Friday, February 3, 2012

After the football disaster in Port Said

Grieving family members of some of the 74 people that were killed in the football stampede in Port Said at the morgue in Cairo. (AP)

 Update Saturday: According to the Egyptian ministry of health, the death toll in clashes that broke out on Thursday between thousands of protesters, angry over the Port Said massacre on Wednesday, and police forces has risen to 12 by midday Saturday.
Five protesters were killed in Cairo, and seven in Suez.

 A siege in front of the Interior ministry this Friday, fresh demonstrations in Cairo, (where two people were killed, one man by birdshot and an officer who was run over by a military vehicle) and in Suez (where two people were killed by police bullets). A debate in parliament, the resignation of the governor of Port Said -  it is clear that the shadow of Wednesday's events in the football stadium in Port Said (74 dead, 400 wounded) still hangs heavily over Egypt's political life.
Many blame the military for the way things went out off hand, as it is yet another blatant show of their incompetence in the management of the country. Others go one step further and fear that it was a deliberate attempt at destabilizing the country by the many remnants of the former regime who are still omnipresent and in powerful functions. It might even have an act of revenge on their part, many  think,  on the ''ultras'', the hard core of the supporters of the club Ahly, who played an important role during the uprising at Tahrir, particularly in protecting other protesters on 28  January 2011, the 'Battle of the Camels',  against the onslaught of thugs of the Mubarak-regime.

One thing that is beyond doubt, is the weakness of Egypt's police forces in dealing with matters like these, particularly after the revolution. Issandr Lamrani (blogger The Arabist) writes in an OpEd in The National: 
 One of the decisive points of the 2011 uprising against Hosni Mubarak was January 28, when the protesters defeated riot police and several hundred police stations across the country were attacked. This prompted the military to take to the streets, while ministry of interior forces - from traffic police to riot control squads to infamous state security officers - went into hiding. It took a few months for the police to return to the streets, but many still hold a grudge: they feel disrespected and no longer intimidate citizens. Many a police chief prefers to sulk in his office rather than risk confrontation with uncontrollable mobs - particularly when these mobs can be armed with anything from the tasers and small arms that have become popular because of the insecurity, to more heavy firearms in places like Sinai, where Bedouins have received an influx of guns from Libya's civil war.
One effect of  what happened in Port Said, however, was that the Muslim Brotherhood took its distance from the military. Only a few days ago members of the Brotherhood stopped demonstrators who demanded the speedy transition to a civilian rule from reaching parliament under the slogan ''The army and the people are one hand''. This week the Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party mixed in the chorus of parties that - once again - demanded the military of SCAF to step down.

No comments: