ISIS Executes Sinai Christian

Egypt’s Response Highlights Timeline Discrepancy Between Kidnapping, Execution, and Publication

04/19/2021 Washington D.C. (International Christian Concern) – International Christian Concern (ICC) has learned that on April 17, 2021, ISIS published a video executing Coptic Christian Nabil Habshi (62 years) in Egypt’s Sinai. Nabil was kidnapped by ISIS last November, and this is the first time that the family learned of Nabil’s fate since his abduction. They believe that the execution may have happened either in March or early April.

At the time of his kidnapping in November, ICC reported that it “occurred at 8:00 p.m. while the streets were busy. It was followed by shots fired into the air, and the gunmen stealing an escape car. Nabil had left his home to buy an item at a shop less than 50 meters from his house when the incident occurred.”

Nabil’s son said, “How dare unmasked people kidnap my father and steal a car in the full view of all passers. No security officers or police defended my father! Bir al-Abd is a city full of security bodies because it is a city which usually faces terrorism attacks. How could armed people enter the city and commit a crime?”

According to Nabil’s son, there are approximately 100 other Coptic Christian families living in Bir al-Abd. He worries that the combined public kidnapping and execution of Nabil will prompt an exodus from the city, comparing the situation to that of al-Arish. In that city, an increase of ISIS activity (including the murdering of Christians) forced the entire Christian community to escape for their own safety.

Within approximately 48 hours of the publication of this execution video, Egypt’s Ministry of Interior announced that they had killed three of those involved. However, this has prompted new questions. Where is due process, how can the authorities be sure that they targeted the correct individuals, and if they were certain, why did the authorities wait 6 months to act on this intelligence and only respond after Nabil was killed?

His son shared in an interview, “Thanks for the effort you did for giving our father his rights, based on reaching to information about the terrorists; the minimal right for the martyr is to reach to his body and determine a good place to bury his body. Now we are waiting on that from the police, especially that the police announced that they got information about the terrorists. We have to mention that there were 6 months and within this period our father was kidnapped and there was communication between the terrorists and police, so why now do we not know the location of our father’s body?”

In the execution video, ISIS made it clear that they were associating the Christian population (in particular, the Orthodox Church) with being supporters of the Egyptian Army. This assumption speaks to several deeper issues related to persecution in Egypt. There is a level where Egypt’s Christian population is forced into a choice between either ISIS or living with the government. Neither one, however, is a model for human rights.

The Egyptian authorities have used a legitimate security concern, ISIS, to justify rolling back human rights protections. This affects all sectors of Egyptian society, but for Christians who are already marginalized and viewed as second-class citizens, it is particularly challenging.

Claire Evans, ICC’s Regional Manager for the Middle East, said, “For months the family has waited for any news of Nabil, and now that the truth is known, it is devastating. It is important that we remember that there are two parties of concern here. This is a notable moment for ISIS, who has not released an execution video of a Christian for several months now. We should be worried about what this means for the safety of the wider Christian community. But we also need to be worried about the response from the Egyptian government. How could they have gone from a six-month period of knowing nothing about the ISIS kidnappers to suddenly killing the involved ISIS members within 48 hours of the video’s publication? The date of the video’s publication is not believed to be the date of the execution. The difference between the kidnapping and the video’s publication is the international awareness of the problem, and thus it is the responsibility of the international community to call out this discrepancy and hold Egypt accountable for any decision that contributed to this moment.”

For interviews please contact Alison Garcia: press@persecution.org

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