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Dusk 4 February 2012 - A few remaining protesters at the junction of Mansour and Mohamed Mahmoud Streets face off CSF forces near the Ministry of Interior.

Photo taken at dusk during an interlude between clashes - smoke lingering from some of the street fires. Protesters were demonstrating over the death of at least 79 football fans, most of them Al Ahly supporters, during a match at Port Said on 1st February 2012.

 

When Al Masry supporters had stormed their stands, the Al Ahly crowd couldn't escape since, according to witnesses, police kept the stadium exit doors locked. Vastly outnumbered by the home crowd many of whom had managed to smuggle knives and other weapons into the stadium, Ahly supporters were clubbed and stabbed while others were killed in the stampede to escape.

 

There was a widespread perception of the involvement of some elements in the police and security forces in their deaths. Al Ahly Ultras ( who suffered the majority of the fatalities ) were said to have been targeted because they had been one of the most organized and effective youth groups involved in the protests in 2011 which led to the overthrow of Mubarak.

 

During the demonstrations which followed in the wake of the stadium tragedy, security forces used both CS and CR gas and they were fired in a very heavy handed way with entire streets being enveloped. Also some CS gas stocks seemed to be carrying dates that suggested they had long outlived their "safer usage period."

 

Some ten days later I found myself sharing a prison van with an Ahly supporter whose head and right arm were heavily bandaged. I had been detained on 5 February while photographing the clashes.

 

He said that on the way back by train to Cairo he had been arrested and was now facing a murder charge. He was a reserved and polite young man who didn't strike me as a typical football hooligan - certainly not one who would kill and later when I read about what happened I found it even more difficult to believe that he was guilty.

 

My last two memories of him were firstly my reluctance to allow him to carry my prison blanket and the look on his face which said "You think I'm offering to carry this for you so I can take it myself ?" and later during a rare moment when I was allowed out of my cell, standing on the upper landing of the prison atrium and pretending not to hear his friendly greeting from below. Some of my prison-wise cellmates had explained that if I wanted to get out it was best to ignore anyone arrested on any charge which had any sort of political implications.

  

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Taken on February 4, 2012