Christian Copts Living As Slaves to Muslims in Egyptian Village
By Mary Abdelmassih
9/8/2010 Egypt (AINA) — Since the Christmas Eve Massacre on January 6,2010, when six Copts were killed and nine seriously injured by Muslims in a drive-by shooting outside a church in Nag Hammadi (AINA 1-7-2010), the Coptic Patriarchate in Cairo has become a Mecca for oppressed Copts from all over Egypt.
Nearly every Wednesday, when Coptic Pope Shenouda III gives his weekly sermon, Copts go to complain to the Pope and make known their grievances to other Copts who never come to hear about those cases due to media blackout. They hope to meet with human rights activists attending the sermon without fear of getting arrested by State Security for congregating under the prevailing emergency laws.
Coptic human rights activist Dr. Fawzy Hermina has called the large courtyard of the Patriarchate the “Coptic Hyde Park.”
Last week a group of nearly 50 Coptic men from the village of Azeem in Samalout, Minya province, came to expose “slavery-related” practices against Copts by certain radical Muslim families in their village. They called on human rights organizations for support. They met with activists from Coptic NGOs and appeared on US-based Coptic human rights channel Hope-Sat, which promised support through their lawyers in Egypt.
Bassem Shehata, 25, an IT graduate who attended the rally at the Patriarchate, said in an aired interview with Coptic activist Wagih Yacoub “We live in utter slavery. If Copts, some of whom are landowners, disobey orders of the big Muslim families, they are flogged.” Bassem said that last year his 14-year-old brother Shenouda was tied by members of a Muslim family to a pole, beaten and tortured in front of his father just because the father did not lend them his tractor. “Each time my father begged for mercy for his child, he was also beaten.” He said despite the family feeling “broken inside” his father refused to report the incident, fearing reprisals from the Muslim family.
Bassem said that young Christians work without pay on Muslim land. “I had to go because I was afraid they would harm my father.”
Protester Kamil Sami said “We came out in the open because we cannot take this injustice any longer.” He added they feel sorry for their families who have “inherited” the trait of giving up their rights. “We feel obliged to help our families to change the circumstances under which they are living.”
Isaac Bebawy summarized the problem by saying the nearly 1000 Copts in the village of 3000 live in servitude to Muslim families, especially a large one called Al-Khawaimin, which includes the mayor, the village Shaikh, a large number of relatives and their friends. Copts are not allowed to sell their livestock on the market but have to sell it to Muslims in the village at a fraction of their fair price, and hire agricultural machinery only from village Muslims at the highest prices. “If Copts do not obey, they are subjected to harsh punishments,” he said. “These include threats of killings, abduction of girls, destruction of crops, burning of houses and beatings.”
Another protester, George Sidhom, said that Muslim often stop Christians from going to church services in the neighboring village.