Amid the escalating riots engulfing Egypt in its entirety, the non-Islamist streams in Egypt are rallying for a “Day of great fury” tomorrow, to mark the “Friday of wrath” on 28 January 2011. The angry revolutionists are calling for the downfall of the ruling Islamist regime which has proved a huge disappointment for the majority of Egyptians
Amid the escalating riots engulfing Egypt in its entirety, the non-Islamist streams in Egypt are rallying for a “Day of great fury” tomorrow, to mark the “Friday of wrath” on 28 January 2011. The angry revolutionists are calling for the downfall of the ruling Islamist regime which has proved a huge disappointment for the majority of Egyptians.
The rioting was compounded by the violence that runs into its second day today in the coastal town of Port Said, and which all but eclipsed the nation-wide protests that have marked the 2nd anniversary of the 25 January Revolution.
Till late afternoon today, four were dead and more than 450 injured as hundreds of thousands of Port Said townspeople marched in the funeral of 31 young men who lost their lives yesterday, shot in the chest and belly. The 31 had been among Port Saidi demonstrators protesting a court ruling that was understood to have sentenced 21 Port Saidis to death for their part in the killing of 74 fans of the Cairo al-Ahli Club during football rioting in town last February.
The yesterday riots involved deadly clashes between the relatives of the defendants, who tried to storm the prison in Port Said where they are being held, and the security forces. Port Said residents used automatic weapons against the police who responded with teargas and rubber bullets, and 31 lost their lives.
Two police stations in Port Said were stormed, adding another six dead in the process.
The army was deployed in town—also in Suez which, together with the Suez Canal town of Ismailiya, is witnessing large-scale rioting—in an attempt to attain order and protect public facilities.
A security source declared that shots had been fired from rooftops at the soldiers, and that there was “a foreign and local conspiracy to spread anarchy in the Suez Canal region”. The military announced they had fired no shots; and the security forces said they had not used tear gas to disperse the demonstrations, as had been claimed by news sites. This leaves open the question of who was firing gunshot or teargas, given that gunrunning on a huge scale has become rampant in Egypt since the 2011 Revolution.
The Suez Canal Authority announced that shipping operations were not affected by the rioting, and that the Canal was well protected.
No death sentences
The 21 defendants, however, had not been ‘sentenced to death’. The documents concerning their charges were referred to the Grand Mufti Ali Gomaa [the Mufti is the person in charge of issuing fatwa, Islamic legal opinion, or pronouncing the Islamic legality on various issues] for him to give an informed opinion. The Mufti may decide that there is sufficient evidence to incriminate them and thus sentence them to death, or he may decide the evidence is not incriminating and accordingly return them to court for the judge to rule in their cases. The Mufti, for his part, has pledged he will study the documents rigorously and write his opinion on their charges.
The misunderstanding arose from the fact that it is routine for Egyptian courts to obtain the Mufti##s approval—which he usually grants—in case a criminal is sentenced to death. But in the recent case, it was not so.
The 21 are thus neither culprits nor, as Port Saidis claim, scapegoats.
As lawyers Ahmed Negeida and Tumader Zaghloul told Watani, public pressure to see some defendants handed death sentences was too great for the judge to rule otherwise or even to adjourn the case, a move the Ahli fans had warned against and which they saw as procrastination on the part of the court. So the judges decided to refer the decision to the Mufti. It must be noted, however, that the 21 defendants are known outlaws; which is not to say they are guilty as charged.
The Port Said case involves another 52 defendants who include senior Port Said security figures and officials of the Port Said al-Masry Club, the rival club to al-Ahli in the February 2012 football match. The court has said it will issue rulings concerning them on 9 March.
Black Block and Islamist militias
In Cairo and Alexandria, as well as in several other major towns in the Delta and in Upper Egypt, wide scale protests are ongoing against the Islamist ruling regime which is being accused of having betrayed the 2011 Revolution. The protests are violent; and it is feared that tomorrow would see even worse violence since it marks the “Friday of anger” of 2011.
Compounding the violence is the first-time participation of an Egyptian Black Bloc (BB) movement which, in apparent reference to the 1970s German anarchists, was launched through a Facebook campaign and quickly swelled into the thousands of members. It stormed public buildings, and attacked Islamist targets; and also declared its responsibility for various fires. Eyewitnesses say that the Islamists are already retaliating with their own armed militias, which does not work to make the violence any less.
The Cairo embassies of the United States and the United Kingdom, both of which lie close to the revolutionary hub of Tahrir Square, have suspended work today.
Not kind to Copts
The nationwide unrest has not been kind to the Copts. Several incidents of violence or injustice have occurred against the Copts in Beni Sweif, Fayoum, Assiut, and Nag Hammadi.
Friday morning saw a number of thugs attack a Church-owned house in the town of Beba in Beni Sweif some 140km south of Cairo, and began pulling it down, but the Church called the police which stopped them and returned the house to the Church. The thugs had attempted to seize the 770sq.m house on 13 December, and had also been stopped. But the unrest on the occasion of the 2nd anniversary of the 2011 Revolution encouraged the second assault, in an attempt by the thugs to blackmail the Church into paying them tribute. Anba Estafanos, Bishop of Fashn and Beba, refused to accept any compromise or pay off the thugs, and insisted that the diocese will not let go of so much as an inch of its property, and will offer concessions or conciliation.
Another Church-owned building in Fayoum some 100km southwest Cairo, however, was not so lucky. Islamists in the village of Fanous pulled it down to the ground and, to date, the culprits run free and the Church has not been given licence to rebuild.
Copts get no bread
In the village of Marashda in Nag Hammadi some 460km south of Cairo, the 60-year-old Copt Nader Attiya who was accused of molesting a four-year-old Muslim child was ordered by the village elders to leave the village, together with his entire family; even though the official medical investigation pronounced the girl untouched. The Muslim villagers had waged an attack against the Copts in Marashda on account of the molestation rumour, burning six Coptic-owned shops and three cars, and smashing the crosses off the village church. All the Muslims caught in the rioting were released.
And in the village of Ashmoul in Dairut, Assiut, some 320km south of Cairo, Coptic-owned shops and businesses were attacked in the wake of demands by the Coptic villagers that they should be given quotas of flour, bread and butane cylinders equal to those distribute by the authorities to Muslims. Two pharmacies owned by Bassem George and Salib Girgis were ruined, as were a grocery store belonging to Magdy Aziz and a store owned by Mina Samy. Several Copts, among them Aziz and his son, were assaulted.
A conciliation session held by the village elders and officials contained the matter, but the Copts got no compensation for their losses.
Reported by Georgette Sadeq, Maged Samir, Nader Shukry, Hanan Fikry, Basma William, Mariam Rifaat and Girgis Waheeb
27 January 2013