5 - 11 August 1999
Issue No. 441
|Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875|
Egypt Region International Economy Opinion Culture Profile Focus Interview Features Travel Living Sports Time Out Chronicles People Cartoons Letters
National furyRESPONDING to public fury at last week's humiliating defeat of Egypt's national soccer team by Saudi Arabia in the Confederations Cup being held in Mexico, President Hosni Mubarak has ordered the concerned sports bodies to prepare an urgent report explaining the reasons for the fiasco. Mubarak has announced that those found responsible will be punished.
The extent of the anger and disappointment felt by Egyptians is perhaps best illustrated by the unfortunate death of two men in Alexandria early Friday morning. Both men, one a retired employee and the other an artisan, died as a result of heart attacks brought on by news of the defeat.
Alexandria was also the scene of several fights between angry viewers and the owners of coffee-shops where the match -- broadcast by the satellite television network, ART -- was being shown. Viewers, disappointed by the defeat, wanted their money back and put up a fight when coffee-shop owners refused to reimburse them. Some coffee houses charged up to LE20 per person to watch the match.
The popular wrath was a far cry from the ecstatic reception accorded the national team when they came home victorious from the African Nations Cup in 1998. This year, only riot police and security forces were at Cairo Airport to meet the national team upon its return, to protect them from a potentially ugly public reception. (see pp.15&17)
Heresy clamp-downA MINOR was sentenced to three years' imprisonment for his involvement with a heretical Islamic sect. The Alexandria court which passed the sentence last Sunday said no leniency would be shown to 17-year-old Ibrahim El-Sayed Ibrahim because he was a minor, hoping that the sentence would "serve as a lesson to other children attacking religion".
Ibrahim was sentenced days after the sect's leader, Mohamed Ibrahim Mahfouz, was handed down a five-year prison sentence, along with seven of his followers. Eight more members received jail terms of one year. The minor, who was tried in a special sitting of the court, was found guilty of making a pilgrimage to the "prophet" Mahfouz's home and claiming to have seen a "divine light radiating from his body".
Mahfouz allegedly taught his followers he was God Incarnate, that they should pray while looking in the direction of his home city of Alexandria rather than Mecca, as required by Islam, and that they should only pray twice a day, rather than the five times ordained by Islam.
Of a total of 20 alleged members arrested in December, only 14 have been sentenced.
Jewellers riotIT ALL BEGAN when a police officer attempted to break up a fight between the families of a prospective bride and groom in the jewellers market at the Delta city of Mahala Al-Kubra. The families could not agree on a marriage gift and got into a fight. The police intervened and, to break up the brawl, fired warning shots in the air. A 21-year-old jeweller was shot dead by mistake.
At the funeral, inhabitants of the area and shop owners from the jewellers market began rioting, stoning the police station and chanting anti-police slogans. The riot resulted in the destruction of 11 cars and the arrest of three rioters. The arrests only aggravated the situation, as many traders in the jewellers quarter closed their shops in protest at the death of their colleague, demanding that the area be cleared of policemen.
AIDS updateTHE NATIONAL anti-AIDS programme announced last Saturday that Egypt had recorded 1,155 cases of AIDS since 1996. According to the director of the programme, Nasser El-Sayed, 420 of the sufferers were foreigners and of the 735 Egyptians, 350 had died.
According to information released by the programme, which comes under the Ministry of Health and was established in 1986, most infections were the result of sexual activity or blood transfusions.
Among the measures adopted by the government to deal with the killer disease, a hotline was set up in 1996 to provide information and encourage people to share their fears. UNICEF helped by setting up a modern screening laboratory for the HIV virus in a government hospital in Cairo two years ago.