CAIRO: Angry protestors called on the government to bring to justice perpetrators of sectarian crimes Saturday, in the wake of the Nagaa Hammadi drive-by shooting, which left seven people – six Coptic Christians and one Muslim – dead outside a Church on Coptic Christmas eve on Jan. 6.
The demonstration, organized by the National Committee Against Sectarian Violence, saw around 200 protestors congregate outside Cairo’s Public Prosecution Office, where they were tightly surrounded by a security cordon.
Holding up banners saying “stop violence against Copts and “extremism = backwardness, protestors chanted, “Egypt is for all Egyptians , and “They killed our children on Christmas night . Emotions ran high as young men who attempted to chant anti-Mubarak and anti-Ikhwan (Muslim Brotherhood) slogans were silenced by other protestors.
Many of the protestors expressed anger at what they described as duplicitous handling by the government, of crimes in which the victim is a member of Egypt’s Copts, who account for between 6-10 of the total population.
“If just one Muslim was killed by Copts what would the reaction be? Saied, a protestor asked.
“But the government is silent. Why? Are we not human beings? Saied continued.
Another protestor, Beshoy – in tears during the protest and who it transpired knew some of the young men killed in Nagaa Hammadi – said, “This is the first time I go to a protest. I didn’t know that there exist fourth class citizens in Egypt.
Egypt’s Christians frequently condemn government responses to incidents of sectarian violence.
By using what are known as “reconciliation sessions rather than pursuing justice in a court of law, the authorities fail to hold to account perpetrators of criminal offences against Copts, critics say. Rights groups also suggest that these measures encourage the repetition of such incidents.
“This crime should be made equal to the killing of Marwa, protestor John Fekry said, referring to the fatal, Islamophobic stabbing of Egyptian Marwa El-Sherbini in Germany last July.
Fekry also called for the resignation of the head of security in Qena, because “he had knowledge that such an incident would be carried out in advance, and did nothing .
Several protestors said that they expect verdicts “similar to those handed down after Kosheh to be delivered against those held responsible for the Nagaa Hammadi killings.
On New Year’s Eve 1999, 21 Christians from Kosheh, Sohag, were killed during sectarian clashes. All the defendants charged in connection with the incident were acquitted, except for one Muslim man who was found guilty of accidentally killing another Muslim during the clashes.
“If people in Kosheh had been punished under the law, events in Farshout and Alexandria would never have happened. Reconciliation sessions don’t serve justice, lawyer Hany Ramsis told reporters, referring to other incidents of sectarian violence in which Copts were targeted.
“We’re asking the government for justice. We’re asking it to lift its hand off the judiciary and stop using reconciliation sessions.