CAIRO: A rights group has cast doubt on newspaper reports that Bahai families were to be relocated to a village in Upper Egypt.
According to Reuters, Egyptian police made 70 arrests on Thursday last week after some 150 people from Ezba and surrounding villages in Sohag gathered outside regional government offices to protest the relocation of 25 Bahai families.
The Bahai families allegedly at the center of these protests were made homeless in April, when the residences of five families in the village of El-Shoraneyya in Sohag were attacked and set on fire by other villagers chanting “Bahais are the enemies of God.
The Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR) and other rights groups were critical of the police response to the attack, saying that they did not do enough to protect the families at the time of the attack.
The police subsequently ordered the families to leave El-Shoraneyya.
EIPR lawyer Adel Ramadan told Daily News Egypt that according to members of the Bahai community he had contacted, there was no indication that the people who moved into the village of Ezba were Bahais.
“Though I can’t confirm this with 100 percent certainty, as far as we have been able to ascertain the El-Shoraneyya Bahais are not involved in what happened at Ezba. According to the Bahais we know, these were not Bahais, he said.
Ramadan placed the blame squarely on the Ministry of Interior for the manner in which the residents of Ezba protested against the possible relocation of Bahais to their village.
“This happened because of the policies of the interior ministry when they allowed people to kick Bahais out of their homes earlier this year. This only encouraged residents of other villages to go out against people they thought to be Bahais or any group that doesn t share their faith, he said.
Ramadan added that the interior ministry also displayed this non-interventionist, hands-free approach in some cases involving Coptic Christians forced to leave their villages as well as with the Bahais, which to his mind was an indicator that this type of occurrence would happen again in the future.
As for the arrests that were carried out – perceived by the “Bahai Faith in Egypt blog (www.bahai-egypt.org) as indicating that the authorities were becoming more vigilant in protecting minority rights – Ramadan was not convinced that it reflected a turnaround in the ministry’s modus operandi.
“They didn’t do it when it mattered, when it was known to involve Bahais, he said, “and it is not coming from a desire to protect a minority sect, but rather because these protestors went up against the state – the motivation behind the arrests here [in Ezba] is therefore to be faulted.