution is through war.
“The resistance will solve the problem, he said. “I don’t like war, but if we have an enemy who’s killing our children, we have to fight them. Hezbollah is a representative of Arab will.
Others demanded peace. “The solution is an immediate ceasefire, Hezbollah joining the Lebanese army, the end of sectarianism in Lebanon and the foundation of a Lebanese state for all, said Bassam Mortada. He carried a banner reading, “War is not the answer, next to a large peace sign. “The people have the right to choose for themselves whether they want to go to war. Hezbollah is not the representative of all Lebanese. The international community must stop these Fascist regimes, including the United States, Iran, Hezbollah and North Korea.
Nearby, a group of Lebanese protesters waved banners in solidarity with their country. Referring to Hezbollah, but refusing to share his name, one of them said, “We’re not here to judge anyone, we’re only here to support Lebanon.
The protest passed peacefully, with only some minor clashes, such as protestors trying to break the cordon of anti-riot police.
But despite its relatively peaceful nature, passions were flamed. Even some Americans joined the demonstration, and said the choice was intentional. One man, Gregory Carlock said, “I blame Olmert, Nasrallah, Bush, Assad . everyone in power seems to have an interest in keeping this war going on.