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It would be wrong to say that the recent escalating attacks on Christians in general, and Copts in particular, in Egypt are a new thing. There is a long history of intolerance towards minorities. But the intensity and ferocity of what is happening right now cannot be overlooked.
Amnesty International reports as follows on a couple of recent examples:
Giza killing, 15 August 2013
A Coptic Christian man was killed and at least three more injured when some participants in a pro-Morsi march attacked a Christian area of Izbit al-Nakhl in Giza on 15 August. A number of Coptic Christian stores and cars were also set alight. Local residents told Amnesty that at about 5.30pm a march by Morsi supporters approached their neighbourhood, using sectarian and inflammatory language in their chants, including: “What a shame, the nasara [derogatory term for Christian] are pretending to be revolutionaries.” As the march approached, most Coptic Christians shut their stores and sought shelter inside. Some ran to the local church to seal it off from a potential attack. Those who remained in the streets were shot at and/or beaten.
When the attackers approached, one man - Fawzi Mourid Fares Louka - decided to park his car inside the garage for safety. While he was closing the door, along with his nephew Khaled, the angry crowd reached the street. His nephew told Amnesty what happened next:
“They were carrying metal bars, waving the al-Qa’ida black flag. Some of them were armed. There was random shooting in the air, on the buildings, and pictures of Pope Shenouda [hanging in the middle of the street]. They were insulting Christians, saying ‘Christian dogs, we will show you’, and shouting ‘Allahu Akbar’… We were just trying to close the door of the garage, when my uncle fell into my arms… I realised that he was shot in the head… I quickly closed the garage door behind us … They [attackers] were frantically knocking on the door, threatening to finish us off.”
The attackers also surrounded and beat Fawzi’s brother Boutros who was standing a few metres away, on the street corner. He was hit on the head with a bar, and stabbed in the back twice before managing to escape in the direction of the Church.
Another bystander, Nabil Zakaria Riyad, sustained shotgun pellet wounds to his legs, face, and stomach during the attack. He was standing at his front door on a street adjacent to where Fawzi Louka was shot. He said:
“They were shouting ‘there is no God but Allah’ and ‘Islamic, Islamic’, and I heard gunfire … I saw them reverse the Tok Tok [three wheel vehicle used in small alleyways] that was transporting Fawzi to the hospital and breaking cars and stores ... They were firing in the street, and while I tried to get closer to the front door, I was shot.”
Fawzi Louka’s relatives told Amnesty that they lodged a complaint at the Marg police station, but thus far investigations do no appear to have started. During a visit to the area on 18 August, Amnesty researchers examined bullet holes on buildings on the street where Fawzi Louka was killed. The effects of burning and other damage to several stores and cars owned by Coptic Christians were clearly visible.
Al-Minya, 3 August 2013
In another recent incident of sectarian violence on 3 August in the Governorate of Al-Minya, the authorities not only failed to promptly intervene to put an end to the attack, but also appeared to revert back to old policies of addressing sectarian violence through “reconciliation” rather than justice. This incident was triggered by a verbal altercation between a Coptic Christian and Muslim at a coffee shop in the village of Bani Ahmed, two-and-a-half miles from Al-Minya city, over the playing of a nationalist song praising the Egyptian army. The Muslim man appeared to want to turn the song off, given his opposition to the ousting of Morsi. Hours later, a group of villagers from surrounding areas went on a rampage, attacking Christian stores, homes, and residents of Bani Ahmed - a predominantly Coptic Christian village. According to residents, at least 18 people were beaten and/or stabbed, while scores of Christian homes and businesses were looted and set on fire. Security forces arrived several hours later. About a week later, reconciliation sessions, some in the presence of local officials, took place pressuring Coptic Christians to withdraw complaints lodged at police stations in return for “safety”.Tweet