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Washington, D.C. (February 13, 2012) – International Christian Concern (ICC) has learned that eight Coptic Christian families were evicted from their homes in northern Egypt following two attacks by radical Islamists on Christian homes and businesses in late-January. The attacks were in response to an alleged affair between a Christian man and a Muslim woman.
On January 27th, hundreds of Muslims, led by Salafists who adhere to the strict Wahhabi interpretation of Islam, looted and torched Christian homes and shops in Kobry el-Sharbat near Alexandria following rumors that a Christian man, Mourad Samy Guirguis, had an affair with a Muslim woman. On January 30th, a group of Muslims attacked the village for the second time, setting fire to three Christian homes. Guirguis denied the accusations, but reportedly turned himself into the police for his own security.
Village elders, including representatives from the Salafists, the Muslim Brotherhood, and local police, agreed to evict eight Coptic families and put their property up for sale. Ironically, they came to this decision after holding three ‘reconciliation’ meetings, Asia News reported. At the first meeting, Muslims argued that “Muslim honor has been damaged,” and refused to offer compensation to Coptic Christians who were innocent victims of the violence. Father Boktor Nashed from St. George’s Church in el-Nahdah, who was present at the meeting, called the decision a “complete injustice.” Sherif el-Hawary, a Salafist sheik, was given the authority to execute the meeting’s demands.
Who gave them the right to form a committee headed by a Salafi to sell Christian property? This is thuggery and the blatant targeting of Copts,” said Magdi Khalil, head of the Middle East Freedom Forum. “If we accept this, we will open the door to an avalanche of forced evictions.”
Reconciliation meetings are a traditional form of ‘conflict resolution’ that bypasses Egypt’s judicial system and often fails to bring perpetrators of attacks against Christians to justice. In its 2011 Religious Freedom Report, the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) stated, “Reconciliation efforts should not be used to undermine enforcing the law and punishing perpetrators for wrongdoing. The State Department also has concluded that reconciliation sessions not only ‘prevented the prosecution of perpetrators of crimes against Coptic Christians and precluded their recourse to the judicial system for restitution’ but also ‘contributed to a climate of impunity that encouraged further assaults’.”
Aidan Clay, ICC Regional Manager for the Middle East, said, “Reconciliation meetings are nothing more than a method to excuse those responsible for violence, shift blame on the victims, and to completely ignore justice. The recent attack in Kobry el-Sharbat again proves that nothing has changed in the ‘new’ Egypt after President Mubarak’s ouster, as perpetrators of attacks against minorities continue to be pardoned and allowed to pursue their bloody campaign to rid the country of Christians. Most disturbing is that the reconciliation meetings were not led by the military council, but by representatives of the very groups that won a majority in Egypt’s new parliament and claim to support democracy and a civilian judicial system. We urge Egyptian officials to retract the illegal decision that was made to evict the eight Christian families and to arrest and convict those responsible for burning down Christian homes and businesses.”
Please call the Egyptian Embassy in your country to express your concerns:
United States: +1 202.895.5400
Canada: +1 613.234.4931
United Kingdom: +44 207 499 3304
Germany: +49 30 47 75 470
France: +33 1 53 67 88 30
Australia: +61 2 6273 4437