28 June 2009
Minister of Justice Mamdouh Merei last Sunday issued Decree no.5755/2009, addressed to the Authentication and Publicity Authority, stipulating that the name of the village of Deir Abu-Hennes should remain unchanged. The name of the village, which translates into “Monastery of St John the Short”, goes back to the fourth century, whereas the village itself is much older and goes back to ancient Egyptian times. The villagers had been wrathful when they discovered on Wednesday 10 June that the name of their village had been changed into Wadi al-Neinaa (Valley of the Mint); they reacted with demonstrations, protests, and legal action against the name change.
Mr Marei issued Sunday’s decree following a meeting with the lawyer Ramsis al-Naggar, the legal representative of some 2300 of the villagers, and the prominent Coptic businessman Eid Labib who was nominated by the villagers to represent them before the authorities.
Though the residents of Deir Abu-Hennes expressed their delight at the recent decree, it remains to be seen when it will be put into effect. Until last week the Interior Ministry was issuing official documents for the residents in which they were cited to belong to Wadi al-Neinaa or, in other cases, Markaz Mallawi al-Mukhtar—literally, the Chosen Centre at Mallawi. No one could understand where that last name came from. If anything, it indicates the administrative confusion involved in the move.