Egyptians protest a day after deadly football riots
At least 74 security forces and spectators died following an Egyptian football match in Port Said when thousands of hardcore fans, “ultras,” of the winning local team, Masry, stormed the field and attacked fans of the rival and leading Ahly team. The events incited riots in what amounted to the greatest violence since the fall of former President Hosni Mubarak. Abo Treika, a player for al-Ahly, said, “This is not football. This is a war and people are dying in front of us. There is no movement and no security and no ambulances.” Supporters of the victims gathered in Cairo and amassed in front of the Maspero TV building, demanding the end of military rule and the execution of Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi. Essam el-Erian, a member of the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice party, blamed the security forces and accused them of complicity in the violence and intentional complacency in an attempt to prove that emergency regulations and strong police powers are necessary, as well as to undermine the revolution. The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces has declared three days of mourning and activists have scheduled protests outside the interior ministry. The parliament and cabinet are holding emergency meetings and all games of Egypt’s premier football league have been postponed indefinitely.
- Up to 50 Palestinians tried to block U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki Moon’s entrance into Gaza while protesting “bias to Israel” for not meeting with them to discuss Palestinian prisoners in Israel.
- Kuwaitis began voting in elections for the fourth parliament in six years which the opposition hopes will spur reform.
- U.N. diplomats say they have made progress toward a compromise on a resolution on Syria; however, Russia maintains the United Nations cannot call for regime change.
- The U.N. Special Tribunal on Lebanon will try in absentia four Hezbollah suspects for the 2005 assassination of Rafik Hariri and the killing of 21 others.
- Two militias exchanged fire in the Libyan capital of Tripoli increasing concerns over insecurity since the National Transitional Council came into power.
CAIRO, EGYPT – FEBRUARY 2: Family members and mourners gather at Cairo’s railway station as they receive the bodies of 74 football fans who were killed during clashes between rival fans following the match between al-Masry and al-Alhy at Port Said on February 2, 2012 in Cairo, Egypt. Three days of mourning have been announced and marches are scheduled later in the day to protest at the lack of protection provided by police who were at the stadium when the violence occurred. All Egyptian football matches have been postponed indefinitely (Ed Giles/Getty Images)
Arguments & Analysis
‘Syria’s neighbors must be involved in any peace plan’ (Mark Malloch-Brown, Financial Times)
“Today, Syria is seen through the rear view mirror of Libya. On the one side, Russia and China speak for those who worry that UN Security Council permission for a humanitarian intervention will be used as a licence for naked support for regime change, which is what they consider happened in Libya. On the other, the UK, France and the US are equally wary of what they see as the success of the Libyan operation not becoming a precedent for serial intervention in the political upheavals of the Arab spring. So, they too are resolute bystanders, even if they wish to see much tougher words, if not actions, from the Security Council condemning the actions of the Assad regime.”
‘Egypt’s soccer tragedy’ (James M. Dorsey, Time)
“The violence in Port Said will mean the rival ultras will need one another more than ever. Following Wednesday’s tragedy, Egypt’s military ruler, Field Marshall Mohamed Hussein Tantawi vowed to hunt down the perpetrators, portraying himself as protector of the victims. And Tantawi is likely to have public opinion on his side. Whether provoked or not, the ultras may have achieved the opposite of the goal that has united them over the past year: Rather than sweep away the remnants of the ancien regime, they may instead have helped consolidate the military’s authority in an order deemed acceptable to a majority of Egyptians.”
‘What do Egypt’s assertive generals really want down the road?‘ (Omar Ashour, The Daily Star)
“If 2011 witnessed the miracle of Mubarak’s removal, in 2012 a brave parliament’s institutional assertiveness coupled with noninstitutional Tahririst pressure, could force the generals to accept a transfer of power to civilian rule – with some reserved domains for the army establishment. What is certain is that this year will not witness a return to 2010. Egypt may become stuck in democratization’s slow lane, but there will be no U-turn. The hundreds of thousands who marched to Tahrir Square on the revolution’s anniversary will guarantee that.”