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ICC Note:

It is roughly estimated that 10 percent of Egypt’s population are Christians, with most belonging to the Coptic Orthodox Church. Coptic Christians are the largest religious minority in Egypt and they have a long historical presence in the nation. Targeted violence against Coptic Christians has increased over the years, and ISIS in particular has actively targeted Coptic communities. In April 2017, ISIS took credit for the Palm Sunday church bombings in Tanta and Alexandria. A month later, gunmen attacked a bus of Coptic Christians traveling to visit a monastery in Minya province. Despite these and several other attacks, Coptic Christians continue to overcome their fears and practice their faith.

08/30/2017 Egypt (SBS News) – Violence against Coptic Christians in Egypt has escalated in recent years, and particularly since the ousting of former President Mohamed Morsi in July 2013.

Washington DC think tank the Tahrir Institute has tallied over 400 incidents of sectarian violence against Coptic Christians since 2013. Some international NGOs such as Human Rights Watch have been critical of the Egyptian government for failing to properly prosecute those responsible for the violence.

“There is a long history of Islamic extremists in Egypt targeting Coptic communities,” says Dr Bob Bowker, a former ambassador to Syria and Visiting Fellow at the Centre for Arab and Islamic Studies at the Australian National University.

More recently Islamic State has been actively targeting Copts both in the north and outside of the Sinai peninsula (where most Islamic State activity is concentrated in Egypt). They have claimed credit for a series of deadly attacks including a bomb blast in a Coptic church in Cairo in December 2016 which killed at least 25 worshippers.

Dr Bowker says the Islamic State in Egypt is attempting to exploit and amplify prejudice and division among Egyptians.

“It’s building upon a wider sense within some parts of the Muslim community in Egypt that the Copts are uncommitted to Egypt as a nation; that there is an unfair distribution of wealth and privilege between Copts and non-Coptic Egyptians, which is actually quite false,” he says.

“The socio-economic conditions of Copts in upper Egypt are almost exactly the same as their Muslim counterparts. But nevertheless because the Copts are different they are always going to be a risk of being singled out and victimised in that way.”

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