The carnage at Wednesday’s soccer match in Egypt, which killed 74 fans, now has a unified Arab name. “The massacre of Port Said,” and the ensuing violence in the streets of Egypt, is the leading story in all major Arab publications, with the political context — absent in yesterday’s preliminary reporting — now dominating the coverage. The London-based liberal daily Al-Hayat‘s headline reads “The Port Said massacre may expedite the departure of the military,” noting that Egypt’s de-facto rulers in the Supreme Council of Armed Forces (SCAF) may not survive their term, scheduled to end in June with presidential elections.
Al-Arabiya, a Dubai-based news channel, speculates that the Port Said events may lead former president Hosni Mubarak “to the noose,” for his part in allegedly ordering a violent crackdown on civilian protesters last year. The report features a picture of Mubarak alongside that of a noose.
“We do not usually believe conspiracy theories,” claims the lead editorial in Al-Quds Al-Arabi, “but we have grown certain that the bloody events in Egypt are not spontaneous.”
Saudi-owned daily A-Sharq Al-Awsat focus on the violence on the ground rather than on the political ramifications of the soccer event. Its headline reads, “After the Port Said massacre, downtown Cairo burns and hundreds are wounded,” and it provides a detailed account of riots in Cairo and Suez. The photo accompanying the story displays a young masked protester holding the Egyptian flag with fire in the background.
Dubai-based news channel Al-Arabiya takes sides in its coverage of the protests, accusing the Egyptian police of firing live ammunition and killing two protesters in Suez Friday morning. Its video report features an angry protester yelling “The people demand the execution of the field marshal [Tantawi].”
The most dramatic coverage of the events is in the establishment daily Al-Ahram. The paper runs an excited interview with the medical doctor of the attacked Al-Ahli team, who recounts the death of five people “in my arms” and tells of resuscitation efforts of 30 others. The Al-Ahram stories feature photos from the victims’ funerals, but avoid directing criticism of government officials.
Discussing the day after Assad
The second story to dominate Arab news on Friday is the UN Security Council planned resolution on Syria. The Security Council will most likely adopt a resolution supporting an Arab League initiative calling for the peaceful resignation of President Bashar Al-Assad, according to Al-Hayat.
Al-Quds Al-Arabi, a nationalist London-based daily, reports that Turkish President Abdullah Gul said his country would consider granting political asylum to Assad and his family. The daily criticizes Russia’s hard line and its threat to veto the Security Council’s decision.
All Arab dailies focus attention on the city of Hama, where protests on Thursday marked the 30th anniversary of the massacre carried out by president Hafez Assad, with an estimated death toll of 20,000. “Hafez died but Hama did not die,” cried the protesters there, quoted by the major Arab media. A-Sharq Al-Awsat covers the achievements of the Syrian opposition forces, as it habitually does. A senior Syrian oppositionist, Ahmad Ramadan, tells the daily that Assad is seriously considering exile in light of internal schisms within the regime. Unnamed sources in the opposition’s Free Syrian Army tell the daily of clashes with Lebanese Hizbullah forces and Iranian soldiers inside Syria. The source says that Assad is relying consistently less on the Syrian army, which has recently experienced mass desertions.
Islamists in Kuwait win landslide victory
Arab media is giving major play to the parliamentary election results in Kuwait. Al-Arabiya reports a “landslide victory” by the Islamist opposition, which has gained 34 of the 50 seats in parliament, crushing the liberal parties. Only one woman was elected to what is widely considered the most vibrant parliament in the Persian Gulf. Al-Hayat reports “no special events” in the election process aside from opposition accusations of vote buying. It stresses the high voting rate, which reached 60 percent, while featuring a photo of three smiling female campaigners. A-Sharq Al-Awsat reports on high political activism among Kuwaiti women in specially designated women’s polling stations.
What does Israel have in store for Iran?
Israeli possible intentions to strike Iran preemptively have Arab media speculating. Both Al-Hayat and Al-Quds Al-Arabi quote deputy prime minister Moshe Yaalon at the Herzliya Conference as saying that all of Iran’s nuclear facilities are within the West’s military range. “Any installation guarded by humans can be penetrated by humans,” Yaalon is quoted as saying by Al-Quds Al-Arabi. “This non-conventional regime should not own non-conventional weapons.”
Meanwhile, A-Sharq Al-Awsat reports that Iran intends to execute black-market money traders, as many Iranians withdraw funds fearing a looming strike.