Harassment of Copts in Badraman, Minya

21-10-2012 02:04 PM

Nader Shukry


The cautious calm that has reigned over the towns and villages of Mallawi and Deir Muwwas in Minya, Upper Egypt, since the death last Sunday of the gang leader Holako, has been interrupted by incidents of stone-throwing at Coptic homes, and harassment of Coptic students as they left school in the village of Badraman.

The cautious calm that has reigned over the towns and villages of Mallawi and Deir Muwwas in Minya, Upper Egypt, since the death last Sunday of the gang leader Holako, has been interrupted by incidents of stone-throwing at Coptic homes, and harassment of Coptic students as they left school in the village of Badraman. This, despite the heavy security presence in the area. 

A member of the Badraman Umda’s (Mayor) family, his brother Anwar Moussa, demanded that the police should catch the culprits who are currently terrorising the entire village; no one can be sure whether or not the trivial attacks are harbinger to more serious ones. The Moussas, a Muslim clan, had lost two of their sons at the hands of the Holako gang, in revenge for their defence of Badraman Copts. Moussa told Watani that the villagers have been receiving SMS messages on their cell phones threatening to avenge Holako’s death.

Copts targeted

For almost two years, since the eruption of the 25 January 2011 Revolution and the subsequent security breakdown, the serial killer and criminal Ali Hussein, who went by the dread name of Holako, waged a wave of non-ending crimes against Copts in Minya villages.  The Copts made easy prey since their protection did not appear to be a priority with the authorities. Holako and his gang turned the life of the Copts of the village of Badraman into living hell with beatings, rape, kidnappings, arson, tribute money, and seizure of land and property, as well as murders—Holako has to his credit the death of eight Copts. He did not spare Muslims either, especially those who stood against him, but it was the Copts who bore the full brunt of his savagery. Many Copts fled their homes and livelihoods, and were forced to relocate elsewhere for fear of Holako’s savagery.

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Holako was shot dead last Sunday in a fight that broke out between his gang and the Coptic clan of Awald Marzouq when he kidnapped one of their women. Two Marzouqs were also shot dead in that fight, and two others were seriously injured.

Threats

Once Holako died, however, his family and gang began threatening the Copts of the Minya villages of Badraman, Nazled Abdel-Massih, and Ezbet Awlad Marzouq—the scenes of his notorious crimes—with revenge. Fliers were distributed in the streets rallying Muslims to take action following Friday prayers against the Copts who, according to the fliers, cast Ali in the “false” light of a criminal and themselves as victims, and finally killed him. The flier alleged that the security authorities had succumbed to Coptic cries and left the Muslims unprotected, the result being that the Copts killed a Muslim. 

The Copts cried for police protection. The acting patriarch Anba Pachomeus demanded of the Interior Ministry that it should shoulder its responsibility and defend the Copts, especially in light of the threats they had been receiving.

Demonstrations started in Mallawi last Friday right after Friday prayers, led by the family and gang members of Holako. 

The Friday demonstrations were centred in the Minya town of Mallawi where the demonstrators lifted banners with the picture of Hussein who was labelled a “martyr”, and shouted Islamic cries hostile to Copts. They hurled stones at the security forces who themselves retaliated with stone-throwing, then resorted to tear gas to disperse the demonstrators. Since the number of demonstrators did not exceed some 400, the situation was quickly contained. Passers-by were critical of the protest, and criticised the attempt by Holako’s supporters to cast the notorious criminal in a favourable light. 

Friendly fire?

Watani visited the villages of Badraman, Nazlet Abdel-Massih, and Ezbet Awald Marzouq, all of which were under heavy security protection. At Awlad Marzouq, a hamlet of some seven Coptic homes, the houses were all pockmarked by the traces of the firearms used in last Sunday’s fight. We were led to house that was the scene of Holako’s crime; bullet pockmarks and hardened blood could still be seen spattered all over the second floor of the house the gang had broken into. A small table lay with the residue of fruit the victims had been eating.

Salah Girgis Marzouq, a member of the Marzouq clan, said that even though the security forces were all around at the time and were doing an enviable job, they had not appeared on the scene that fateful Sunday till after the fight was over and the two Marzouqs had been killed as well as Holako himself. But Marzouq insisted the family held no weapons: “If we had any, could Holako have managed to break into the house and catch our woman? Our man Ephraim wrestled with him before he left the house, but was shot dead. We ran after him outside, only to be face with a barrage of bullets; our men were killed and injured. 

We did not shoot Holako,” he insisted. “Holako was shot from the back not from the front, meaning it must have been one of his own men who killed him. This should come as no surprise, seeing that there was much blood between Holako and so many people, many of them close to him.” On the other hand, Marzouq said, it could have been mere ‘friendly fire’; Holako may have been killed by mistake.

Watani International

21 October 2012

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