Qena residents divided on Friday’s million man march

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CAIRO: Some political activists in Qena have called for a million man march on Friday to call for the resignation of Governor Emad Shehata Mikhael, following a decision earlier this week to freeze his executive powers for three months.

The executive secretary of Qena governorate, Maged Abdel Kerim, was assigned to handle the governor’s duties during this period.

However, the residents of Qena are divided on whether to participate in the mass protests.

“We believe it’s essential for us to protest and assert our demand to sack the governor,” Mostafa Al-Gaales, member of the Coalition of the January 25 Youth in Qena, told Daily News Egypt.

“We want Prime Minister Essam Sharaf to issue an apology for describing us as ‘thugs’ and we want guarantees that the Qena protesters will not be prosecuted for calling for their rights,” he added.

On the other hand, Abdel Baaset Karim, a member of the Coalition for Freedom in Qena, told DNE, “The people need to calm down and we need to end the protests.”

“The decision to freeze the executive powers of Mikhael was a political decision to please both the Muslims and the Christians.” Karim said. “I think it’s the most appropriate decision for the time being.”

Karim, Al-Gaales and Ahmed Kamal, member of Al-Karama Party (under formation), agreed that Qena needed a civilian Muslim governor.

On April 14, thousands began protesting in the Upper Egyptian governorate against the appointment of Mikhael, with some objecting to his previous career as a policeman and others objecting to him being Christian.

On Monday, protesters opened all railway lines, blocked for almost 10 days and ended a sit-in that was held in front of the governorate headquarters, following Sharaf’s announcement to freeze the new governor’s activities.

“The protesters did that in good faith, hoping that the government will heed their demands and sack the governor after the three months are up,” said Qena resident and graduate of the American University in Cairo, Nada Nashaat, 22.

MENA reported that Cabinet spokesman Ahmed Al-Saman said Sharaf would join the people of Qena in their million man march on Friday.

Al-Saman added that Sharaf would join the people of Qena in Friday prayers in Sidi Abdel Rahim El-Qenawy Mosque. However, Qena residents denied the reports and said Sharaf’s visit is scheduled for Tuesday, to discuss the people’s refusal of Mikhael and propose solutions.

Mass protests are slated following Friday prayers as well as a rally in the main square in front of the governorate headquarters.

According to state-run Al-Ahram daily, Grand Sheikh of Al-Azhar Ahmed El-Tayeb announced in a press conference Wednesday that he would also join the people of Qena in Friday prayers in Sidi Abdel Rahim El-Qenawy Mosque.

El-Tayeb guaranteed that the Qena protesters wouldn’t be detained or harassed by security and threatened to resign in objection if this happens.

“The state wouldn’t dare accept the resignation of the Grand Sheikh of Al-Azhar,” El-Tayeb added.

El-Tayeb said he had hoped the people of Qena would give the new governor a chance to prove himself before continuing protests. He added that cutting off the railway lines was a breach of Islamic teachings and respecting the government’s rule and laws was a national obligation.

Protesters said that their previous experience with General Magdy Ayoub — the former governor who was also Christian and a career police officer — proved his failure in running the governorate and dealing with sectarian issues.

El-Tayeb had previously said that the people of Qena have no right to call for the resignation of Mikhael, as it shouldn’t matter whether the governor is Muslim or Christians.


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