19 February 2013

Egypt: Civil Disobedience in Port Said Enters Third Day

Photo: CAF
Egyptian Al-Ahly soccer club.

Civil disobedience entered a third day in a row in Egypt's Port Said governorate on Tuesday with hundreds of residents refusing to go to work and rejecting a Monday statement made by President Mohamed Mursi.

Mursi had said that he intends to present a new draft law to the Shura Council (legislature) to restore the free-zone policy in Port Said and allocate 400 million Egyptian pounds from the Suez Canal revenues to developing the three Canal cities (Port Said, Ismaliya and Suez).

Forty-two people were killed when violence erupted in Port Said at the end of January upon a court verdict that some residents considered unfair. Relatives of 21 defendants sentenced to death for involvement in football riots dubbed as the "Port Said massacre" that left over 70 people, mostly young football fans, dead last February, staged protests upon the verdict to express their anger.

Fifty-two more defendants will hear their verdicts on March 9 while football enthusiasts have threatened chaos if they were not satisfied with the outcome.

On Sunday, hundreds of residents started a civil disobedience, demanding justice and an apology from the president and his administration for what they believe is negligence of their demands.

In an attempt to contain the violence, the president had declared a state of emergency in three coastal governorates, including a curfew.

Raged residents have also been staging protests across the governorate, chanting slogans against the Islamist president and his administration.

Hundreds of football fans succeeded on Sunday to prevent some employees and workers from going to work, rallying in front of the province's governmental office with some relatives of victims of the recent violence. They demanded justice for the victims; "martyrs", injured and defendants, including treating them like those who fell victim during the 2011 revolt that toppled Hosni Mubarak.

The protesters also asked for a new prosecutor to investigate last February's football violence that followed a match between two local teams.

In similar attempts to attract the attention of the regime to their demands, Ultras youths (hardcore football fans) blocked the Cairo-Port Said train route on Sunday in protest against the state of emergency that Mursi imposed on the governorate.

More workers joined the movement on Monday, including Tersana workers and others in marketing, while many political parties and movements have announced their solidarity with the civil disobedience.

Political parties that have shown solidarity, including Al-Wafd, Al-Masryeen Al-Ahrrar, Al-Nasery, Al-Tagamoa, the April 6 movement and the Revolutionary Socialists, have stressed on the importance of delivering justice and compensation.

Wasat's parliamentarian Hussein Zayed, who is from Port Said, entered an open strike on Monday in protest against what he described as the regime's failure to solve the crisis in Port Said. He blamed President Mursi and his administration for the ongoing civil disobedience for failing to meet the demands of the residents and bring to justice those responsible for the violence that hit the city upon the verdict.

Two other members of the Shura Council, Amr Farouk and Atef Awad, also from the Wasat Party, have joined the strike in solidarity with Zayed, to put pressure on the authorities to listen to the demands of the people.

"Armed popular resistance against foreign aggression in 1956 then popular peaceful resistance against internal injustice now highlights Port Said as Egypt's dignity," said Hamdeen Sabahi in a post on his Twitter account.

Also a member of the National Salvation Front - Egypt's main opposition coalition - George Ishak described on Monday the rage of Port Said residents as "legitimate" pointing to the tens who have fallen victim. He added that until now no forensic reports were conducted and demanded the isolation of the attorney general "for having an agenda."

The civil disobedience is expected to expand even further on Tuesday, to include more workers from the free-zone area and factories, among others.

Eighty percent of schools in Port Said have suspended their classes where attendance is at 50 percent while many markets are closed and streets are empty.

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