20 April 2011
Last Monday saw sectarian violence erupt in the southern Egyptian town of Abu-Qurqas in Minya, Upper Egypt.
A series of disputes in different places in the town left two Muslims dead, countless Copts attacked and their houses, shops, businesses, fields and cattle plundered and torched.
It is not clear how the disputes started. According to some Abu-Qurqas residents, a verbal exchange which later turned violent erupted between a young Copt and a Muslim microbus driver on account of the latter harassing some young women passing by. Others say it began as a conflict between the house guards of a villa of a prominent Coptic lawyer and the local residents because of a large speed bump across the road outside the villa. In the meantime, clashes erupted between the two constantly feuding Muslim families of al-Gazzar and Abdel-Qader, leaving two dead. But the village Copts were accused of having committed the crime. A Muslim mob attacked five Coptic-owned houses and burned them after stealing the property and the livestock. They then left for the funeral service of the two dead men, but returned to resume the attacks against the Copts. According to eye-witnesses, neither the police nor two army patrols close by did not move a finger to protect the Copts.
Fifteen Copts were detained for the investigation on the murder of the two Muslims, but no-one was held responsible for the attack against the Copts.
Adly Abdallah, among the village Copts whose house and workshop were robbed and burned said that his father and three brothers had been detained. He said that they had nothing to do with the disputes, but that their houses happened to be in the vicinity of the fighting so they were attacked and, and later accused of the murder.
Abdallah told ++Watani++ that the Copts had nothing to do with the murder, adding that if investigations prove the contrary, the law must be applied and any criminal brought to justice. He bitterly rejected the ‘collective punishment’ meted to the Copts.
Since the military and the police did nothing to protect the Copts or dispel the attack against them, Abu-Qurqas Copts contacted human rights activists and organisations calling for help.
On his part the Coptic rights activist Michael Mounir, head of the Hand in Hand for Egypt association, called Prime Minister Essam Sharaf and asked him to immediately intervene and stop the devastation of Abu-Qurqas Copts and bring the perpetrators to justice before a “real crisis” occurs.