Instead of celebrating art, El Fan Midan mourns attacks in Egyptian football stadium

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Normally a happy, artful event, El Fan Midan became a podium for demands, cloaked in mourning for those killed in the attacks at the Port Said football stadium.
[Published in Ahram Online]

With Egypt in mourning following Wednesday’s brutal attack on fans in a Port Said stadium that left more than 70 dead and hundreds hospitalised, as well as the continuous wounds and deaths in clashes in front of the ministry of interior, the Coalition for Independent Culture changed the tone of this month’s El Fan Midan to protest and sorrow.Usually the event is full of music, laughter and people expressing themselves in public squares, but the ambiance in this month’s El Fan Midan in Abdeen Square was layered with waves of sadness.

“This is a disaster for all of Egypt,” Basma El -Husseiny, active member of the coalition and director of El-Mawred El-Thaqafi told Ahram Online. “We needed to show our outrage over the events, and our continuous stance against military rule.”

The demands of the coalition are in line with the demands of most of the protests taking place around the country, including: the immediate dissolution of Egypt’s ruling Supreme Council of Armed Forces (SCAF); restructuring of the ministry of interior; restructuring state media; the formation of independent committees to look into the crimes that were committed against protestors since 25 January 2011; ending military trials of civilians and for the court system to stop dragging their feet in prosecuting ex-regime officials.

This time, the air in El Fan Midan lacked the charm of any musical notes.

A photography exhibition collected Egyptian graffiti, which the photographer, Shady Youssef uses to help raise money for El Fan Midan through his sales.

The Coalition for Youth of Fine arts designed a large memorial to the Ultras Ahly, who were attacked in the stadium. On the asphalt they graffiti’ed an Ultras Ahly chant, which they got in coordination with the fan group.

“As long as I’m alive I will not stop supporting my team” read the graffiti. They added outlines of the dead and dramatic drawings of policemen drowning in blood.

 

Analysing the attacks and media coverage

As the attacks were happening, Egyptian state TV described it as Masry (Port Said’s football team) fans attacking the Ahly team and fans.

The fact that Masry had won 3-1 at that point makes people suspect, bringing some to conspiracy conclusions.

“What happened was a conspiracy to deliver a message of fear,” asserts Osama Abdel Moneim, a member of the coalition and one of the designers.

“This was organised and planned,” resounded musician Ahmed Ismail, who came to show solidarity.

Filmmaker Amir Ramzis told Ahram Online he believes this was “an obvious game by the SCAF,” which has been holding power in Egypt since Mubrak’s ousting last year.

This past week has witnessed bank robberies, shootings on the streets  – and a conspicuous absence of police. Many believe this to be purposeful to spread fear and chaos following protests marking the year anniversary of Egypt’s revolution on 25 January.

 

El Fan Midan winds down

At sundown, as the Quran played, it was the reading of a poem about Anas – the youngest of the victims of the Port Said football stadium attacks – that brought the crowd to tears. He was only 14 years old, recounts orator Zein El-Abadeen Fouad, who later recited a poem demanding SCAF to leave power.

Renowned political activist, George Ishaak, took the stage and held the SCAF responsible. A native of Port Said, where the football stadium is located, he defended the people of his home town. He delivered the message that Port Said residents are mortified by the attacks. On Friday they held a hundred thousand-strong march where they chanted “We did not kill Egyptians.” Furthermore, they demanded El-Ganzouri’s interim government resign and hold presidential elections right after the Shura Council (upper house) elections taking place this month.

Mohamed El-Adl, one of the founders of the Egyptian Creativity Front and cinema producer also held the SCAF and the ministry of interior responsible saying “You have blood on your hands.”

He concluded that the attack was meant as a punishment against both the people of Port Said and the Ultras Ahly. The Ultras took an active part in the revolution and often defended against police attacks and Port Said also revolted. El-Adl voiced to the media that they should stop calling the attacks “football clashes” because, as he sees it, it is clearly more than that.

Former minister of culture, Emad Abu-Ghazi, was also at the event. He said to Ahram Online that “this is one of the most important events of the coalition,” referring to El Fan Midan.

With regards to the Wednesday violence he described them as a crime. “The people responsible need to be brought to justice,” adding that the country is politically responsible.

The night ended with an open screening of various independent films showing recent events.

These films are screened in a series called Kazeboon (Liars), referring to the government and army generals.

“Since the media lies, we need to show the truth through alternative media,” Fouad said as he introduced the last part of the night.

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