Interior Minister: “We never asked the Copts to leave”

12-03-2017 09:09 AM

Youssef Sidhom


Problems on hold



Watani is closely following up on the predicament of al-Arish Copts who last month had to flee their hometown from the face of Islamist terrorism, and took refuge in various places over Egypt. The Suez Canal town of Ismailiya was major among the towns that opened their arms and hearts to the Coptic refugees. State apparatuses tirelessly worked to accommodate the internally displaced families rendered refugees inside their own country. They were provided with living quarters and amenities, health care, as well as job opportunities with the State and in the private sector. The children were placed in schools and universities equivalent to those in which they had been enrolled in Arish.

We cannot however overlook a few questions that beg answers regarding this human tragedy. “Why were the Copts left on their own to meet their fate at the hands of the jihadi terrorists? When will the State regain full control over Arish, for the Copts to safely go back home? Who bears responsibility for the entry of terrorists into Egypt through the north-east border common with Gaza, and how can this source of satanic terrorism be dried up?

Egyptians are fully aware of the bitter battle their armed forces and security men are waging against Islamist jihadi terrorists barricaded in the North Sinai mountains, a vicious relentless battle where valiant Egyptian soldiers honourably sacrifice their lives for the nation. No one can contest or understate the heroic dimensions of this battle. But there has been no official explanation to the lack of security inside Arish as opposed to the security vigilance around the town and in its vicinity. Arish Copts have been vocal about the hellish conditions they had to flee once they were targeted by Islamist threats to leave or die, and when seven of their community were brutally killed in the space of three weeks. Where were the police when all this took place? Why does it appear as though the terrorists were left to do as they pleased? How could State authority have been so defied? Did the anti-terrorism battle outside the town contribute in any way to the security vacuum inside Arish?

This takes me to a peculiar declaration by Interior Minister Magdy Abdel-Ghaffar. In an attempt to deny that the Coptic exodus from Arish constituted ‘forced displacement’, the Minister said that the security apparatuses never asked any North Sinai resident to leave. I see this declaration as nothing but denial of reality and a feeble disclaimer of responsibility. True, the Interior Ministry never asked any Copt to leave, but it never protected them or ensured their safety and security against the Islamist threats and killings. No surprise then that, unarmed and unprotected by the State, the Copts were so gripped with terror that they fled for their lives. Were they supposed to stay on instead, defenceless and terrified, because the Interior Ministry never asked them to leave?

I believe the security failure is quite plain and warrants no cover-up. On the contrary, it must be boldly faced. The situation ought to be adequately assessed and the failings rectified; that is if we are serious about regaining full State control over Arish, for the Copts to go back home. It is a wish they have spelt out: “We dream of going back home and resuming our lives in Arish, but we’re too frightened.” Is the dream far-fetched?

As to the third question: who is responsible for the entry of terrorists into Egypt through our north-east border, and how can this source of satanic terrorism be dried up? I presume we all know the answer but keep it buried inside our hearts and souls. We wait for the perfect moment when, according to Egyptian strategic interest and national security requirements, our valiant armed forces will pound the tunnels of evil that gush from outside our land and flow in bringing terrorism to our doorsteps. We wait for this final fatal blow to dry up the satanic terror.


Watani International

12 March 2017

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