Police in Minya have been detaining Copts from the villages of Nazlet Ebeid and Badraman which both saw sectarian strife during the last week.
The villagers say that the Copts detained have been caught randomly for the purpose of pressuring the Copts into a traditional ‘conciliation’, an out of court settlement which would force them to relinquish all their legal rights. The Copts are so far holding out.
During the early hours of Saturday 30 November, the police broke into the homes of the Copts in Badraman and Nazlet Ebeid and caught eight men from the former and 11 from the latter. The day before, Louis Habib, Nabil Gad, and Nady Soliman from Badraman had been caught.
Eyewitnesses insist none of those caught had anything to do with the riots during which the village Muslims attacked the Copts on Thursday and Friday 28 and 29 November. They bitterly complain of the Muslim Brotherhood influence in the village, and their infiltration of the security apparatus there. They went so far as to claim complicity between the MB and the security officials who have been tyrannising the Copts and at the same time downplaying their losses to the point of claiming “the losses were not extensive” even though some 30 Coptic houses were looted and set on fire.
The Minya villages of Badraman and Nazlet Ebeid had been the scenes of Muslim attacks against the Coptic villagers on account of a rumour of an illicit affair between a Muslim woman and a Coptic man in the former, and a dispute over a piece of land in the latter. Three men lost their lives during the attacks, two Muslims and two Copts.
The Coptic farmer Abdel-Massih Ayyad Fanous, 47, from Nazlet Ebeid was to shot to death Saturday morning while on his way to his field, even though he had nothing to do with the previous day’s riots. The locals insist he was shot merely to even the score of the Coptic/Muslim deaths. Even though this may sound ridiculous to the outside world, it may be plausible in a community where local tradition holds that a Copt may never be allowed to kill or get away with killing a Muslim, but not the other way round.
Ezzat Ibrahim, a local rights activist, complained that the police have been collecting arms and weapons from the Copts in Minya villages but not from the Muslims in the same villages, a move he decries as reeking of sectarian discrimination since it leaves the Copts defenceless before the armed Muslims should any dispute arise. The police has a notorious reputation of arriving on the scene of sectarian violence only after the damage is done.
Coptic youth activists have severely criticised the manner in which the police in Minya handled the recent attacks against the Copts in the villages of Nazlet Ebeid and Badraman, accusing the police of outright complicity with the Muslim attackers. In Badraman especially, where Muslim/Coptic tensions that had risen owing to a rumour of an illicit affair between a Muslim woman and Coptic man had been contained by the village elders, the local Muslim Brothers incited the Muslim villagers to attack the Copts. The result was a vicious rampage against the Coptic villagers; four were seriously injured including the 12-year-old Yvonne Bushra Ikladius who was thrown to the street out of her second-floor home; six Coptic-owned homes and a number of shops were looted and set on fire.
1 December 2013