By Coptic Solidarity –
Due to increasing attacks on Copts in Egypt, Coptic Solidarity has compiled this list which represents various types of persecution against Copts in the last six months, October 2016 – March 2017.
Multiple sources confirm that at least 355 families have fled Arish in the Sinai as of the writing of this compilation. We continue to monitor the Coptic refugee situation of those forced to flee the Sinai and call on the Egyptian government to provide immediate protection and restitution of properties and belongings of those who have fled.
Coptic Solidarity credits the Eshhad Project of The Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy which compiled many of these incidents and provides an excellent map pinpointing the exact location and type of each incident. Please note, the long urls link to Arabic language sources.
On March 24, 2017, a mob of villagers in Luxor surrounded and attacked Coptic houses. They claim that a minor Christian girl, named Amira Girgis, had converted to Islam and married a Muslim and her family is hiding her. The girl’s family was reported to have left the village ten days earlier due to threats they received from a Muslim man who wanted to marry their daughter. Security forces were reported to have asked the Coptic families to bring the girl back to the village to sit with the village’s imams and leaders.
On March 5, 2017, police prevented Christians from worshiping at the St. Mina church in Nazlet al-Nakhl in Abu Qurqas in Minya stating that it was unlicensed, citing to security concerns. Bishop Makarious encouraged families to worship in private homes to avoid a confrontation given the circumstances.
In February 2017, four Coptic owned factories were burnt down in Alexandria. Security cameras caught two people breaking into one of the factories right before it was burnt last week.
A group of masked men attacked the house of a 50 year-old Christian plumber, Kamel Abu Romani. They shot Kamel dead and set his house on fire.
Coptic Christian Medhat Said Hakim (his father was found with him, shot in the head – record no. 40), age 45, was found burned alive, days after he had been kidnapped by unknown militants.
Coptic Christian Said Hakim (his son was found with him, burned alive), age 65, was found shot in the head, days after he had been kidnapped by unknown militants.
The Islamic State in Egypt released a video vowing to wipe out all Christians in Egypt. The video showed a conglomeration of news clips, purportedly showing Christian leaders criticizing Islam and Judge Emil Habashi Malika Abdel Messieh, a Christian, sentencing 14 alleged jihadists to death for forming terrorist group Tawhid wal-Jihad, attacking police and military forces and killing two police officers, a military officer, three soldiers and a civilian in Sinai in 2012. The video further alleges that Christians are in control of the economy, judiciary, and the media, and threatens to invade Cairo to liberate the city and release Islamist prisoners.
40-year-old medical doctor was killed by masked men who, after forcing him to stop his car, opened fire on and killed him. He too leaves a widow and two children. F
Gunmen shot a Christian teacher, Gamal Tawfiq Girgis, (and shoe store owner) at the Thursday market in Arish.
A 57-year-old Christian laborer Adel Shawqy was shot and killed as he tried to fight off masked men trying to kidnap his young son from off a crowded street in broad daylight. After murdering the father, they seized his young son and took him to an unknown location. http://en.wataninet.com/coptic-affairs-coptic-affairs/coptic-affairs/coptic-exodus-from-al-arish/19144/
A Christian veterinarian, Bahgat William Zakher, was shot in Arish by masked gunmen in a crowded market in broad daylight. The victim was forced to stop his car by a group of masked gunmen who shot him afterwards.
A 23 year-old Christian housewife called Marcel disappeared with her two year-old son, Kirollos, in Minya. Reports say that they left the house to attend the prayers at the local church in the morning but they were not seen afterwards.
Copts in the village of Kom al-Lofi in Minya announced that they would protest gainst the city’s refusal to connect their restored houses to electricity. Several houses, owned by Christians, were burnt during a sectarian strife in June 2016 (ID 442 in Eshhad Database). After restoring the houses, the city of Samalout refused requests to connect them to electricity.
A Christian teenager, Fady Said Khalil, was sentenced to fifteen years in prison for allegedly raping an 8 year-old Muslim boy. The convict`s father said that forensic report proved his son innocent but the other family obtained false witnesses. The family had to leave the village but there are contradicting reports on the reasons behind it. The family has accused their neighbors, the police and the town`s MP, Mahmoud Badr, of forcing them to leave their house. Other reports suggest that they had to leave after their lease had expired.
Three men attacked a jewelry store, killing its Christian owner, Ashraf and stealing 5 KG of gold in al-Alamein. One of the attackers was allegedly arrested while he was trying to escape from the city. UPDATE on February 6, 2017: The other two attackers were arrested within the following 48 hours and the three confessed that they had committed the crime. Prosecution detained them for four days.
Several houses, all owned by Christians, have been robbed in a village in Sohag. Security cameras at one of those houses showed a man named Hani Saber breaking into the house. The police have allegedly not taken any action yet despite the victims` reports.
The police forces stopped the restoration of the Archangel Michael Coptic Orthodox Church in Minya for being unlicensed.
A Christian supermarket owner, Wa’el Youssef, was attacked and shot dead in his own store by three masked gunmen in Arish, Sinai. His killers reportedly fled to the olive orchards south of the city.
An 18 year-old Coptic girl, Hanan Adly Girges disappeared in Esna. A mob gathered to protest in front of the village`s police station but the security forces managed to break it up. Reports say that the girl`s phone, national ID, and her birth certificate were not found either. UPDATE on February 22, 2017: Hanan’s family accuse police of complicity with the disappearance of Hanan. Hanan’s brothers filed a police report accusing a 27-year-old neighbour, Mohamed Ahmed Nubi Soliman, of kidnapping Hanan. Prosecution questioned Mohamed who admited he had a connection but he was released due to lack of physical evidence.
A Christian man was found killed in his own apartment in Masr al-Qadima. The body was stabbed several times on different spots. Motivations for the crime are still unknown. UPDATE on January 19, 2017: A couple was detained for suspicion of killing the 37 year-old man.
A Christian surgeon named Bassam Safwat Zaki was found killed in his apartment in the upper Egyptian city of Assiut. Initial findings suggest that he was stabbed in the neck, back and chest. The victim`s cell phone was found in the apartment, according to his brother who was the first one to find out about the crime. Some reports indicate that a knife was next to his body when he was found.
On January 6, 2017, a 60 year-old Christian man, called Gamal Sami, and his 48 year-old wife, Nadia, were found slaughtered in their bedroom in Menoufia. Neighbours say that Sami`s cell phone store had been robbed earlier but he refused to report to the police for fear of the criminals` reaction. Family members do not believe the motivation was robbery as Nadia’s jewelry was untouched; police allege it was a theft crime. Some reports indicate that the couple`s cell phones and money were not found after the crime.
Youssef Lamaei, a Christian liquor store owner was killed by a bearded man, Adel Soliman. The incident took place in front of Lamaei`s store in Alexandria and was caught by the store`s security cameras. The murderer was reported to have been shouting “Allahu Akbar” while committing his crime. Adel Soliman, the main suspect, confessed that he warned Lamaei to stop selling alocohol, procured the knife to kill him, and watched the store for two hours before killing Lamaei.
A threatening message was found painted on the floor of Virgin Mary church in Dumyat city. The message was in Arabic and said “”You Will Die Christians!”. A young man was caught by surveillance cameras while climbing the church`s fence at three in the morning of the same day. Investigations later indicated that the message was painted by a 22 year-old son of one of the church`s priests named John. Reports say that John confessed that he did it. According to the reports, he said that he had done it to motivate the government to increase security measures on the church after the bombing of the cathedral in Cairo. John is currently facing charges of “inciting sectarian strife and disturbing public security.” He was later released on a bail of 5 thousand EGP.
On December 11, 2016, a bomb attack on St. Peter & St. Paul Coptic Orthodox Church, a church near St. Mark’s Coptic Orthodox Cathedral, the seat of Pope, killed at least 25 and injured 49 (Egyptian state media reports 35 injured). President Sisi called for three days of mourning and opened an investigation into the attack. UPDATE on December 12, 2016: Authorities identify suicide bomber as Mahmoud Shafik Mohamed Mostafa. No independent claims for the attack have been made yet. UPDATE on January 7, 2017: Official number of dead rises to 28. UPDATE on February 2, 2017: Prosecutor General of Egypt opens investigations with Yasser Borhami, a salafi activist and one of the founders of the Salafist Call, for inciting the bombing of St. Paul Church by his extremist fatwas.
Several attorneys accused Egyptian Christian journalist and TV presenter Mofeed Fawzy for insulting the late popular Islamic figure Sheikh Shaarawi. Fawzy is to be interrogated by state security prosecution for criticizing Shaarawi on air, saying he is one of the early promoters of extremism in Egypt.
A mob attacked and burned a number of Christian homes in Naghamish Village in Sohag over a rumor that a community guest house was turned into a church. Fifteen homes were damaged in the attack and several injured. Fourteen of those who had been arrested were referred to prosecution over charges of inciting riots and forming a mob. Senior officials from the province came to participate in reconciliation dialogues in addition to members of parliament, community elders (representatives of well-known local families), and Coptic and Muslim clerics.
Talaat Beshay Gad al-Rab was stripped of his clothes and dragged through the streets in Delga, Minya due to an alleged relationship between his son, Shenouda, and a Muslim girl. Police forces arrested some of the family members who attack Talaat as well as Talaat’s son. On November 19, Father Youssef Ayoub, pastor of the Catholic Church in Delga, announced that Talaat had accepted and signed a reconciliation agreement with the girls familiy members agreeing not to pursue legal action against them.
A fight took place in the village of Saft al-Laban, Minya on November 14, 2016. Five Coptic teenagers were injured, among them two (Labib Samy, 17-year-old and Romany Attef, 17-year-old) who were seriously injured with deep wounds to their heads. The fight began on Sunday between Muslim and Christian students at their local high school. On Monday, Samy and Attef were attacked again on their way home from private lessons. Police sent secruity to the village to prevent further escalation.
A sentry was shot in the head guarding the Good Shepherd Church in Suez. The Suez Security Directorate has claimed that relatives killed the victim in a familial dispute. http://www.coptstoday.com/Copts-News/Detail.php?Id=168569
Four Christians, including a nine year-old boy, were allegedly kidnapped on October 3, 2016 by unknown aggressors; a 500,000 EGP ransom was requested. The perpetrators threatened to kill the victims if the police were involved. Despite the threat, one family member went to the Directorate of Security in Assiut and met with Assistant Director of Security who advised him to pay the ransom due to lack of guarantee that the perpetrators could be identified. A second call by the perpetrators led to an alleged negotiation of the ransom money down to 200,000 EGP. UPDATE on October 4, 2016: The four were released after their families paid the perpetrators 150,000 EGP.
Addendum: Prior to compiling this list, Coptic Solidarity issued the below press release listing a spate of attacks against Copts which occurred in the summer of 2016 in Egypt.
Coptic Solidarity Urgently Calls on Egyptian Authorities to End Climate of Violence on Christians and Demands Equal Rights
For Immediate Release
(Washington, DC) July 11, 2016
Coptic Solidarity expresses its grave concerns with the increasing incidences of attacks on the Coptic community, and demands that Egyptian authorities exercise their responsibilities to protect all citizens, hold accountable culprits to the full force of the law and to take concrete and decisive steps to ending the climate of hatred and institutionalized discrimination against Christians.
In the span of just the last two months, Copts have been brutally targeted and murdered, and many Coptic homes and businesses have been looted and set on fire in livid mob violence. Among the tragic incidences have been:
- Stripping naked and dragging through the streets of a town near Minya of a seventy-year old Christian woman, Soad Thabet, following trumped-up rumors of an affair of her son with a Muslim woman. Most of the arrested mobsters have since been released and Ms. Thabet has been pressured to an informal reconciliation with the culprits in lieu of pursuing her legal rights.
- In a village of Amereya, near Alexandria, mobs attacked a house rumored for being used by Copts as a place for prayer, and police arrested several Copts and accused them of ‘praying without permit.’ Here too, victims have been pressured by the authorities to hold a “reconciliation meeting,” a tribal process meant to blackmail them into accepting minimal – often humiliating – settlements and forgo real justice.
- Mina Thabet, a Coptic researcher and rights activist was arrested in the middle of the night from his home without a warrant. Mr. Thabet was charged with joining a terrorist organization, inciting protests, attacking police stations, and possessing publications of calling for the overthrow of the government, due to his efforts to document and draw attention to the increasing human rights abuses committed by the Egyptian government. Though later released on bail, Mr. Thabet suffered severe physical abuse in prison at the hands of the police that left him unable to walk without the support of crutches.
- Thirteen-year old Loisa Mourad, daughter of a Coptic priest, was stabbed in a market in Souhag. The culprit has avoided incarceration under the all-too-common pretense of “suffering from mental illness.”
- Coptic pharmacist Magdy Attia was stabbed to death and then decapitated by a group of fanatical Muslims at an apartment complex. Although security cameras in the area captured clear /images of the perpetrators who were covered in blood, no one has been arrested for the heinous crime.
- A car transporting three nuns was attacked on a main road north of Cairo, killing Sister Athanasea and injuring the others. Authorities again deflected attention to the targeting of Christians by claiming the car was “caught in a cross-fire.”
- Coptic priest Raphael Moussa was gunned down by jihadists in El-Arish, continuing a long series of terrorist attacks against Copts in northern Sinai.
These episodes are not isolated events, but rather symptoms of the systematic discrimination against Copts in Egypt. As Coptic Solidarity’s recent 7th Annual Conference highlighted, Copts are second class citizens. Discrimination is evidenced in every aspect of life, from indifference to attacks targeting Christians, to state-backed cultural and educational marginalization, to the use of “anti-blasphemy” laws to placate religious bigotry, to the lack of Copts in positions of prominence in government, the armed forces, the judiciary or in academia, to the inability to obtain permits to build or repair churches and the closure of churches due to Islamist threats.
Coptic Solidarity’s president, Dr. George Gurguis, states, “We urgently call on Egyptian authorities, led by President Sisi, to translate into action the government’s positive rhetoric of an equitable and tolerant Egypt. The growing climate of impunity of violence against Copts is detrimental to the lives and well-being not only of Copts, but to all Egyptians.”
Coptic Solidarity specifically calls on Egyptian authorities to:
- Protect the sanctity of the life, safety and properties of Copts;
- Bring to account and apply the full force of justice against perpetrators of violence, including all local police and government officials whose indifference and complacency have allowed these mob actions and attacks against Copts;
- Abolish the so called “reconciliation meetings” which should not replace bringing perpetrators to justice in the judicial system.
Pass and implement legislation to guarantee the freedom of building of new churches and repair of existing ones, and fulfill the promise to rebuild churches and Coptic institutions that were destroyed by Islamists in August 2015.
- Pass legislation to combat discrimination, and create an impartial body to monitor its implementation;
- Shut down avenues of religious hate, including from within state-backed religious, media and educational bodies;
- Annul the abusive “anti-blasphemy” code in Article 98(f) of the Penal Code;
- Annul religious identification from official identity cards.
Copts stand firmly behind Egypt and the world’s existential battle against Islamist terrorism. Coptic Solidarity strongly believes that an Egypt that is free and just for all will overcome regressive forces, and urges Egyptian authorities and the global community to support the creation of a modern, equitable, just and prosperous Egypt.
Photo credit: www.alamy.com