Suspect Device

Writing by Patrick Keddie

‘Ultras’ fuel Egypt’s campus protests

Ultras Nadawy-UN12 [image from Facebook]

Protests continued on university campuses across Egypt following the court verdict that cleared ousted President Hosni Mubarak of charges of killing protesters during the January 25 uprising.

The protesters comprise a broad mix of Islamists, liberals, leftists, independents and other non-affiliated students. The scale of protests prompted state-owned news website Al-Ahram to describe it as Egypt witnessing “a university uprising”. 

But it was one group of activists that has given a sharper edge to many of the ongoing protests on university campuses across Egypt since the new academic year began on October 11: Ultras Nahdawy.

Ultras are generally known as hard-core football fans, but “Nahdawy” activists are not linked to any team. Most of their original members came from ultras groups supporting Cairo sporting clubs, al-Ahly Club and Zamalek Club.

According to its spokesperson, they formed a new ultras movement during the 2012 presidential campaign to support the Muslim Brotherhood candidate Mohamed Morsi, who later won the election. “We were the first political ultras in Egypt,” the Nahdawy’s spokesperson said.

But it was the escalating repression against students that brought the ultras and students, from across the spectrum, together.

Students have rebelled against a raft of government measures, which include pre-emptive arrests of students, and the banning of political activities and “insulting” the president on campus.

Universities have been given a military makeover, with the installation of steel walls, barbed wire, metal detectors and CCTV, backed by a heavy-handed security presence in and around campuses.

The new measures were designed to prevent a repeat of the anti-government protests that occurred during the last academic year, in which at least 16 students were killed and hundreds arrested.

Ultras in Egypt are renowned both for their fanatical support of their clubs and for their willingness to confront the guns and batons of the security forces.

We took the culture of the ultras in the stadiums and tried to copy and paste it into the street,” said Zizou, a supporter of al-Ahly who declined to give his real name for security reasons.

[Read the rest of the article published by AJE here]

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