Watani has already extensively covered the event of the forced eviction of the Egyptian Christian citizens of the village of Sharbat in al-Nahda, Amriya, south of Alexandria. In what
Watani has already extensively covered the event of the forced eviction of the Egyptian Christian citizens of the village of Sharbat in al-Nahda, Amriya, south of Alexandria. In what amounted to a self-appointed court of law, the Salafi movement in Nahda held three urfi (informal) conciliation sessions and ordered the banishment of eight Coptic families from the village. The ruling was supposedly taken to bring calm to the village in which riots had targeted the village Copts; their homes, shops and property were attacked, looted and torched in the wake of a rumour about a relationship between a Coptic man and a Muslim woman. Even though the Copt was questioned by the prosecutor and set free, he and his family fled the village for fear of vengeance. Yet the village hardliner Muslims took to the streets, attacking the Copts in the village.
Not only did the Salafi-dominated urfi council order the forced eviction of the Coptic families, whose members comprise some 60 individuals and who are among the wealthy, respected traders in the village—but it also appointed one of its sheikhs to auction off the property owned by these families. Following this unjust ruling, we joined some of the few remaining unafraid men and women in this nation, in strongly demanding justice for the evicted Copts.
Some two weeks later the case was taken by MP Emad Gad to the human rights committee of the People’s Assembly, after the Speaker of the Parliament Mohamed Saad el-Katatni refused to raise it in the general assembly.
The stance adopted by the PA human rights commission, however, was stunning. After it had originally rejected the banishment of the Coptic families and stressed that it is unacceptable to forcefully displace any citizen, the committee reneged on its original report by substituting the term “separation” for “banishment”.
In its attempt to contain the situation and secure a safe return home for the Coptic families, the human rights commission took the entire issue out of context by sanctioning it under a new label: separation. It held its own session with the Salafis, and reached an ‘agreement’ with them to allow the Copts back into the village. No compensation was to be paid for their losses, and no apology for the indescribable moral terror they were made to go through. These Copts had been forced to watch as their stores were looted and torched, then had to flee their homes in terror as the fire raged in them. They had to cross over from their rooftop to the neighbouring one, with their women and children, as the mob in the street savagely shouted demanding to lay hands on their women and threatening collective rape.
The human rights commission’s move was a blatant attempt to appease the all-powerful village Salafis, and a tacit acknowledgement of their hegemony over the village. It was the village Salafis who, in brazen challenge to the rule of law, possessed the power to allow or disallow the Copts’ return to their homes.
The commission thus turned a blind eye to the real problem and simply rode with the tide. Instead of rejecting out-of-law councils, the committee practically legitimated the practice by resorting to it.
We are before a crime in which both the executive and legislative authorities in the State are accomplices. The governor, the head of security and the undersecretaries of the ministry of endowments participated with Christian and Muslim MPs to provide a legal cover-up for the informal conciliation that ended in the indictment of the innocents and the acquittal of the wrongdoers.
MP Ziad Ahmed Bahaa’ Eddin, shocked by how the tables were turned, said: “we are now watching the fall of the law and the most basic principles of justice. We are before what is termed collective punishment, where an entire community is sentenced for the crime of one of its members. We are before a sentence that does not exist under Egyptian law and hence, the dominance of informal ruling over the bastions of law: the public prosecution, the courts, the prisons, and the police. In short, we are before an alarming acknowledgement that the State does not exist anymore.”
The sad truth which everyone must now face is that, except for a handful of unfearful men and women, the lawmakers who supposedly support the civil State are in fact providing legal and moral cover for bringing it down.
26 February 2012