National Council for Human Rights (NCHR)
To investigate what happened between the soccer club supporters known as ultras and security forces in September 2011 at the Cairo International Stadium following a match between al-Ahly and and Kima Aswan.
Conducting a site visit and interviewing eyewitnesses including the stadium manager, a stadium custodian, and workers from the surrounding area; visiting six hospitals; and attempting to conduct interviews with police officers and protesters who had been injured during the clash. The fact-finding committee was formed on September 8, 2011.
The fact-finding committee’s report begins with a basic overview largely based on eyewitness testimony of the events that transpired, provides the highlights from interviews with eyewitnesses, and details unsuccessful attempts to speak to participants at nearby hospitals. The committee interviewed the following eyewitnesses: a worker at a shop opposite the Cairo Stadium, the stadium director, a custodian at the stadium, a worker at the subway site in front of the stadium, and various hospital personnel. The committee constructed the following narrative of events based on these interviews:
- On September 7, 2011, soccer clubs al-Ahly and Kima Aswan played at the Cairo International Stadium. According to the report, al-Ahly’s ultras (Ultras Ahlawy) began chanting slogans against the regime of President Hosni Mubarak during the match and then turned their ire onto stadium security.
- Several witnesses reported that fans threw trash, including water and urine, at police officers. The police then decided to evict the fans from the stadium, which led to an outbreak of violence from the ultras. As they were being evicted, the crowd set fire to police and privately owned cars.
- After fans directly attacked one of the police officers, fighting ensued on both sides, despite police being ordered by their fellow officers not to engage (it is unclear who gave the order). Protesters threw Molotov cocktails and broken pieces of pavement. The fighting lasted between 8:30 p.m. and 11:00 p.m., when military reinforcements were called in. The military finally succeeded in dispersing the protesters at about 2:00 or 3:00 a.m.
The fact-finding committee was only able to speak with one participant at Manshiyat al-Bakri Hospital. The man claimed that he was not a protester, but that he had instead been caught up in the violence on his way home. Because most of the injured participants had minor injuries and were dispatched from the hospital the same day, investigators were unable to locate other witnesses to interview.
The report concludes with two recommendations, calling for:
- the implementation of “decisive measures” to combat further outbreaks of violence; and
- reestablishing trust between police officers and the general population by means of improved public relations by emphasizing the importance of the police.
The fact-finding committee’s report depends primarily on eyewitness testimony and physical evidence to construct its narrative, but largely fails to include testimony from those participating in the events themselves: protesters and police officers. Considering that media sources reported that 140 people were injured from both sides, the committee’s failure to interview a single participating protester or police officer raises questions on the fact-finding committee’s narrative and the degree to which it is missing a significant element of the story. The report does not address important questions, such as why the committee could only locate one of over a hundred reported victims to interview. Further, the report’s recommendations are short and vague, calling for “decisive measures” to combat violence without laying out specific details. The tone of the report seems to favor the police’s exoneration by noting their importance to society and by failing to direct any recommendations at them or their practices. International media coverage of the event largely confirms that clashes began when policemen tried to forcibly remove fans. Official government figures from the Ministry of Health report dozens of injuries, a number not included in the report. After the event, Egypt’s Football Association fined al-Ahly for damages and peaceful protests by al-Ahly fans demanded accountability for police violence—neither of which were mentioned in the report. Overall, while the report constitutes an attempt to describe the events based on witness testimony, it entirely fails to incorporate the voices of participants and to identify and address the root causes of the issue, thus significant detracting from its ability to begin to present a comprehensive and forward-looking narrative.
The full text of the report is available in Arabic here.