Friday, February 01, 2013

On the Ultras, Port Said Massacre and Mohammad

"It's really insane how death has become very normalized now in Egypt that people don't really react to it anymore the way they are supposed to. A massacre happens after another, and a battle after another, hundreds of young people die and thousands get injured and military jailed, and next day they clean up the streets -or the stadiums now- and people continue to hang out in the same places as if nothing has happened!  

Does this mean that If I died one day in one of those clashes I will become "a number" in the inaccurate records of the Egyptian ministry of health and people will soon forget about me?

Is martyrdom now just a number that might be mentioned briefly or not in the headlines of a couple articles in Al- Ahram or Al- Akhbar state newspapers and that's it?

On the left Anas 14 years old the youngest victim of Port Said Massacre
Was suffocated to death in the stadium.

For me this 14 year old middle school kid who looks like my young cousin Omar was not just a number I will forget about. He was a student and a young revolutionary who went to see a football game in his free time and came back murdered! Why on earth would something like this happen?! Why allow these innocent kids to get involved in dirtiness of your political games?!

He was a human being, a young boy who had friends, family and dreams about a better place. Imagine how many similar stories are out there? And how many will continue to come? Do I want to see my little brother in this place?!"*

*Feb 2012 between California and Michigan

As I was going crazy, trying to talk to myself the things nobody around me that time seemed to understand or feel, I wrote this note above as a draft to myself back in February 2012 when I was stuck between either staying in California or going to Michigan right after the Port Said Massacre happened. I was recalling the "Battle of the camel" that happened the same day last year when I got the news.

I knew that Mohammad, my younger brother, wanted to travel with Al Ahly like he did several times before, but this time, only due to God's mercy, he didn't go.

The same night 3 am he went to Cairo's railway station to meet his friends who came back from Port Said injured, covered in blood and tears, and traumatized from what they have seen and witnessed. Later, we had a long Skype call and for the first time he sounded very scared, shocked and sad to me and he is not the kind of a person who would express such feelings.

Cairo's central railways station upon the arrival of the Ultras survivors of Port Said Massacre. People went to the station to support them and protest the massacre.

I can't describe how I was feeling with all the bloody images I saw coming from the stadium, the Skype calls that lasted for hours between me and my brother and sister with the three of us crying in shock, the reactions of SCAF and the police, the shameful media coverage in the west and the coldness of people around me. 

Unlike many other tragedies, this event especially was a wake up call on so many levels based on which I decided that it was time for me to come back home from the U.S. 

"They closed the doors on us to kill us" One of the eyewitnesses leaves a message with his phone number

The police standing next to what seems to be the attackers 

For the first time in a while I began to reflect deeply again on my definitions and meanings for life, death, revolution, martyrdom, family, home, and love in my own life. I realized that I need to reconsider many of them. 

What made things worse and made me feel like "What-am-I-really- doing- here" was seeing the cold and inappropriate reactions of Americans around me. It shocked me how everyone fell into the trap of receiving the news merely as "Hooligans riots", while ignoring all the political/historical sides to what happened.

Even when I said my brother was there, talked to the survivors, and I know these people from back home, I wasn't any convincing to anyone.  

(Maybe now people elsewhere know a bit more about the ultras but at this time there was absolutely nothing substantial on the idea and their role in the revolution in English). 

After surviving Maspero in October 2011 right before I went to the U.S I decided that I want to leave Egypt and I don't want to die in a lost cause. 
After Port Said in February 2012 I was more convinced with this but decided that I should also be there to make sure my younger brother is safe too.

Since a long time it wasn't about the uprising anymore, I just wanted to be with Mohammad and these kids.

I was eager to get their stories out, and possibly be their voice to the western world and the western media that reduced them to "Hooligans" who're killing each other over a football game just like how they dehumanized us in the battle of the camel the same day one year ago. 

But I knew them for years very well.
I knew they have a long history with exposing the corruption of the police.
They come from low/middle income backgrounds. 
They don't speak English and don't like media attention.
They're working and moving as one block.
They're not fooled by the political games taking place.
They're mostly under 20 in a country controlled by 70 year old folks. 
They're not big with using personal Facebook and twitter accounts to promote themselves.
And most importantly they're not on TV screens talking in English about their heroic roles in the protests like the rest of the celebrity activists.

In several historical occasions the Ultras were as committed and significant to what happened in Egypt as Mohammad yet, they're all unknown to the rest of the world and that killed me. 

Since I came back home I tried my best to be present in their events, take pictures, or translate online content and try to convince "Media professionals" to do something on them with little success. This is some of what I have documented and published about them on my page:


2012 March the 15th:
The Ultras start their direct action and mobilization for the Port Said case.

2012 March the 30th: The Ultras start a sit in outside of Parliament to pressure for the investigations on Port Said case 


2013 January the 18th: The Ultras march all over Cairo and Giza to remind people with the Port Said Verdict. 

Today is the first anniversary of the massacre and the Ultras will be outside of Al Ahly club to commemorate the martyrs. I think I will be there for this to witness this moment with people I can relate to.

It's been a long time since I went to any event with the intention of participation. I have been observing closely but I don't want to be part of anything that's taking place in the name of the uprising, and I have a lot to say about it. 

One day I'm hoping to sit down and record everything I want to let the world know about the Ultras and Port Said but it looks like this will have to wait, too.


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