The Copts in the village of al-Ula Sharqiya in the district of Amriya southwest
Alexandria have come under attack from the local ‘Arabs’, a term commonly used
in Egypt to denote desert dwellers, in the wake of a dispute over a plot of land
owned by the Copt Hamdy Makanouti. The ‘Arabs’ pelted the Coptic villagers,
their homes, shops, and church with stones, rocks, and glass bottles. There were
several minor injuries among the Copts, but Tereza Hanallah, 50, was moved to
hospital with a head injury and has been placed in intensive care.
According to Ramy Qashoue, coordinator of the Maspero Youth Union in
Alexandria, the land in question is 10 feddans wide; it lies adjacent to the village
church of the Holy Virgin and Mar-Girgis (St George) and has been legally owned
by Makanouti since 20 years. Two years ago, Arabs who belong to the local al-
Houthi tribe seized the land. Makanouti attempted to regain it from them in a
peaceful manner through the intervention of other local tribe leaders who enjoyed
good relations with the Houthis, but the attempts failed. Finally, Makanouti went to
court and won a court order to regain his land. That was eight months ago.
The Houthi Arabs refused to execute the court order and demonstrated in large
numbers on the land when the police tried to enforce the law. The police had to
Yesterday, Sunday 20 September, in the morning a police force larger than the
previous one headed to the land to get the court order executed. Again, they were
met with an even larger demonstration of Arabs, this time with their women and
children. The police attempted to disperse the demonstrators with tear gas, but
failed and had to finally withdraw at around 5pm.
An hour after the police withdrew from the site, the Arabs gathered Muslims from
the neighbouring villages and marched against Makanouti, heading towards his
house in al-Ula. They explained off the dispute as one between a Copt and
Muslims and, as such, required Muslim support. On the way they attacked the
Coptic villagers and everything that belonged to them. Finally, the more moderate
tribes of al-Maghawra and Deifallah intervened and stepped in to close all the ways
leading to Makanouti’s house. The police forces could not access the village.
Even though peace has reigned, the Copts are still terrorised and afraid of potential
21 September 2015