Sectarian violence erupts in Tayyiba, Minya

15-12-2011 09:04 AM

Tereza Kamal

 Last Tuesday saw yet another incident of sectarian violence erupt in the village of Tayyiba, in Samalout, Minya, Upper Egypt. Security authorities imposed a curfew on the village following a spate of violence during which the Muslim villagers waged an attack against the homes and shops of the Coptic villagers. Some 50 Copts and 10 Muslims were detained pending investigation.




Minor dispute


The attack was the outcome of a minor dispute that erupted during the funeral of a Muslim villager. As the mourners marched towards the cemetery to bury the deceased they passed two Coptic lads, Mina William who was riding a donkey, and Nathan Yaacoub who walked beside him. Both lads are 14 years old. It is the custom in Upper Egypt that riders should dismount if a funeral passes by, in respect to the deceased and the mourners. William did not dismount. The mourners stopped, dragged him down, and gave him a beating.


They went on and buried the dead man then returned to the village and started throwing stones and rocks at Coptic homes, and attacking Coptic shops, looting and plundering. The police came in, dispersed the rioters using tear gas, imposed a curfew, and detained some 50 Coptic villagers and 10 Muslims.


As the official investigation proceeded some of the detainees were released but almost an equivalent number of others were caught. Villagers told Watani they were dismayed at the large number of Copts caught, even though the Copts were the victims not the perpetrators of the attack, and were in the act of self-defence. They believe the arbitrary detentions were carried out with the purpose of pressuring them into ‘reconciliation’ with the attackers and giving up their legal rights of prosecution.




Official plunder


Even though the curfew was lifted the following day, the Copts stayed at home and kept their children from going to school for fear of unwarranted attacks. But Coptic shop owners, who also stayed home and did not open their shops, were outraged to find out that their shops were forcefully broken into by “supplies inspectors”, officials whose responsibility includes inspecting goods in shops to check their fitness and compliance with standard specifications. Tamer Louis, a shop owner, bitterly complained that this campaign by the supplies inspector was totally unwarranted, illegal, and out of all context since, in the absence of the owners and without any legal prerogative, goods were arbitrarily plundered and ruined.


Louis told Watani that Bishara Gayed, a grocer, incurred losses of some EGP10,000 as the goods in his shop were thrown out and ruined. One owner of a poultry shop who declined to give his name said the supplies inspectors themselves walked away with his poultry.


The shops of Thabet Saïd and Habib Nabil, which sell electric utilities, were plundered, as was the pharmacy of Adel Bushra and the communications centre of Samy Sayed.






Some of the Muslim villagers reported to the police that they had sustained injuries during the attack, but they were not able to prove their claims. The Copt Adel Habib was accused of throwing stones at the Muslims from his roof top, but the police found his roof top was only used as a storage place for corn.


Asmaa’ Mohamed, a Muslim woman, claimed Nabil Habib had injured her, but Samalout Hospital director Dr Kamal al-Sharqawi said the hospital received no injured whatsoever from Tayyeba.


Father Augustinus of the village church told Watani this was the third sectarian incident the village suffers from in little less than five months, and deplored the fanaticism that is leading to major flare-ups in the face of  minor disputes. “It is unreasonable,” he said, “that a mistake by some 14-year-old should lead to all that rampage. Something ought to be done to halt all this.”  







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