Egyptian court bans popular, hardcore ‘ultra’ soccer fan clubs

Updated 16 May 2015

Egyptian court bans popular, hardcore ‘ultra’ soccer fan clubs

CAIRO: An Egyptian court on Saturday banned the country’s hardcore soccer fan clubs, known as “ultras,” over terrorism accusations.
The ultras took part in protests during and after the 2011 uprising, and frequently clash with police in and around stadiums. The ruling by the Court of Urgent Matters in Cairo appeared to be the latest effort by the judiciary to prevent demonstrations.
During the 2011 uprising that forced out President Hosni Mubarak, ultras often provided muscle, directed demonstrators and led chants. They are considered one of the most organized movements in Egypt after the Muslim Brotherhood.
“They see themselves as a buffer, a channel that offers frustrated, despairing hopeless youth a chance to vent pent-up anger, frustration, and protest peacefully, rather than leaving them with the option of either apathy or violence,” said James M. Dorsey, a senior fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies who closely follows the ultras.
He called the ruling a “dangerous gamble” for the government.
The case was filed by Mortada Mansour, the head of the Zamalek Football Club, one of Egypt’s most popular teams. Mansour has long been at odds with his team’s ultras organization, known as the White Knights.
Last month, 11 fans were sentenced to death in a retrial of over 70 defendants accused in a 2012 soccer riot that left 74 people dead. An initial verdict in 2013 set off violent protests by fans in Cairo, who torched a police club and the soccer federation’s headquarters.
Since the 2012 stadium violence, authorities have sharply limited attendance at matches.
“Egyptian soccer clubs are hurting,” Dorsey said. “They’ve either not been playing for the last four years, or a good part of the past four years, or they’ve been doing it in empty stadia.”
Authorities said at least 19 people were killed in February when police fired tear gas into a crowd of fans waiting in a fenced, narrow corridor trying to enter a match. Many of the dead suffocated or were crushed.


Erdogan’s ‘hypocrisy’ over Israel’s land grab in Palestine

Updated 10 min 51 sec ago

Erdogan’s ‘hypocrisy’ over Israel’s land grab in Palestine

  • Turkey is in controversial talks with Israel over mutually beneficial maritime borders in the Mediterranean

ISTANBUL: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan risked accusations of hypocrisy on Monday as he repeated his denunciations of Israel’s occupation and annexations in Palestine while allowing the Israeli airline El Al to resume cargo flights between Tel Aviv and Istanbul.

The first such flight in 10 years landed in Istanbul on Sunday morning to pick up humanitarian aid and protective equipment for US medical teams fighting the coronavirus pandemic.

As the plane touched down, Erdogan was sending a message to US Muslims restating his support for Palestinian rights in Jerusalem and his rejection of Israeli oppression.

“Last week we witnessed that a new occupation and annexation project, which disrespects Palestine’s sovereignty and international law, was implemented by Israel,” he said.

“I would like to reiterate that Al-Quds Al-Sharif, the holy site of three religions and our first qiblah, is a red line for all Muslims worldwide.”

Israel’s new unity government led by Benjamin Netanyahu and Benny Gantz is expected to move forward soon with plans to annex swaths of the West Bank and Jordan Valley.

Meanwhile, as Arab News reported this month, Turkey is in controversial talks with Israel over mutually beneficial maritime borders in the Mediterranean. Erdogan is attempting a risky political balancing act, analysts told Arab News.

“I think Turkey is trying to create economic ties with Israel because the political benefits of blockade and isolation have weakened,” said Ryan Bohl, a Middle East analyst at the geopolitical risk company Stratfor.

“But at the same time, they do want to keep some of that tradition of sympathy for Palestine alive for those remaining supporters who still prize the issue.”