Violence has returned to Cairo’s iconic Tahrir Square, birthplace of the January 25 Revolution that toppled the 31-year regime of former President Hosni Mubarak in 2011.
Tensions were high as the second anniversary of the revolution came around, with the general populace realizing that although a new Islamist government is in power — comprised of those who for years had been locked away in prisons by the former regime — not much has really changed. The economy is dragging, unemployment is, if anything, even higher, and government repression more brutal than ever. A new constitution has been written and approved — but none of the those who oppose the Islamist regime had anything to do with its creation or approval. Those who disagree with actions taken by the current administration, as in the past, also tend to face disagreeable consequences — some more serious than others.
In response, a groundswell of grassroots protest is again beginning to form.
Clashes broke out over the weekend across the country after 21 people were sentenced to death for their role in violence last year between rival football teams. A total of 73 people are on trial for causing the stampede that left 74 people dead at a stadium in Port Said.
Since Friday, thousands have flooded into the streets of major cities throughout the country, including the nation’s capital, Cairo, as well as Alexandria and elsewhere.
At least 41 protesters were killed in the clashes with police in Cairo as the city enters its fourth day of violence, with demonstrators hurling rocks at police, who fired tear gas canisters in response.
Anti-government protesters opposing Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi were struck by tear gas on Saturday during clashes with riot police along Mohamed Mahmoud street, which leads to the Interior Ministry, near Tahrir Square. Egypt’s National Defense Council, headed by the president himself, on Saturday condemned street violence. The Council issued a statement calling for national dialogue to resolve political differences, the information minister said after the council met.
At least 32 others were killed in Port Said, sources said.
Among the dead are several football players, according to the British-based Independent newspaper, including Abdel-Halim al-Dizawi, a player for Al-Marikh, and Tamer al-Fahla, a former player for local Port Said team al-Masri. Both were shot to death by police.
In Port Said, two police officers were killed, and more than 200 people were injured in the riots, the Health Ministry reported.
Armored vehicles and military police were deployed on the streets “to establish calm and stability in Port Said and to protect public institutions,” according to a general quoted by the state MENA news agency.