Five policemen have been injured in the rioting that has been taking place since yesterday in front of the church of Mar-Girgis (St George) in Kom-Ombo, Aswan.
A Kom-Ombo resident who required to remain unnamed told Watani that the rioting is on account of the disappearance of the 35-year-old Muslim woman Sahar al-Touni; rumours were circulated that she had been seen heading to the church. Her neighbours suspect that she was abducted by a Copt—even though no-one, man or woman, was named as abductor—and taken to church. Touni is a divorcee who has a reputation for engaging in numerous relations, so eyewitnesses could not name anyone in specific as the abductor. The Church in Kom-Ombo insists that Touni is not there.
According to Ermiya Naguib, a Coptic resident of Kom-Ombo, Holy Mass was held at Mar-Girgis’s this morning despite the riots outside. The riots, however, escalated largely following the Muslim Friday noon prayers, with hundreds of fresh rioters joining in. They have been hurling stones, rocks, and glass bottles at the church, even as the security forces are working to protect it.
A few days ago saw the eruption of a similar crisis in Wasta, Beni Sweif, some 100km south of Cairo, also on account of the ‘disappearance’ of a young Muslim woman, a student, who goes by the first name of Rana and the initials H. Sh.; since the ‘disappearance’ of a woman in rural Egypt brings disgrace on her family, there is a general reluctance to publicise names. The Salafis in Wasta accused the Church of baptising Rana and keeping her in hiding, and gave the Church and the Wasta Copts an ultimatum that, if they do not hand over the student within three days, they will “pay dearly for it”. No amount of assurances by the Church that it had nothing to do with Rana’s disappearance and knew nothing of where she could be would make the Salafis believe that Rana was not kept by the Church.
Today, Rana’s family announced they received a letter in her handwriting, in which she revealed that she had left home with a Muslim man, Ahmed E. H., and married him. She said that, once the marriage contract was ratified, she would post it online for everyone to see. The family has already allowed the media to publish images of their daughter’s letter.
1 March 2013