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Port Said Clashes: Evidence of Division

Clashes between protesters and the Egyptian police have recommenced again in Tahrir Square, almost reminiscent to the November 18th clashes: gas masks, vinegar remedies for tear gas, motorbike angels – all in its essence. However this time around, it’s due to an incident at a football match; where the winning team al-Masry’s fans after the match bombarded the field after a match with its rival al-Ahly. Some are referring to it as the ‘Port Said Massacre,’ with over 1,000 people injured and over 74 dead.

The crowd amassed in Tahrir is not as prominent as in past protests. This could be for a number of reasons; perhaps more people are putting faith in the newly elected parliament and the supposed transition of power from the SCAF (Supreme Council of the Armed Forces). Maybe people are tired of the continued violence in the Square. More or less, the party members of the Hezb el Kanaba or ‘Party of the Couch,’ known as the people who watch the political developments from the comforts of their own home, seem to be on the rise.

This unfortunate incident at the Port Said football stadium was rather unusual and due to speculation, some believe the incident was an attempt for the SCAF to bring back the system of ‘emergency law,’ which was partially lifted on the eve of the anniversary of the January 25th revolution. Many conspiracies have emerged as a result of the incident sparked by questions of “why” by members of the newly elected parliament. Such as “Why did neither the governor of Port Said nor its security chief attend a game they both normally attend?” Instead of waiting for the response of the fact-finding committee, people formed their own theories and took them to the streets.

With all do respect to the people putting their lives on the line in Tahrir, but what is taking on the Ministry of Interior (MOI) going to accomplish? Other than a show of opposition and a symbolic gesture; it’s a loss of lives and scars on your psyche and physique. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for the people and the activists; but when there is no set ‘plan’ per say in regards to dissolving the SCAF, it’s no wonder why more people are not in the Square beside them.

Back in March, after meeting some young activists, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was quoted as saying, “I said, ‘So, well, are you [the young protesters] organizing? Do you have an umbrella group that is going to represent the youth of Egypt? Do you have a political agenda?’ And they all looked up and said ‘no.’ It made my heart sink.” This is exactly what Tahrir is lacking, a set agenda.

The unifying cause of calling for the downfall of Mubarak last year has instead turned into various groups and parties calling for their self-interests. This is only natural of a revolution, but with no collaborative direction, this can prove to be rather unhealthy. Given that Egypt has a history of praetorianism — a situation where the military overlooks the cultural, economic, and political life of a state — demanding the end of military rule is a disaster waiting to happen when there is no clear plan for a replacement. A similar instance befell upon Iraq, when the Baathist party was dissolved in its entirety leaving behind a massive power vacuum.

The only thing the Egyptian people can really do now is wait for the outcome of the investigation and see whether the Interior Minister Mohamed Ibrahim, will listen to the calls of Egypt’s new parliament of stepping down.


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