Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi declared a 30 day state of emergency Sunday ordering nighttime curfews in the major cities of Port Said, Ismailia and Suez City after several days of protests against the guilty verdicts of 21 protestors of the original Arab Spring uprising two years ago which ousted former President Hosni Mubarak.
Nearly fifty people have been killed since Friday when the protests turned violent with Egyptian police. Though the protests have been across the country, President Morsi seems to have singled out the three cities along the Suez Canal only.
During his speech, army helicopters could be heard overhead. They could also be heard overhead during local news footage of a funeral in Port Said where tear gas was fired into the funeral procession by a group of masked individuals, with seven more people killed reacting to the tear gas attack and 232 others hospitalized.
President Morsi insisted in his speech that the verdicts in the criminal trial of the soccer fans must be respected along with the rule of law in Egypt. An ironic statement coming from the man who indirectly benefited the most from the social unrest surrounding these major protests two years ago which eventually toppled the Mubarak regime and brought the elections which helped bring Morsi to power.
The guilty verdicts of the 21 soccer fans are to the liking of the Egyptian Army generals and it is likely that Morsi is siding with the generals on this matter in order to maintain the political alliance they forged soon after his swearing in as president.
Morsi’s actions are more likely to increase tensions rather than quell them. There was already a tremendous amount of anger in Egypt over the vote and eventual passage of the new constitution based in Sharia Law. A national referendum on that constitution was marred by voter intimidation resulting in only an estimated 25% voter turnout.
The government of Turkey has expressed ‘deep concern’ and sadness over the violence and death in Egypt and has encouraged restraint on both sides. The Obama Administration has reiterated its wariness of actions in general, which President Morsi has been taking in Egypt.