The American University in Cairo (AUC) declared Sunday, 5 February, a day of mourning for those who died in last week’s football violence in Port Said and to honour AUC student Omar Mohsen who was killed – along with scores of others – in the incident.
“The university will not be the same now that Omar is gone," said a friend of the victim at a memorial service held at the university on Sunday.
Twenty-year-old Omar had been scheduled to graduate this year with a degree in economics. He had been an active member of the “Ultras Ahlawy,” a term used to describe hardcore fans of Egypt’s Ahly football club, who have come to play a prominent role in post-revolution political activism.
“I remember Omar’s strong voice chanting during the workers’ strike,” Waleed Shebl, head of AUC’s independent workers syndicate, recalled. “He would always support me whenever life got too hard.”
Last year, AUC students staged a mass strike to protest rising tuition costs and perceived exploitation of university workers.
At the memorial service, Tunisian professor Karim Seghir recalled his own fond memories of Omar.
“He always teased me that Ahly was better than [Tunisian football team] Sfaxi,” said Seghir. “Today I admit Ahly is the best team in Africa. For you, Omar, we’re all Ahlawiya [Ahly fans].”
“I will never forget how violently he was killed,” said Sherif Abu Nagi, an official at the hospital at which Omar succumbed to his injuries. Abu Nagi vowed to name a room in the hospital’s cancer ward after Omar.
AUC President Lisa Andreson, for her part, promised that the university would consult with human rights organisations with a view to taking legal action against those found responsible for last week’s football violence. She went on to say that an annual award for athletic accomplishment and a sports scholarship would both be named after the slain student.
AUC students also requested that a hall in the university, once known as Suzanne Mubarak Hall after Egypt’s former first lady, be renamed after Omar.
“Omar’s rights will not be forgotten; martyrs’ rights will not be forgotten,” said student Mohamed Meligy, visibly moved. “We won't leave the stadium, the square or the university. We will not stop until we realise Omar's dream of freedom."
Some members of the audience responded by chanting, “Down with military rule!"