Video: One of Cairo’s thousands of protesters explains why he’s demonstrating

November 27, 2012

Crowds in excess of 100,000 people, according to the Associated Press, are gathered in Cairo's Tahrir Square to protest Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi's recent decree vastly expanding his powers. The country's activists and sympathetic citizens have regarded Morsi, who is closely allied with the Muslim Brotherhood, with deep suspicion.

Many of today's protesters are repeating the two definitive chants of the February 2011 demonstrations that helped oust former president Hosni Mubarak: "The people demand the downfall of the regime" and "leave."

Among them is Ahmed Hassan, a young man who spoke with Mosireen, a grassroots Egyptian media organization that interviewed a number of today's protesters. Their interview with Hassan, which includes English subtitles (click the little "CC" icon if they don't come up automatically), offers a small window into the mentality behind the latest in a long and escalating series of protests.

"Because this can't happen," Hassan says when asked why he's in Tahrir Square. "Mohammed Morsi is not a god. Mohammed Morsi is an Egyptian citizen elected by 51 percent of Egyptians."

Hassan addresses Morsi directly, reiterating a longstanding complaint among many of Egypt's non-Islamists that they feel excluded from the Brotherhood-dominated government.

"We don't want your constitution. We want a people's constitution that represents all the people, not a constitution that represents one side, faction, sector, or group," he says. Morsi "has no place among us."

"We're beginning the process again," Hassan says. "The people want the downfall of the regime. Enough. Time's up."

While his views are surely not representative of all the protesters in Tahrir, much less all Egyptians, Hassan seems to be expressing a growing view that Morsi's government lacks legitimacy for two reasons: because it seems to represent a narrow faction of a very big country, and because the "constitutional chaos" has left the country without functioning leadership or checks-and-balances.

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Olga Khazan · November 27, 2012