Sometimes, dodging a crime and downplaying its seriousness are as bad as the crime itself. This applies to what was perpetrated by Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi, following the Port Said massacre a day before yesterday.
When Tantawi says “These incidents can happen anywhere around the world” following the killing of 73 citizens - which many testimonies assured they perished in a preconceived massacre carried out in cold blood and with the collaboration of many sides - these statements disregard Egyptians’ blood and insults their intelligence, for which the Field Marshal should be held accountable. Although Tantawi pledged to pursue the perpetrators and pay compensations to the families of the victims, this remains short of the need to adopt the necessary measures to ensure the investigations’ neutrality and transparency. The problem is that the customs and traditions, onto which the head of the military council is holding to keep the army above legal and financial accountability before an elected body, i.e. the People’s Assembly for example, are part of the reason why we believe that it will be difficult to see truth emerging and the role of the security apparatuses in the massacre established.
The testimonies published and aired by Egyptian media outlets and delivered by many people who were present in the Port Said Stadium, pointed to a failure in policing by the security forces. Moreover, there was a lot of talk on radio stations, in the newspapers and on website how the stadium’s doors were allowed a huge number of people to enter and fill the stadium, without being subjected to a minimum level of security measures usually followed in such occasions.
While it would be difficult to reach a decisive assessment in the absence of a professional investigation in regard to what happened, the climate which followed the disaster and what Tantawi tried to spread, regarding the normalcy of the massacre, gave the impression that the incidents – even if indeed it turns out they were not set up in advance – will fall in the hands of sides which will exploit and use them to serve their own political goals.
The timing, location, victims, occasion and audience, i.e. everything even remotely related to the scene of the crime, calls for suspicion. The return of the tensions between the revolution’s youth and the Muslim Brotherhood, the conflict over the upcoming role of the People’s Assembly, the problems facing the presidential elections date and more importantly, the messages which the planners of the crime might have meant to address to the Egyptians and the active factions in particular - namely the “Ultras” who support the Al-Ahly Club and who played a major role in protecting the squares of the revolution - all prompt the belief that there are political goals behind what happened in Port Said. In this context, any talk about the failure of the security forces to prevent the death of this number of victims is unacceptable. There were criminal shortcomings and neglect. That is at least the case in the absence of an underlying intention to kill this many people, which brings to mind the “open and unannounced strike” in which the Egyptian security bodies became engaged as a preemptive measure in the face of any plan aiming at limiting their prevailing presence on the Egyptian scene.
What is hoped is for the judicial investigations not to provide a cover to the murderers, planners and instigators, as it is usually the case in the Arab countries. What is also hoped is for wider factions among the Egyptian people to become aware of the fact that standing midway along the path toward democratic change inevitably means the reproduction of Hosni Mubarak’s regime, with all its perils and disadvantages.
The writer is a columnist at Dar Al Hayat, where this article was first published on Feb 3, 2012.