16 October 2011
Following the church burning in Merinab, Aswan, on 30 September and the first Coptic protests against it, the Jamaa Islamiya in Egypt, whose political party was sanctioned two weeks ago, announced that the Copts had crossed all the red lines.
According to the Middle East News Agency, the Jamaa accused the Copts that, by protesting, they were inviting foreign intervention. This, the Jamaa said, is utterly unacceptable and is tantamount to playing with fire. The Jamaa called on Coptic intellectuals to resort to law and reason. In what could have been taken as a veiled threat, security sources warned that ‘outsiders’ may join Coptic protests and would lead to violence, reminding that Salafis had some three months ago joined a Coptic protest in Minya and that escalated matters badly.
In hind view, the warning seemed prophetic. What happened with the Coptic protestors in Maspero on Sunday 9 October played according to that scenario.
Following the Maspero attack, several rights groups independently formed fact-finding commissions to investigate the incident, while a number declared a state of mourning.
The European Coptic Organisations Union (ECOU) issued a statement where it denounced what it described as the disgraceful victory of Egyptian Armed Forces over the peaceful Coptic protestors, “in an unequal battle where the fully armed and equipped military crushed peaceful, unarmed Copts.” The statement detailed the monstrous attack which left many crushed and disfigured, and others seriously injured.
The statement strongly denounced the role played by the Egyptian media in misleading its viewers, instigating them against peaceful Copts and depicting the offenders as victims. “What happened, according to international standards, is no less than a Holocaust against a peaceful group which expressed its rejection of the desecration of its holy places.”
The last act of violence against Copts, the statement said, is only one among a series of terrorist acts against them, but this time not by Islamist terrorists but by the Armed Forces financed by Coptic taxpayers, and a State media also financed by Coptic taxpayers.
ECOU announced that it will not stand still against this “cowardly, racial” incident, and that it will take the matter before the entire free world. On the other hand, ECOU thanked “the honourable media, such as the satellite TV channels Dream, al-Arabiya, al-Hayat and CTV; and especially to al-Hurra and 25 January channels which were attacked and closed down, for their honest coverage.”
For his part, the writer Gamal al-Ghitani deplored the Egyptian TV coverage of the Maspero incident, saying on the independent ONTV that the Nile News channel in particular played a serious role in misleading Egyptians.
Equality and non-discrimination
The National Council for Human Rights (NCHR) strongly denounced the excessive use of violence and live ammunition in confronting peaceful demonstrators. It also denounced any abuse or violence against the Armed Forces.
The NCHR stressed Egyptians’ right to demonstrate and peacefully protest to demand legitimate rights. It also emphasised the need for the passage of a unified law for building places of worship as well as an anti-discrimination law, both compiled and presented by the NCHR years ago. The NCHR called for the establishment of a commission to follow-up on the implementation of the anti-discrimination law and to play a positive role in the reforms needed to assert non-discrimination and equal opportunity on the grounds.
The traditional ‘reconciliation sessions’ which are more often than not held by the authorities to ‘reconcile’ the victim and offender, and which necessitate that the victims give up their rights, came under criticism from the NCHR.
The NCHR deplored the instigation by the Egyptian media against the Copts, and the misleading coverage it presented to viewers.
On its part, the highest Islamic institution in Egypt, al-Azhar, described the Maspero incidents as “a blow to the national conscience”, and demanded that the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) and the Cabinet should swiftly issue a unified law for building places of worship, in order to put an end to the problems that surround this issue. Al-Azhar called upon the SCAF to assert citizenship principles, and upon the Egyptian media to offer truthful coverage.