|Jan. 28 funeral protest in Port Said for those killed as anti-government protests rocked city.|
Thousands demonstrated in Tahrir Square Jan. 25 as part of nationwide protests against Morsi and the Brotherhood, the largest capitalist party in Egypt, and against recent measures restricting democratic, labor and political rights. The next day the verdict in what is known as the Port Said Stadium Massacre was announced, fueling more protests especially in cities along the Suez Canal, including Port Said, Ismailia and Suez.
The trial stemmed from the death of at least 72 people, mostly “Ultras”—fans of Cairo’s Al-Ahly soccer team—following a match with Port Said’s Al-Masry team on Feb. 1, 2012. The Ultras played a prominent role in protests against Mubarak. The Port Said Criminal Court found 21 Al-Masry fans guilty of murder and sentenced them to death.
Many in Port Said see the trial as a frame-up and say the deaths were primarily a result of police negligence, charging that cops dimmed the lights and closed gates when fighting broke out. Some participants say the incident was initiated by provocateurs.
On Jan. 27 Morsi announced a 30-day state of emergency in the three canal cities along with a 9 p.m. curfew. With what Time magazine described as “rebellious gusto,” residents scheduled the next protests to start at 8:45 p.m. and held late-night soccer games in front of local government headquarters. Army soldiers sent in to maintain order didn’t even try to enforce the curfew.
By Jan. 29 nearly 50 people were killed in clashes with the police, according to the London Financial Times, mostly in Port Said.
Army chief Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Sisi warned that “continuing conflict between political forces and their differences concerning the management of the country could lead to a collapse of the state.” The army is “the solid cohesive bloc and the strong pillar” of the state, he added.
Leaders of the National Salvation Front, dominated by opposition bourgeois parties, have called for a dialogue to end the clashes, as has Morsi. Recognizing that decisive power resides in the military, the front called for the high command to be part of any talks.
“We need a meeting between the president, defense minister, interior minister, the ruling party, the Salafist current” and the National Salvation Front, said front leader Mohamed ElBaradei Jan. 30.
“The economic situation is very dire right now,” Gamul Abu’l Oula, director of the Center for Trade Union and Workers Services in Mahalla El Kubra, said by phone. “In Mahalla, a major industrial center, half the plants are now shut down.”
“A lot of Egyptian farmers don’t have land,” Dalia Emara, a representative of the Land Center for Human Rights, told the Militant from Cairo. “We still suffer from the same problems we had before the revolution. The only difference is that now we can organize.”
“The current government is carrying out the same policy of previous governments,” Fatma Ramadan, executive board member of the Egyptian Federation of Independent Trade Unions, said from Cairo. “There is a rise in inflation and unemployment.”
“No negotiations are possible with this government. They want to negotiate the end to the revolution,” she said. “We say, where are all the promised reforms?”
Georges Mehrabian from Athens, Greece, contributed to this article.
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