In Selected Opinion

By Youssef Sidhom – Watani International 


Youssef Sidhom

I have never been hasty in writing down my opinion; quite the contrary, I have always been used to take my time to study situations and meticulously contemplate them before forming an opinion or venturing on an assessment of any sort. So much so that I have sometimes been accused of falling behind. Today, however, I break my golden rule of thoughtful restraint and openly express my anger and protest at the goings-on in “The Independent Islamic Republic of Minya”. Do not be surprised at what I say; any observer of the string of events that has raged—and is yet raging—through that widespread province some 250km south of Cairo since 2013 will be shocked and dismayed at the desecration of the sovereignty and dignity of the Egyptian State at the hands of Islamist mobs and outlaws. In 2013 Egypt rid herself of the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood (MB) regime that had risen to power in the wake of the 2011 Arab Spring, so it is unfathomable that outlaw Islamist activity should remain alive and kicking in an Egyptian province, a part of Egypt. If anything, this points to the disinclination and ineffectiveness of the representatives of the Egyptian State in Minya to carry out their responsibility. The governor, security chief, and all State apparatuses in charge of protecting and defending Egyptians, upholding and powerfully enforcing the law, have failed miserably to do so.

It is easy for anyone to explain off my words as coming from a Copt pained and indignant at the savage, systematic terrorism inflicted on the Copts in Minya. This is definitely true, but there is another dimension to the problem that causes even more pain and indignation, that is the inability and utter failure of the State to uphold its authority in the face of the terrorists. I ask: what difference is there between the Islamist terrorism taking place in Sinai next to the Gaza border, and that which occurs in Minya? In Sinai, the terrorists proclaimed the Islamic State of Sinai; in Minya Islamist terrorists have hijacked the law and imposed their own rules and out-of-law judgements. The difference between Sinai and Minya is that, in the former, the State has declared a state of emergency and mobilised all its forces to fight terrorism. In Minya, however, the State never thought of doing the same thing; it left the Copts to fall victim to the “Islamic State of Minya”.

What goes on in Minya is nothing short of unbridled, savage terrorism. The more ineffective the State, the more unbridled and savage the terrorism. Adding insult to injury is the by now customary ‘efforts at conciliation’ that take place in the aftermath of outlaw incidents. No sooner does an attack against Copts take place than we are inundated with declarations that the attack ‘does not represent the authentic Egyptian [societal] fabric’; and Beit al-Aila (literally ‘The Family Home’), the quasi-official council that formed a few years ago with the purpose of aborting sectarian violence, rushes to cover up by attempting to ‘conciliate’ between the Islamist offenders and their Coptic victims. What nonsense is this? What an underrating of reason? DoesBeit al-Aila imagine that we, or anyone at all, believe that any conciliation can be worked between victim and offender? Instead of catching the criminals and bringing them to justice so that no one ever thinks he could get away with crimes against Copts, the State resorts to sedative actions that expose its feebleness and inability.

If this is the utmost the administration is capable of, where are our honourable MPs? What did they do regarding the incidents that have been taking place in Minya for so long now? Why do not they rush to question the prime minister, interior minister, or the governor of Minya? Do not they realise how serious the situation is; how close it is to getting totally out of control? Do not they feel that the “Islamic State of Minya”, as long as it is never confronted, may very well be emulated in other parts of the country? And why should not it, given it was left to grow and thrive unchecked?

Last but not at all least, where is President Sisi as all this takes place? Does he still bet on the Copts’ love and loyalty for him despite his silence before this dismal, explosive situation? Will he use his customary warm, honeyed rhetoric to stress that Copts have full citizenship rights even as he leaves them victim of one blow after another because of an administration that allows culprits to get away with their crimes time and again? Did not he receive from his aides any report on the peril of allowing Minya to head into the abyss of Islamist terrorism while nothing is done? Does he think his hands are tied and he cannot interfere with the authority of the State?

If all the above is not true, the President should do everything necessary to correct matters, put an end to the suffering of the Copts at the hands of the Islamists, and bring back the dignity and authority of the State. If it is true, however, he ought to know that his credit of Copts’ love is diminishing just as their anger rises. If the violence and injustice against Copts remain and he takes no action to rectify matters, I feel obliged to whisper in his ear: “Do not visit St Mark’s Cathedral on Christmas Eve to wish the Copts a Happy Christmas; you might find nothing there but grim faces.”


“Minya Independent Islamic Republic”

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