Saturday, February 23, 2013

Old Port Said, New Port Said

National Geographic, as part of its very recent effort to look at the news through its archive, just published this photo of Port Said's "Arab Quarter" in the 1920s, along with an account of recent events.

Port Said, it will be recalled, was chiefly a European city, at the Mediterranean entrance to the Suez Canal. National Geographic tells us that the Port Said soccer team, Al Masry, at the center of the current unrest, was founded in 1920. Prior to that, "Port Said's football clubs were made up mostly of European expats who were part of the city's boom: Scottish canal engineers, French bankers, and Greek tobacconists."

Meanwhile, Erin Cunningham reported on Port Said's ongoing general strike in today's Global Post. She tells us that Port Said's residents have adopted a new, and rather novel, in confronting the state and its security forces: non-violent resistance.

“Attacking the police is a losing game — especially with the lives already lost,” said Port Said resident Mahmoud Naguib, a 23-year-old activist member of April 6, a political movement formed in 2008 to support striking workers in the town of Mahalla. “The state is accustomed to this,” he added. “So civil disobedience is a much better tool — the economic losses are immense.”

The tactic is novel in that the previous rounds of confrontation have all involved considerable violence. Given that football fans are a key element of Port Said's opposition movement (at least if the report by James Dorsey, which I cited yesterday, is to be believed), it will be interesting to see whether this form of protest will be sustained, given the very confrontational stance of Egypt's footbal ultras towards the police. 

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