Egypt soccer riot: Have police lost control? (+video)
At least 79 were killed in the Egypt soccer riot yesterday, the deadliest violence since Mubarak's ouster a year ago. Some blame the military regime for stirring up trouble to justify extended its rule.
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“No one respects us anymore," he says. "They say bad words to us and spit on us, and consider us their enemies. They fight us in the streets.”Skip to next paragraph
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The police force withdrew from Cairo’s streets after being overwhelmed by the uprising on Jan. 28, 2011, and has never returned in full force. Rights groups, activists, and some politicians have pressed for security-sector reform that would end a culture of abuse and corruption in the police force and help it regain the trust of the people, but the military junta has not taken any measures.
A boost for military rulers?
Many Egyptians today struggled to understand just what had happened at the soccer match. Strong rivalries between the ultras are a part of the sports world in Egypt, and they occasionally lead to fights. But yesterday’s events are unprecedented for Egypt, marking the largest death toll ever in sports-related violence in the country.
The ultras participated in the uprisings that toppled Mubarak, and more recently played a key role in the Sept. 9 raid on the Israeli embassy and in street fighting against police and military forces in November and December, in which dozens of civilians were killed. The ultras have a reputation for fighting without fear at the front lines of urban street warfare, using fireworks as weapons and using vulgar chants against the security forces.
Some speculate that the police allowed the Masry fans to attack as a way to mete out revenge on the Ahly fans who fought police in the capital. Others say the military allowed the attack to happen in order to scare the country into extending military rule. “Who benefits from this? The military council,” reasons Gamal Shuab, a student who had helped stop traffic in Tahrir. “People will be scared and ask them to stay.”
“They get their legitimacy from chaos. They will do anything not to leave, and they are stirring up trouble to create a pretext for staying,” says passerby Tarek Abdel Moneim, who even suggests that security forces may have been directly involved in the violence. “The ones who do this aren’t thugs, they’re from state security.”
Yet others blame the Masry fans. “They are thugs. There’s been hatred between the two teams for a long time,” says Tarek Amr, a downtown merchant. “They knew that, and they shouldn’t have held the game when Egypt is so unstable. There weren’t enough police there to protect people, but there aren’t enough police anywhere in Egypt right now.”
'Where has Egypt gone?'
Confronting its first crisis, Egypt’s newly elected parliament held an emergency session – the first in 40 years, according to the speaker. Some members called for the Interior minister and public prosecutor of the military-appointed government to be removed and tried. Others called for the resignation of the military-appointed prime minister, or early presidential elections to end military rule.
The Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party, which holds the most seats, released a statement calling the violence “an integral part of a deliberate scheme to incite strife,” aimed at “derailing the process of peaceful democratic transition of power.”
Meanwhile, Al Ahly ultras planned a march from their club to either the Ministry of Interior or the parliament building, and the US embassy warned its citizens to avoid the area.
“Can you tell me where Egypt has gone?” asks Ameer Ahmed, looking stricken as he watches a fight breaking out in Tahrir Square over the cause of the tragedy. “I’m watching what’s happening, and I don’t understand it anymore,” he says. “We need a president. We need someone to lead this country.”
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