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ICC Note: The realities of persecution and cultural trends that have regularly pushed Egypt’s Christian community to the fringes of society, for many are driving them to consider leaving the country altogether. In places where religious identity becomes reason for becoming a target for violence the thought of leaving can sometimes be a daily reality and it creates an internal conflict about where you and your family belong. 

09/30/2014 Egypt (Egyptian Streets) – The emigration of Egypt’s Copts is neither wrong nor dangerous; emigration is a human right. Forcible migration, however, is dangerous,” Kamal Zakher, a researcher in Coptic affairs, said at a Sunday discussion on Coptic emigration.

The Egyptian Center for Public Policy Studies (ECPPS) held a seminar on the short documentary “Emigration of Roots,” which tackled the emigration of Copts since the January 25 Revolution in 2011.

“The Nasserite regime neglected the fact that Egypt is a multi-cultural country. Since then, the idea of the one rule, the one thought and the one direction took over,” Zakher said.

Customary sessions replace law

“It is dangerous that the rule of law diminishes in favor of customs,” Zakher said, commenting on customary reconciliation sessions, which he said have become a tradition, especially in rural areas and in Upper Egypt, when a sectarian clash erupts, even if it is originally a merely criminal case.

In Upper Egypt, the concept of tahr, meaning revenge or blood debt, dictates that if a family member is killed, a member of the killer’s family must die, which can often spiral into cycles of violence. Police and court procedures often do not sufficiently redress families’ honor, so reconciliation meetings are seen as a practical means to curb violence and preserve face in the community.

Such sessions are held between the conflicting parties, local officials, and Muslim and Christian clerics to conclude “reconciliation.”

“Unjust conditions are imposed on Christians in these customary sessions but they accept them because they are afraid,” said Mina Thabet, a researcher at the Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedoms (ECRF.)

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