Egypt protests turn weekend into nightmare
22 February 2013, 17:01
Cairo - Hanan Attia says she can no longer leave her home on
Fridays in the Egyptian capital, where bloody weekly protests and insecurity
have left many anxious families dreading the weekend.
"It's no longer a day of rest, but one of fear and
anxiety," Attia told AFP.
Since November, when President Mohammed Morsi issued a
controversial decree that widened his powers and pushed through a contested
Islamist-drafted constitution, the country has been deeply divided.
On almost every Friday - the first day of the Egyptian
weekend - since the decree, opposition groups have called protests against
Morsi and his powerful Muslim Brotherhood, which have regularly degenerated
Fridays, traditionally a day of family gatherings and
outings, has now become synonymous with violence, blood and even death, many
In January, the second anniversary of the uprising that
toppled Hosni Mubarak and brought Morsi to power, triggered the deadliest
confrontations between police and protesters in which more than 60 people were
"I'm not able to travel to [the northern city of]
Alexandria to see my family because I'm scared of the protests and the road
blocks," Attia, the mother of three said. "The day starts off with
demonstrations and ends up with shooting, molotov cocktails, violence and
Even if the most violent confrontations are confined to
specific areas such as near Tahrir Square or the presidential palace, the rise
in insecurity across the country including robberies, carjackings and random
shootings have created widespread anxiety in a city once known for its safety
despite its large size and socio-economic inequalities.
"Fridays has become a day of self-imposed
imprisonment," said housewife Riham Ibrahim angrily.
She said her husband is extremely nervous about letting
their children go out "even though it's our only day off."
At a cinema theatre in central Cairo, manager Ibrahim Fawzi
said Friday ticket sales had dropped by 50% and "families are almost
entirely absent", reporting similar figures in all branches of the theatre
across the country.
Near the presidential palace in the upscale neighbourhood of
Heliopolis - the scene of violent protests between protesters and security
forces since December - shops have had to take extra safety measures.
"We are in the heart of the events," said Mohammed
Ihsan, 33, who manages a sports shop in Heliopolis, as he points to metal
sheets placed in front of the shop's glass windows.
Opposite the presidential palace, the Heliopolis Club, a
social and sports club established over 100 years ago, was forced to raise its
walls to avoid the stones and the petrol bombs from the nearby clashes.
A security plan to evacuate members has also been put in
place, the club's security chief General Mohammed Saleh told AFP.
The violence is not limited to the capital with reports of
non-activists getting caught up in it while running errands.
Direct hit on business
One man was killed when he was run over by a speeding car in
the Nile Delta city of Mahalla during clashes. Another who was out buying
medicine near the scene of violence was arrested and later died in his police
cell, their families told rights groups.
The tension has had a direct hit on businesses, already
suffering from a crippling economic crisis and counting on weekend revenues.
"Even with all the discounts on offer, few people come
and we have to close the shop early," said Ahmed al-Sherif who owns a
clothes shop near Cairo's Tahrir Square, where two luxury hotels were also
recently damaged during the confrontations between police and protesters.
"Thursday and Friday were the best days for us,"
said Saber Hussein who manages a women's fashion store in Heliopolis. "But
now on Fridays, sales have dropped by more than half."
"Those who do end up coming on Friday are nervous and
want to finish the transaction as quickly as possible," said Hussein.