Viewpoint: Egyptian riot deaths reflect need for peace, democracy

By Ashley Davis
News Editor

Last Wednesday more than 73 people died in a riot during a soccer game in Port Said, Egypt. This tragedy has been dubbed one of the bloodiest game riots since a similar event in Guatemala in 1996.

There have been many such cases all over the world of irate, drunken hoards of fans collectively deciding to wreak havoc and violence on innocent bystanders over their displeasure at the outcome of a sporting event. Granted, the two teams in Egypt were historical rivals and soccer is the equivalent of American football in that country.

However, the fact that a seemingly good-natured event, designed to unite and entertain people, can turn into a literal warzone so quickly is baffling to say the least. Investigators say that the viciousness of the rioters was largely impacted by the tension between the newly instated military-led government and discontented revolutionaries. Further reports say the police covering the game did nothing to prevent the violence.

In contrast to the aforementioned situation, a group of displeased union rioters in Indiana over the recent passing of the Right to Work Act in the state legislature were suspected of plotting to disturb this weekend’s Super Bowl over the issue. The act was signed by Gov. Mitch Daniels within hours of clearing the State Senate. In a New York Times article describing the incident, Republicans go on to explain that the bill was passed so quickly because of perceived threats to disturb the game. This just goes to show that Americans would never miss the fourth quarter of the biggest football game of the year, even over a prevalent political controversy.

After noticing the striking contrast between these two situations I couldn’t help but thank God I live in the United States, and that our country is stable enough to endure political pressures for the duration of at least a whole game. It is atrocious that a simple game can turn into bloodshed, and it is an even larger crime that the police force did nothing to initially quench the violence. The locker rooms in the stadium turned into makeshift hospital wards in the middle of the game. Apparently Egypt doesn’t do anything by halves lately.

Right now there are families and friends of 73 people from Port Said who lost someone over a chance encounter or a freak accident. What was the meaning of it? Can the Egyptian government justify this lack of humanity? No. U.S. political and social problems are nowhere near perfect, nor will they ever be. Yet there is something to be said for the tradition of democracy we have inherited.

In Egypt we are seeing the rebirth of a country in a world already past its prime. From the past we learn our mistakes and do our best not to repeat them. Now that Hosni Mubarak is gone and the path is clear for peaceful reform, it’s time the people of Egypt took it in earnest.

There will always be scuffles and bad blood over sporting events. But when a scuffle escalates to a massacre, something fundamental in the society is at stake. Whether the Egyptian government or a crowd of unruly soccer fans/revolutionaries be at fault, the time is now to start thinking and acting like a peaceful, democratic nation. It‘s already too late for 73 people.

Ashley Davis is a junior journalism major from Killeen and is the Lariat’s news editor.