CAIRO: Families belonging to the minority religious sect of Bahais from the Egyptian village of El-Shoraneyya, Sohag, had to flee for their lives after their homes came under attack.
“They threw Molotov Cocktails and stones at us, destroyed our homes and stole things from inside, Ahmed El-Sayyed, one of the victims, told Daily News Egypt outside the public prosecution office in Cairo.
Lawyers from the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR) accompanied some of the Bahai victims to the public prosecution office on Thursday to present a complaint about the attack.
The five families forced to flee their homes are currently staying in Cairo.
A joint statement issued by six human rights organizations yesterday calls on those responsible for the attacks to be held accountable and also describes the events.
It says that the attacks began last Saturday, March 28, when tens of villagers gathered outside the Bahai families homes and began chanting “Bahais are enemies of God before physically attacking the houses, attempting to break into them.
According to the statement, the police only dispersed the crowd without arresting anyone involved in the attacks. Similar but smaller incidents occurred on the evenings of Sunday and Monday.
El-Sayyed confirms that the police did not protect the families alleging that “they were on [the attackers’] side.
Events escalated on Tuesday when villagers threw Molotov Cocktails at the homes of five Bahai families, who recognized their attackers, setting parts of the houses alight.
The statement then alleges that the attackers tried to destroy water pipes to obstruct the victims attempts to put out the flames. They then proceeded to loot electrical supplies and other items from inside their homes.
On Wednesday the police ordered that the Bahai families leave El-Shoraneyya.
El-Sayyed told Daily News Egypt that this was the first attack of its kind on El-Shoraneyya s Bahais, who have lived in the village all their lives.
He attributed the attack to a recent edition of satellite TV talk show “El Haqiqa (The Truth) which hosted Bahais including El-Sayyed and activist Basma Moussa. Journalist Gamal Abdel Rahim also appeared on the program.
In the program Abdel Rahim, a journalist with state-run El-Gomhuria, said that Moussa “should be killed.
Abdel Rahim also published a vitriolic article in El-Gomhuria on March 31, the day of the attacks in which he condones the attacks on El-Shouraneyya s Bahais, saying, “I know very well that El-Shouraneyya s residents jealously guard their religion and beliefs – as is evidenced by the admission from Bahai Ahmed [El-Sayyed] himself during the TV program that stones were thrown at him.
An individual called Mohamed Yousry Mohamed, who describes himself as a National Democratic Party youth leader, commented on the article via Abdel Rahim s blog.
In his comment he confirms that El-Shoraneyya s villagers attacked the Bahai homes, set fire to them and forced them to leave “in response to the episode of ‘El-Haqiqa’.
When Daily News Egypt telephoned Mohamed he said, “The problem isn t that they are Bahais, it s that they described El-Shoraneyya village as Bahai.
Everyone is free in his beliefs but El-Shoraneyya has been stigmatized as Bahai.
The six human rights organizations are calling on the public prosecutor to question Abdel Rahim about what they describe as his “incitement of violence against Bahais during his TV appearance and in his article.
EIPR lawyer Adel Ramadan told reporters after the meeting with the public prosecutor that an investigation has been launched into the attacks. “Faxes have been sent to the relevant public prosecution offices in Sohag, and investigations have been opened. We also called on the public prosecutor to offer – as much as he is able – protection to the families because their lives are in danger.