Pro-Mubarak protesters deny they were paid

Supporters of the Egyptian president say "if Mubarak falls, Egypt will die; we want peace, not war."

Egypt Mubarak supporters 311 AP (photo credit: AP)
Egypt Mubarak supporters 311 AP
(photo credit: AP)
CAIRO – The pro-Mubarak crowds in Cairo appeared out of nowhere on Wednesday, a sudden wave of angry humanity that had been only a trickle the night before.
Late Tuesday night, the Egyptian president’s supporters could be seen sporadically at small demonstrations on the streets of Cairo, numbering a couple hundred people at most. Occasionally, two or three scooters would tear down the deserted streets of downtown Cairo, waving Egypt flags and chanting “Mubarak, Mubarak,” but the streets and the checkpoints clearly belonged to the opposition.
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All that changed on Wednesday, when the number of supporters grow suddenly and exponentially, converging on downtown Cairo and the suddenly surrounded Tahrir Square from all directions.
The Mubarak crowds seemed to have a higher number of female participants than the opposition crowds, all of whom were in conservative Muslim garb. They also seemed to enjoy their street theater, with one man carrying on his shoulders a large white dog wearing a cloth rag with “ElBaradei” written on it.
The supporters had very clear messages and statements and swarmed journalists to talk to them. They also seemed to be more focused and lacked the general love-in feel of the crowds at Tahrir Square.
One, 37-year-old Ahmed Ahmed-Ali, a doctor from Cairo, said “there are 80 million people in Egypt, if they [the opposition] have 1 million people in Tahrir square, we have 79 million people from the rest of Egypt who don’t want Mubarak to leave.
“If he leaves it will be very dangerous, all of Egypt will fall.”
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The whole time Ahmed-Ali spoke, supporters would walk by yelling “we love Mubarak” or “opposition figure [Mohamed] ElBaradei very bad.”
They also shouted chants against Al-Jazeera, which they said they thought is not fair and twisting the situation on the ground to portray Egypt negatively.
Another supporter, an older man named Kamel Medina, said “Israel took Sinai from Egypt, and Mubarak took it back,” a reference to the president’s days as a senior Egyptian Air Force officer. The Sinai was seized by Israel in the Six Day War, and later returned to Egypt as part of the Camp David Accords.
Medina also said “we lost millions of people fighting wars with Israel, if Mubarak falls, we have war with Israel again, we want peace, not war.”
Khaled Salah, a 26-year-old Mubarak supporter from Cairo who works as a writer for the Egyptian magazine Kelmetna, said “ElBaradei must get out, he doesn’t represent the Egyptian people. All these years he lived in the west, we never see him.
“He is not part of the Egyptian people and he doesn’t speak for us. We in Egypt believe Egypt will die if [Mubarak] leaves.”
When asked about claims by many in the opposition that they were being paid by Mubarak to come out and rally in the president’s favor, the crowd became hostile, shouting in English and Arabic that they are poor, and saying they have never received a dime.
The pro-Mubarak crowds have also been accused of being police in civilian clothing, sent in to crush the demonstrations, a claim they also denied. It has also been reported that many of them were bussed in from Cairo’s slums.
As the pro-Mubarak supporters made their way to the square, a number of people on the street stopped this reporter and said not to continue, that they were violently attacking foreigners or anyone with light hair, and lashing out at journalists, smashing cameras and harassing them repeatedly.
By 4 p.m., the Hilton Hotel where much of the foreign press is staying, had become a fortress, with employees temporarily putting plywood over the doors and posting extra security outside.