On the evening of 5 July, the eve of the Muslim feast of Eid al-Fitr which marks the end of the Holy month of Ramadan, a conference was held by the politicians and security authorities of Amriya, south of Alexandria, to announce conciliation between the Copts and Muslims of the village of al-Beida.
The village had been the scene of an attack by the village Muslims against the Copts on 17 June. The attack was on suspicion that the Coptic villagers intended to turn a house owned by members of their community, the brothers Naeem and Moussa Aziz, into a village church—the village is home to some 1800 Copt and includes no church. Two Copts were injured, a number of Coptic homes plundered and damaged, and two Coptic families were forced out of their homes under the pretext of security.
A number of MPs mediated with Parliament Speaker Ali Abdel-Al and Interior Minister Magdy Abdel-Ghaffar a return of the evicted Copts to their homes, upon which the local security officials forced the Copts to stay home and banned them from leaving their houses. Moreover, Amriya police charged the Copts with rioting, and ordered their arrest.
The Copts, who were the victims of the attack and who had solely incurred the injuries and losses on that score, realised they were being coerced into ‘conciliating’ with the Muslim attackers and therefore, according to the tradition of out-of-court conciliation, relinquishing all their legal rights and accepting whatever terms should be forced upon them. It was, according to the Copt Naeem Aziz, “either we ‘conciliate’ and in the process give up all our rights, or we are kept under house arrest, then caught and prosecuted.”
General Nader Geneidy, Alexandria security chief talked to Naeem Aziz, Moussa Aziz and Hervy Fawzy that they should accepting conciliation with their attackers and no arrests would be made. The day before Eid al-Fitr, a large delegation of the village Muslims visited the Azizes and insisted that some conciliation should be worked out for the sake of peace in the village, especially given that it was Eid so a good time for ‘forgiveness’. “There was no way we could say ‘no’,” Naeem Aziz said, “especially that we had been threatened with police arrest.”
On the evening of 5 July a large marquee was set up in front the building which hosts the community centre of the church of the Holy Virgin and the Archangel Michael, and on the ground floor of which the Aziz families take temporary residence. This was the house on account of which the Muslims had attacked the Copts, claiming the Copts intended to turn it into a church.
The conciliation session was held under the marquee. Participating were a large number of village Copts and Muslims; the Aziz and Fawzy families; Father Boqtor Nashed; MP Reda Nassif; and Khaled al-Saqqa, superintendent of Amriya police station.
The village Muslims made a formal apology to the wronged Copts and offered to pay compensation, but the Copts refused the money offered. Both parties signed papers giving up their legal rights. According to MP Nassif attempts are ongoing to legalise the status of the community centre building which, under the pretext of security reasons, is now closed. The Copts had attempted to include the opening of the community centre within the conciliation terms, but they were not allowed to do so and were told that this concerns the State and the Church and ought not be resolved by individuals.
7 July 2016