European Court for Human Rights:Asylum for Copt

21-06-2013 02:57 PM

Youssef Sidhom

In the wake of the 25 January 2011 Revolution and ever since the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) and their Islamist supporters hijacked the Revolution for their own ends, the situation

 of the Copts in Egypt has drastically declined. Under Mubarak, the citizenship rights of Copts were curtailed; Copts lacked equality to their Muslim fellow citizens; they were discriminated against and were often the victims of fanaticism, rejection and marginalisation; not to mention the occasional assaults and threats. Despite the grievances and suffering, however, the Copts never felt that their future in their homeland, their safety or security, were at stake. 
Today, two-and-a-half years on the Revolution and a year on the MB-dominated rule, the assaults and threats against Copts by the various Islamist leaders have become the order of the day. This has raised Coptic apprehensions and fears, especially in view of the official silence, the general security breakdown, and the judicial complicity. True, I did write of great rulings by Egypt’s judiciary despite the blows directed its way; these rulings and the legal reasoning behind them were the work of high level judiciary: the Supreme Constitutional Court, the Administrative Court, the Court of Cassation and the State Council. The lower levels of the judiciary, however, have issued rulings that aroused disapprobation and were contested in the courts. Flagrant among these rulings have been the spate of sentences against Copts for so-called contempt of Islam, as well as the submission by a court to a request by a Muslim defendant to recuse one of the judges on the panel ruling in the case against him, on account of this judge being a Copt. 
In light of this general climate of fanaticism and antagonism, can Copts be blamed for feeling threatened? Can the few of them—thank God they’re but a few—who are driven by a sense of insecurity for their future and that of their children, be blamed for seeking to leave Egypt? Can those who are made to feel alienated in their own homeland be blamed for looking for a more secure alternative elsewhere? There is indeed a fraction—even if small—of Copts that feel, alienated, rejected and marginalised inside Egypt. Isolated, unarmed and denied protection by the State, the police, or the law; they are willing to do anything to flee their woeful destiny. They leave Egypt and head to some free country in the western world where they apply for religious asylum to escape the persecution back home.
Egypt is today subjected to international reproach for persecuting its own nationals. Sadly, this has become a bitter reality to which human rights organisations around the world testify. Prior to the 25 January 2011 Revolution, it was very difficult for any Copt to be granted religious asylum. Not so today. As the plight of Copts in Egypt becomes more notorious, several countries are opening their doors to Copts to grant them religious asylum once their cases are heard. 
The first fruits of this gruesome reality emerged earlier this month. The European Court for Human Rights (ECHR) issued a ruling to halt the deportation of an Egyptian Copt from France, and to grant him residency. The court sensed that, should this man return to Egypt, his life and security would be at risk; he would be victimised, persecuted, tortured, and treated disgracefully.
I feel pained and mortified that such disgraceful behaviour is now being attributed to my homeland. Yet I perfectly understand what leads the human rights and justice circles in the free world to look upon post-Revolution Egypt so apprehensively, on account of the violated national unity, the detestable religious discrimination, and the targeting of minorities, their honour and possessions. 
I shed light on the ECHR case not to promote it as a model; rather in order to expose the wretched reality we are today living through. I still believe that Egypt’s Copts have a boundless store of love for their land, Nile, and their good fellow citizens. This legacy of love makes the Copts more attached to Egypt and more adamant to protect her and save her from those who hijacked the Revolution and usurped its gentleness and moderation. This is the very role of national endeavour that the Copts should assume with their fellow Muslims. This is the effort to protest against and reject extremism, which is being scheduled for 30 June under the motto Tamarud (Rebel). I pray that we would arm ourselves with insight and wisdom in order for this date to work as the start not the end of the battle for change. What cannot be done by taking to the streets can be achieved through preserving the driving force and stamina for working change through to the ballot box.
WATANI International
23 June 2013
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