The families and friends of 27 Copts who were abducted by Islamist militias allied to IS in Sirte, Libya, have stepped up their efforts with the Egyptian authorities and the United Nations to free the captives.
Yesterday saw some 130 men from the Upper Egyptian villages of the kidnapped Copts head to the Foreign Ministry with demands to free the victims. The men took the trip to Cairo despite their extreme poverty and the need for them to be in their villages to support the women and children of the kidnapped victims. With them was the local human rights activists Magdy Melek and Ishaq Hanna.
At the Foreign Ministry
At the Foreign Ministry the Upper Egyptians were met by Deputy Foreign Minister Yasser Reda, Foreign Ministry Spokesman Badr Abdel-Aati, and Ambassador of Cairo in Libya Muhammad Abu-Bakr. They demanded stronger official efforts to free the kidnapped and bring them home safely, giving in details of the abduction and the names of persons in Libya involved in the kidnappings. A few lost control and wept, one of them wailing that they wanted their sons back even if dead. “Let us bury them,” he said, “better than sustain the agony of not knowing what has happened to them.”
Mr Yasser explained about the efforts the Egyptian government was to free the captives, saying that the Crisis Cell formed specifically for that purpose has been holding intensive talks with Libyan authorities, influential tribal elders in the region, as well as independent public figures and NGOs in Libya. “The situation in Libya,” he said, “is far too complicated. Yet we are doing our very best to secure a safe exit for the kidnapped Copts.”
Mr Abdel-Aati confirmed what Mr Yasser said, explaining that the absence of Egyptian diplomatic presence in Libya and the breakdown in security there made the task of the Foreign Ministry a very hard one. “But we feel and share in every bit of your pain and agony,” he said, “and will not rest till this crisis comes to an end.”
At the UN office
The Upper Egyptian protest—scores of Cairenes had joined them by then—moved to the UN office in Cairo where they selected six representatives to meet Khawla Mattar, director of the media centre of the UN in Cairo. They presented a memorandum they had written on the crisis, in which they listed the names of the kidnapped Copts and the dates on which they had been abducted, and demanded that the UN should actively help to have them released and brought safely home. They referred to UN international codes and treaties human rights and on the protection of forcefully displaced persons. The international organisation, the memo said, was best suited to carry out talks with the various parties involved in the abduction crime.
Ms Mattar expressed deep sympathy with the plight of the kidnapped and their families, and promised to have the memo translated and raised to the UN Secretary-General for appropriate action.
Since the Arab Spring in Libya in February 2011 and the consequent rise of Islamist power, Copts residing and working in Libya have been victim of violent attack on account of their religion. Last month, a Coptic physician was killed together with his wife and teenage daughter. Earlier this month, 20 Copts were abducted—seven from their home in Sirte, and 13 while on a vehicle taking them back to Egypt [http://en.wataninet.com/coptic-affairs-coptic-affairs/sectarian/what-happened-to-the-copts-in-sirte/12946/]. It took the Libya IS more some two weeks to claim responsibility for the abduction, but no demands were made, confirming rumours that the Copts had been kidnapped on religious identity [http://en.wataninet.com/coptic-affairs-coptic-affairs/sectarian/in-libya-an-islamist-show-of-force/12942/].
20 January 2015