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Christians ‘scapegoated’ after sit-in dispersals, says Amnesty International

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New report chronicles sectarian violence in Egypt

Delga's Coptic priest Yuannas points at the damage in the historical Blessed Virgin church following an attack by masked Islamist men the previous month in the town of Delga, in the central Egyptian province of Minya (AFP Photo)

Delga’s Coptic priest Yuannas points at the damage in the historical Blessed Virgin church following an attack by masked Islamist men the previous month in the town of Delga, in the central Egyptian province of Minya
(AFP Photo)

Egyptian security forces failed to protect the Christian minority from violence and property damage in the days after the 14 August dispersals of pro-Mohamed Morsi sit-ins, according to a new report by human rights watchdog Amnesty International.

Titled “’How Long Are We Going To Live In Injustice?’: Egypt’s Christians Caught Between Sectarian Attacks and State Inaction,” the report detailed the failure of the police and military to keep angry mobs from violence and destroying churches, monasteries and the property of Christians—which left four people dead and 43 churches damaged across the country.

“In some instances, churches and other buildings were completely torched or razed to the ground,” read the report.  “Crosses from church tops were broken, and sanctuaries destroyed. Historical monuments with religious significance and ancient relics were engulfed by the flames. Amnesty International documented the deaths of four people during the attacks.”

Graffiti left on the walls of Christian buildings walls with slogans such as “They killed our brothers during prayer” and “The religion of God is Islam” illustrated the sectarian nature of the “unprecedented” attacks, said Amnesty International.

“The latest sectarian attacks were marked by a rise in inflammatory sectarian discourse adopted by some members and supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood, blaming Coptic Christians for the ouster of Mohamed Morsi and scapegoating them for the crackdown on his supporters,” read the report.

Amnesty International documented several specific instances where Copts were specifically targeted, including reports of a 60 year-old man in Delga who was shot dead and his body was dragged through the streets behind a tractor.

“For too long the Christians of Egypt have borne the brunt of sectarian violence. This pattern of inaction by the authorities must change,” said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa.

Amnesty International has called on Egyptians authorities to conduct an independent investigation into the sectarian attacks, and begin a reconciliation process.

“The state must ensure full reparation, including financial compensation, to the victims of sectarian attacks.  The rebuilding of places of worship must be also be prioritized and legal obstacles to building churches immediately repealed. Without such concrete measures, Coptic Christians, once again, would just have been used as an excuse to settle political scores.”

The report was released this week to coincide with the two year anniversary of the 9 October, 2011 massacre at the Maspero state media building in which 26 Coptic protestors were killed by security forces.

About the author

Aaron T. Rose

Aaron T. Rose is an American journalist in Cairo. Follow him on Twitter: @Aaron_T_Rose


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