Egypt is still playing football
Pressure mounts in Egypt at the end of a long week of violent clashes that threatened the country’s peaceful revolution. The start up of the third year of a revolution that sought to peacefully create change adds hundreds of dead and injured and warns of more violence to come. Developments are rapid and the picture is confusing as many try to understand the complex reality. A nationwide call to fill up the ‘Tahrir’ squares around the country on Friday escalates the pressure placed on the president and his brotherhood party to come to an acceptable political format for shared power. Political initiatives from both sides are rapidly evolving.
Last week, the president declared a state of emergency in three governorates of the Canal Zone; Port Said, Ismailia and Suez where the clashes had erupted. Army vehicles, armored trucks and tanks rolling down the streets of the country are once more a common sight. In defiance of a curfew declared in the three areas, hundreds of protestors marched the streets throughout the night, forcing officials to ease curfew hours.
The violent episodes followed a court ruling sentencing 21 young men to death on account of the football massacre in Port Said last year that rendered 74 young fans dead. Egypt is still playing political football, in a game where teams compete and sometimes even resort to violence just to win. Meanwhile, the game on the ground has taken a serious turn. Whole areas of downtown Cairo have been fogged in tear gas on account of violent clashes with police forces and reports of snipers and use of live ammunition to kill and injure many around Tahrir Square and in the streets close to the Garden City area have almost threatened the start of a street war. Commonplace attempts to halt the city’s metro lines for a few hours, block the main bridges with burning tires or blazing fires scattered throughout the city have been effective in casting a mood of apprehension among Egyptians and has certainly called the government and the president to attend to their responsibilities of managing the country.
The opposition has been playing tough and using the violent developments to pressure President Mohamed Morsi and his aides to start a meaningful dialogue and give in to their demands. In their latest initiative, brokered under the auspices of The Grand Sheikh of Al Azhar, they all signed a decree to denounce violence and lead the way to dialogue. Other initiatives from the salvation front and the’ Nour’ Salafist party have been announced. Much of the debate is happening away from the public eye. The sense is that the street mobilization of Friday’s protests is much needed to continue the pressure on the ruling Muslim Brother Hood and the president to conceded to the demands of the opposition and the revolution.
The next few weeks could see a major change in the course of events as it would be difficult to conceive of preparations for Egypt’s upcoming parliamentary elections under the current situation. The latest developments did not go unnoticed by the international community, who is looking for assurances for possible future investment in Egypt.