People gather at Cairo’s Fostat park to mark the one year anniversary since deadly violence that claimed the lives of at least 19 football fans
Members of Ultras White Knights gathered in a Cairo park on Monday 8 Feruary 2016 to “claim the rights” of at least 19 people killed last year while trying to make their way into a football game.
The widely popular Egyptian sporting club Zamalek was about to play against Enppi, in a football game scheduled for the night of 8 February 2015. Members of Ultras White Knights, ardent supporters of Zamelek, and other Zamalek fans had gathered in large numbers outside the stadium but they found an unusual setup. A metal gate was built outside the stadium, which many of Zamalek’s fans died trapped within. The exact details which led to the deaths remain contested.
While the interior ministry said large numbers of Zamalek fans attempted to storm the stadium, the ultras group said police “initiated firing teargas towards fans” gathered outside the stadium. Instead of being consumed with the game and supporting Zamalek, Ultras White Knights’ started sharing the images of bodies laying side by side on the floor. The group believes that the deadly violence is a “perfect crime”.
In tribute to the deceased, Ultras White Knights’ media group released a song called, “open up, we are dying,” the final cries of the football fans who died inside the metal cage. The same words are now being used to circulate a hashtag on Twitter to mark the passing of one year since the incident.
Dozens of Ultras White Knights gathered at the Fostat park in Cairo “in the name of every mother whose heart burned over the parting of a son, a father or a brother.”
The Zamalek-Enppi game was eventually played, only 40 minutes after its scheduled time. The next day, the Egyptian Football Association announced the indefinite suspension of all football activity. The suspension lasted for nearly two months, after which games were resumed without spectators. The day after the deadly violence, Egypt’s prosecutor accused the football fans of blocking a road and torching two police cars.
About a month after the fatal affair, Egyptian prosecutors accused the Muslim Brotherhood of coordinating with the ultras group to carry out acts of violence ahead of the game and referred 16 people to trial.
The prosecution said the Muslim Brotherhood funded ultras members and provided them with explosive materials. A total of 16 defendants were charged with murder, vandalism, resisting the authorities and the possession of explosive materials in an ongoing trial, whose next hearing is scheduled for 14 February 2016.
Ultras White Knights said in a statement issued Sunday that they also wished to hold a memorial inside the sporting club, but hurled accusation at the club’s administration, reflecting a long history of issues between the group and the club’s management.
Today’s gathering which marks one year since the deaths outside the football game was peaceful, an eyewitness told Aswat Masriya, adding that the organisers had received police approval before they held the protest and that police only checked people’s bags before they entered the park.
Families of those who were lost a year ago, joined in as the mourners chanted “in paradise oh martyr” and carried signs reading “open up, we are dying.”