Wednesday 25 May Anba Makarius, Bishop General of Minya issued a statement explaining the attacks that were waged against the Copts of the village of al-Karam in Abu-Qurqas, Minya, some 250km south of Cairo. The statement said:
“The unfortunate events started in the village of al-Karam, 4km from the town of al-Fikriya in Abu Qurqas, after a rumour spread about an affair between a Christian man and a Muslim woman. The Christian man, Ashraf Abdu Attiya [whose real name is Ashraf Danial Attiya but who goes under the name Ashraf Abdu Attiya], was threatened, which led him to leave the village. His parents filed a complaint with the Abu-Qurqas police station on 19 May, declaring that they had received threats that were expected to take effect the following day. The next day a group of some 300 men set off at 8.00pm, armed with various weapons, and broke into the houses of seven Coptic [extended] families. They looted their belongings then set a number of these homes on fire. The losses have been so far estimated at EGP350,000.
“The assaulters also stripped an elderly Christian woman of her clothes, cheering and defaming her in front of a large crowd in the street. Security arrived on the same day at 10pm, and caught six people, and investigations are now underway.
“We are confident that such behaviour cannot be condoned by any honourable citizen. We also trust that the State apparatuses will not just look on. We thank in advance the security apparatuses, and we are confident that they will spare no effort to catch all those involved [in the attack] and hold them accountable.”
Old woman stripped and beaten
Word of the assault against the Coptic woman, Suad Thabet, aged around 70 [older women in rural areas in Egypt often posses no birth certificates, so their ages are difficult to determine accurately], who is the mother of Ashraf Attiya, had got to the media, and was vocally condemned by the Coptic public who responded in shock, horror, and rage. Thabet made an official complaint with the police, stating that she was assaulted inside her home, dragged out to the street and stripped naked, after which three men gave her a cruel beating. A crowd of supporters looked on. She identified the three men who beat her up as Nazeer Ishaq Ahmad, the husband of the Muslim woman alleged to have had an affair with Thabet’s son; Ishaq Ahmad, the Muslim woman’s father-in-law; and Abdel-Moniem Ishaq Ahmad, her brother-in-law
Minya police has detained five suspects and is looking for another 18 who the prosecution has ordered arrested.
The incident has caused widespread anger among the Copts who demanded that Minya governor and security chief be taken to account. The Egypt Council of Churches and a number of Coptic organisations inside and outside Egypt have condemned the incident in strong language, and demanded that justice should be served. Many Copts as well as activists demanded the dismissal of Minya governor and security chief for their responsibility in what was termed ‘security failure to protect the Copts to the point of allowing the appallingly disgraceful assault of an old woman, stripping and beating her while no one came to the rescue’.
Minya MP Magdy Melek told Watani that he had called Interior Minister Magdy Abdel-Ghaffar to complain against the incident and to demand an end to the rampant practice of Coptic communities being collectively punished for a violation, or the mere rumour of a violation, committed by a Coptic individual. Mr Melek said the Interior Minister agreed that the practice was totally unacceptable and should never be tolerated by the police. He promised that the recent Minya incident would be thoroughly investigated, and that justice would be served.
A young Coptic reporter, Remon Nagy, created a hashtag under the title ‘Egypt has been stripped naked’. In a few hours it gathered more than 3000 followers.
26 May 2016