Egypt has declared a 30 day state of emergency in the cities of Port Said, Suez and Ismalia, following days of political and social unrest. From Monday evening a curfew will also be imposed on the three cities, forcing residents to stay off the streets from 09:00 in the evening until 06:00 in the morning.
The Origins of the Deadly Violence in Egypt
Riots began in Port Said on Saturday when a court issued death sentences for a group of football hooligans who had been involved in a large riot last year. Over two days of violence in Port Said at least 40 people are thought to have died.
This angry response to a court decision soon combined with general anger towards President Mohamed Mursi. Political unrest had already been running high since the anniversary of the Egyptian uprising on Friday, when protests against the President had turned violent in Cairo’s famous Tahrir Square. Many of the ‘revolutionary youth’ who played a leading part in the uprising two years ago where drawn from groups of soccer supporters.
Unrest soon spread from Port Said to the nearby cities of Suez and Ismalia, whilst protests continued in the capital Cairo.
Protesters are angry with the President because they say he does not represent the whole of Egypt, and that he has hijacked a democratic revolution for his own Islamist agenda.
Protesters in Cairo’s Tahrir Square clashes with security services for the fourth consecutive day on Sunday. Police again fired tear gas at stone throwing protesters, who have been camped out in the Square for weeks and are calling for President Mursi to resign. There are also reports of fresh clashes close to the square on Monday.
Following the President’s declaration of a state of emergency, thousands of protesters took to the streets in port Said, Ismailia, and Suez on Sunday.
In Ismalia police fired tear gas at protesters as violence continued overnight on Sunday evening and Monday morning.
Talks Due for Monday
President Mursi, who as made it clear that he will not hesitate to take further action against protesters as necessary, has called for a ‘national dialogue’ to find solutions to the current political turmoil. Mursi’s Islamist allies will join him on Monday at 6pm local time (16:00 GMT) to meet with a leading members of the opposition and prominent liberal and left-wing political groups to discuss solutions to the crisis.
Most opposition leaders have already signalled that they will attend the talks, including the National Salvation Front – the main opposition party. Many have also expressed skepticism over the effectiveness of such talks, however.
“Unless the president takes responsibility for the bloody events and pledges to form a government of national salvation and a balanced committee to amend the constitution, any dialogue will be a waste of time,” said Mohamed ElBaradei via Twitter.
Not everyone will attend the meeting, however. Hamdeen Sabahy, a leading member of the National Salvation Front and former Presidential candidate has said that he will not be present “unless the bloodshed stops and the people’s demands are met.”