On the eve of the second anniversary of the Egyptian revolution that led to the ouster of longtime strong man President Hosni Mubarak, it is angry Egyptian soccer fans who are launching their own revolt against a government they see as shielding security officials responsible for the deadly Port Said Stadium melee, which occurred one year ago, Arab dailies report.
“Ultras besieging Egyptian stock exchange demanding the prosecution of those responsible for Port Said Stadium massacre,” reads the headline of the London-based newspaper Al Hayat. According to the story, “hundreds of Ultras are encircling the Egyptian stock exchange preventing employees from entering.” This does not spell good news for Egypt’s sputtering economy.
On February 1, 2011, during a match between the Al-Masry and Al-Ahly football clubs at the Port Said Stadium in Port Said, Egypt, thousands of Al-Masry fans rioted against the Al-Ahly players and spectators, known as “Ultras,” with knives, swords, clubs, stones, and bottles, killing 79 people and wounding over 1,000. Officials at the Egyptian Health Ministry said that most of the victims died from brain hemorrhages, concussions, and stab wounds.
A report in the Saudi-owned daily A-Sharq Al-Awsat cites the Ultras’ claim that security officials failed to conduct searches for weapons at the entrances to the stadium and took no action to prevent the clashes. Others claimed that security officials locked the Al-Ahly supporters in the stadium “to meet their fate” due to their open mockery of the Mubarak regime and their calls for the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces to step down. Al-Ahly supporters are known for being politically liberal and very secular.
Some nine leading security officials from Port Said Governorate have been put on trial. A verdict was expected to be reached this week, but was delayed till the anniversary of the revolution. The Ultras, in an expression of their anger, have taken to the streets in Cairo, Alexandria, and Port Said shouting the slogan, “Retribution or chaos.”
Ultras in Port Said have, according to the report, “threatened to cut off Port Said, occupy government buildings and factories, and prevent people from entering the city.”
Egyptian Attorney General Talaat Ibrahim is calling for a restoration of order, saying “the siege of the stock exchange represents a disruptive threat to homeland security and will affect the Egyptian economy.”
‘The siege of the stock exchange represents a disruptive threat to homeland security and will affect the Egyptian economy’
The pan-Arab media outlet Al-Arabiyya adds that thousands of Ultras have declared an open-ended sit-in in Tahrir Square, are blocking dozens of railway tracks in Cairo, and have disrupted all traffic along the Corniche in Alexandria.
Fears are sweeping Egypt that competing political groups will ride the anger of the Ultras to spark a new round of violence throughout Egypt. The London-based newspaper Al-Quds Al-Arabi has received frightening information about a previously unknown group calling itself the “Jihad Base in Egypt,” which says it will unleash “aggression against the secular crusade being launched against President Mohamed Morsi.”
“Morsi is the successor of God in Egypt,” the group’s statement reads, “and we will repel the secular crusader infidels who are against him.”
Arabs rejoice in Netanyahu’s dismal reelection victory
Even though Benjamin Netanyahu will almost certainly remain Israel’s prime minister following Tuesday’s election, his substantial loss of parliamentary seats has been seen as serious repudiation of his administration, causing some Arab journalists to refer to him as the “one big loser” of the elections.
An editorial published in Al-Quds Al-Arabi, a vehemently anti-Israel newspaper, explains that Netanyahu’s drop in popularity stems from President Obama’s intervention in the election discourse, Netanyahu’s failure to achieve any of his objectives in the recent war with Hamas in Gaza, and the Likud party’s refusal to come out with any official platform for the next term aside from “warmongering on the topic of Iran.”
The Likud party, the editorial states, “did not issue any clear electoral program. Netanyahu concentrated on making war on Iran the main point of his election campaign at the expense of other issues and internal crises, such as the cost of living, unemployment, and declining social services. The weak Netanyahu will now chair a government that is anything but homogenous, comprising partners that do not agree with his policies and who will demand the Foreign Affairs and Finance portfolios.”
But even if Arab columnists are calling Netanyahu a loser, others cite the country he leads as anything but. In an op-ed published in the Doha-based media outlet Al-Jazeera called “The meaning of Palestine and the Arab Spring,” Majed Kayali, a Damascus-based writer, states in a scathing rebuke of Arab governments that it is little “Israel Ltd. which has doubled its Jewish population nine times, from 700,000 people to 6 million, and doubled its gross domestic product 60 times. . . from $4 billion in 1950 to $242 billion in 2011. . . On top of that, Israel does not suffer from bad unemployment.”
“Israel has not only risen far above the Arab world in economic and technological capabilities, but also when it comes to human development, community management, and governance,” Kayali writes. “The Israeli political system has democratic rules on the basis of the party system and the separation of powers, all of which are missing in our sad Arab regimes.”