Update: Iranian ambassador blames Syrians for anti-Shia protests

Mujtaba Amany, the acting Iranian ambassador to Egypt, blamed Syrian refugees in Cairo for inciting protests in front of his home on Friday, due to their discontent with Iran’s support of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime.

"How could the Egyptian security allow these Syrians to mess up with security?" Amany said in a phone interview with Al-Masry Al-Youm Friday evening. He denied that the protesters’ claims that Iran seeks to spread the Shia faith in Egypt.

Late in the afternoon, minor clashes erupted between security forces and protesters demonstrating in front of the home Amany's home in Heliopolis.

When a female protester raised a Syrian flag to show support for the uprising there, a Central Security Forces officer grabbed the flag from her hand. Outraged demonstrators then hurled stones at the security forces and attempted to storm Amanys house.

CSF troops fired teargas to disperse protesters. The clashes then died down.

Dozens of protesters had gathered in front of Amany’s house into Friday afternoon as they demonstrated against the recent diplomatic rapprochement between Egypt and Iran.

Amid a heavy security presence, the protesters chanted, "Let all Brothers hear: No relations with Iran," "Oh Iran's ambassador, Egypt will not be Shia," and "Egypt and Syria are one hand."

"No to Shias in Egypt," read a large banner. One of the protesters attempted to climb the wall surrounding the house, but security beat him back with sticks. Angry demonstrators responded by holding their shoes up to the faces of security personnel.

Walid Ismail, the coordinator of a movement defending the Prophet Mohamed, his relatives and friends, said that the demonstrators would not retreat until all Iranian tourists left the nation and the government cut all ties with the “Iranian entity.”

The main objective of Friday’s protest was to send a message that the Egyptian people reject an Iranian presence in the nation, Ismail told Al-Masry Al-Youm.

Ismail criticized President Mohamed Morsy's promise to regulate Iranian tourism in Egypt, saying, "All your promises evaporated; we will not trust you."

Earlier in the day, in response to the planned protests Morsy declared that he would not allow Shiaism to spread in Egypt.

Conservative forces had announced their plan to march from the Al-Tawheed Mosque in Ghamra to Amany's home, and then head to the Amr bin al-As Mosque to attend a news conference organized by the Salafi Dawah party on the dangers of Shiaism.

Tourism Minister Hesham Zaazou said the Salafi’s fears of the spread of the Shia faith in Egypt were unfounded. He said it would be impossible for the new influx of tourists from Iran to change Egyptian’s beliefs, adding that the tourists’ movements within the country would be carefully regulated.

He said that the Freedom and Justice Party had issued a statement on Wednesday declaring that national security and the defense of the country’s Sunni beliefs were lines that could not be crossed.

Hussein Ibrahim, the party’s secretary general, agreed that the Salafi’s fears were not legitimate, as no one would be able to lead the Egyptian people away from the Sunni path.

Edited translation from Al-Masry Al-Youm

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