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Egypt: More Protests Likely On Anniversary Of Port Said Disaster

Renewed protests remain likely across Egypt this Friday to mark the anniversary of the Port Said football riots.
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A night-time protest in Port Said on 3 February 2012. Photograph by Ahmed Mahdy/Nada Salem.

After a football game between two domestic clubs on February 1, 2012, football supporters clashed in Port Said leaving 74 people dead. A recent court verdict on 26 January found 21 of the accused guilty and sentenced them to death. The verdict sparked violent civil unrest in Port Said among supporters of the accused, leaving approximately 40 people dead.

The verdict-related violence also coincided with anti-government demonstrations. These demonstrations began on 25 January, marking the second anniversary of the 2011 Egyptian uprising. The worst affected areas included central Cairo, Suez and Ismailia, where a number of people were killed and wounded in clashes with police. Large disruptive protest gatherings also occurred in Alexandria.

In response to the unrest, President Mohammed Morsi declared a 30-day state of emergency and night-time curfew from 21:00 to 06:00 local time in Port Said, Suez and Ismailia. The curfew has been widely ignored by protesters in these areas, who have continued to gather publicly in defiance of it. The security forces have also failed to enforce the curfew order. In response, Morsi has reportedly directed governors in the affected areas to begin to relax the curfew times.

Further demonstrations are anticipated for Friday February 1. Supporters of the victims of the Port Said disaster may hold commemorative rallies in Cairo, while supporters of the accused may intensify protest action in Port Said. Opposition political groupings are also expected to resume their gatherings that Friday, a traditional protest day. Likely gathering points include prominent public squares across the country, including in Cairo and Alexandria, and near government buildings, mosques and universities.

Significant protests are not anticipated in major resort towns or areas along the southern Sinai Peninsula or central and southern Red Sea coastlines. It should be noted there is a high threat of violence at all street protests in Egypt. Although foreign nationals are not usually directly targeted during periods of unrest, the incidental threat to persons in the vicinity of demonstrations is high.

By Andre Colling, analyst at red24.

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