Egypt’s Collision of Security and Freedom: Part 3

By Emma Reeves

In case you missed them, you can read Part 1 and Part 2 here.

07/08/2020 Washington D.C. (International Christian Concern)Security issues in Egypt also run parallel to issues surrounding racism and discriminatory police measures. It is a subject that hits many Christians hard. They are not just Christians. They are also Coptic. They have a language and culture that is different from the Arab world. Indeed, Egypt was Coptic Christian before the Islamic conquest.

Today, Christians are treated as second-class citizens. They are often given the lowest jobs and the worst legal representation. Just one complaint from a Muslim neighbor can close an entire church. Mobs often target Christian communities. The police’s response is unpredictable. Departments sometimes know of plots against Christians in advance but do nothing to stop them. Maybe they will eventually intervene and stop the attack. Or perhaps they will arrest the Christians, igniting a process that is ultimately nothing less than victim-blaming.

In 2018, police arrested Coptic Christian Abd Adel Bebawy for making a post on social media, which later led to extremists targeting and killing Christians in the area. He was convicted of blasphemy and sentenced to three years in prison. This is just one example of police blaming and arresting the victim instead of prosecuting the actual instigators.

Melad, a Minya resident, argued, “Security procedures are important, but racial segregation must be ended. Social justice must be implemented. Give the thinkers and opinion leaders a chance to talk to extremists and call them to make peace. Give the people freedom and help them to practice peaceful expression. Also avoid oppression because it creates aggression, violence, and terrorism.”

“Maybe the state kept the policeman’s hands free and others exploited his authority, so we have to deduct from police members who broke the rules,” said Minya resident Omiel. “The state has to impose some actions which are in favor of the people, such as firing the employee who has destructive notions/ideas/thoughts without access to justice.”

Oftentimes, the government will ignore cases of racism and persecution against Coptic Egyptians, justifying this by reminding the people it fights other battles.

“We have to find a good way for delivering the citizens’ complaints to the leaders without passing by security restrictions. There were many cases which the states don’t care about the kidnapping of Coptic women. The state neglects these cases, justifying that it fights terrorism [instead],” explained Hani of Minya.

The government has the right, and some even say the duty, to increase security and do whatever it takes to protect its people in a time of pandemic and terrorism. On the other hand, this heightened power in the hands of the police can increase racism, brutality, and discrimination. Even further, it has led to the suppression of free speech and freedom of the press.

So the question remains, which is better? A country safe from pandemic with terrorism on a downturn, but with stifled freedom for its citizens and lingering racial inequality, or a country with complete freedom and decreased racial tension but lacking in security and disease prevention? Or is there a middle ground between government involvement and citizens’ fundamental rights?

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