Tense anticipation on Egypt's national pride day

This year's anniversary, which falls on Sunday, seems like an exception

Tense anticipation on Egypt's national pride day

World Bulletin/News Desk

For the past 40 years, the 6th of October has always been a day of national pride, outdoor gala celebrations and family picnics.

This year's anniversary, which falls on Sunday, seems like an exception.

The powerful military establishment is doing its best to keep the usual gala spirit and the interim administration is inviting citizens to join the army in celebrating the 40th anniversary of its victory over Israel.

However, thousands of Egyptians have decided to choose that particular day to protest their grievances against the army's overthrow of elected president Mohamed Morsi, which they consider no less than a military coup.

Samira, a 52-year-old public service employee, is like millions of Egyptians who are holding their breath, praying the day would not be tainted with yet another bout of violence, and blood.

"I pray that the day would pass without violence but I'm worried that clashes might erupt again, it's not an ordinary day," a visibly concerned Samira told Anadolu Agency.

Forty years to this Sunday, Egypt's armed forces successfully executed a surprise offensive against the far-better equipped, US-backed Israeli army, achieving a victory that became a symbol of glory and dignity for Egypt and still reverberates amid the ongoing Arab-Israeli conflict.

In a televised address to the nation late Saturday marking the occasion, interim President Adly Mansour called on Egyptians to descend on all main squares countrywide to "celebrate and support our armed forces."

But opponents of the army's overthrow of Morsi, the country's first ever freely-elected president, have also been mobilizing the past weeks for a day of mass protests on the same day, including in the iconic Tahrir Square.

The Interior Ministry warned Saturday against any attempt to "spoil celebrations," which many take to refer to the planned demonstrations.

The authorities have decided to close down Tahrir until Monday due to "the ceremonies scheduled to take place… on the occasion of the anniversary of the October 6 War."

This makes the likelihood of clashes, either between supporters of both camps, or between the pro-democracy protesters and the security forces very high.

Stay home

Many concerned Egyptians are holding their breath, and opting to stay home not to try to unwind on the extra day-off but to avoid what many fear is inevitable.

"I was planning to take advantage of the holiday to drive over to some relatives," Mohamed Omar, a 57-year-old company manager, told AA.

"But I wouldn't want to get caught up if clashes erupted," he added.

"I'm afraid the likelihood of clashes is high with rival camps demonstrating so close to each other."

On Friday, security forces fired teargas to disperse crowds of pro-democracy demonstrators who were trying to reach Tahrir.

The iconic square, which was the epicenter of the 2011 uprising that toppled long-serving president Hosni Mubarak, has been a no-go area for pro-democracy protesters since the ouster of Morsi on July 3.

However, scores of pro-democracy demonstrators have managed to briefly assemble inside the square on Tuesday before being forcibly dispersed by security forces and army supporters.

At least seven people were killed in pro-democracy demonstration on Friday.

"I'm at least content that I don't have to leave my house," said Samira, who works near Tahrir. "If something happens in Tahrir I would have been too close."

But unlike Samira, 40-year-old sales representative Yahia is not as anxious.

"The ongoing demonstrations, even those which reached the outskirts of Rabaa after the dispersal, have passed without major trouble," he told AA, referring to a pro-Morsi protest camp violently dispersed by security forces on August 14, leaving hundreds of protests killed.

Yahia, nonetheless, is not completely assured that the day will pass without trouble.

Even while staying home he, and indeed many Egyptians, will be glued to their TV sets to follow up the developments of the day.

"Whatever happens, I know I will not be able to take a break from the news."

Omar, the company manager, hopes the numbers of supporters on both sides will not be large enough to spark major clashes.

"I hope this just passes like the weekly neighborhood marches do."

Güncelleme Tarihi: 06 Ekim 2013, 11:20

Muhammed Öylek