Monday, May 9, 2011

Copts Voice Their Anger and Sadness on Day Two of Protests

Exhausted from the latest sectarian attacks on two churches Saturday night that left 12 dead, Ahram Online witnesses bouts of fighting to sobbing and hears the demands and fears of Copts at their protest in the state media building

Sometimes it turns violent and other times it’s eerily quiet, giving an unhindered forum for the protesters to voice their anger and mourning. Outside the state TV building, known as Maspero, hundreds of heavy-hearted Egyptian Christians, many sobbing and garbed in black, staged a sit-in in against sectarian violence in the wake of ‎deadly attacks on two churches in Imbaba Saturday, killing 12 people, leaving hundreds more injured and raising fears of a follow-up attack.

A heavy army and police detail cordoned the area surrounding the building Egypt’s Radio and Television building, blocking all the side streets leading to the area while army staff checked IDs.

A line of riot police on walkie-talkies fanned out across the streets surrounding Maspero.

A few metres away from the checkpoint sits 21 year-old Michael Tadros, sobbing heavily and shouting “Isn’t it enough to kill our brothers, spoil our prayers and celebrations and leave us in fear and terror?”

His father, who was holding his hand said “Don’t worry! God is with us. He will help us” to which Tadros reacted to with great anger, shouting “We can’t keep silent and just keep praying. We should take revenge. We should protect ourselves… the army isn’t protecting us, not Pope Shenouda. No one.”

Banners read “Down down with Tantawi [the minister of defence and head of the ruling Supreme Council of Armed Forces],” “Where’s the international community?” and “We won’t surrender our rights anymore.” Other placards were fixed on the tents surrounding the place, where angry Copts spent their night in fear of possible attacks from the army or from thugs, whom are commonly thought to be bought by the former regime in order to break up protests.

Fear, anger and little hope was the spirit today in Maspero. A group of protestors started chanting slogans such as “We’re all Egyptians, no matter if we’re Muslim or Christian,” “We’re all one against terrorism” and “Egypt for Egyptians.”

Mina Hanna, one of the young protestors who suggested some of the chants to “pacify the situation and unite protestors” said they won’t end their sit-in until all demands are met, which include the trial of all criminals who committed Saturday’s attack and the release of all Christians detained by the army since 9 March. The military is accused of arresting people for politically-motivated reasons or simply randomly when things get out of hand.

“Our problem is not the Muslims – many of them joined the protests as a show of solidarity. Our problem is with fanatic Salafists. God take them all and rid us of them and everything will be fine,” Hanna said before he suddenly vanished as a sudden fight erupted between two young men.

Maspero, which was already edgy suddenly turned into a war zone.

Spontaneous fighting exploded everywhere. Stones flew and other projectiles showered the whole area. Army officers started their random arrests. Some angry protestors started throwing stones at the army officers, who quickly stepped back behind the cordon, leaving people to fight each other.

Once the situation turned upside down all pacifist voices were shut off by the masses. No one wanted to hear anything about unity between Muslims and Christians or between Egyptians in this edgy situation.

“Call us unpatriotic, call us hypocrites: we seek international arbitration,” Youssef Abdullah, a Coptic lawyer told Ahram Online, having just ended an interview with a Canadian channel, one of several international and local press which came to capture the moment.

“We’re seeking one million signatures to get international arbitration,” says Abdullah “These are not spontaneous attacks, as some described it. These are planned serial attacks on Egypt’s Copts and with the chaos in the country it’s getting serious.”

During a New Year’s Eve celebration a massive explosion occurred outside the Two Saints Church in the northern Egyptian city of Alexandria, leaving 23 dead and 79 injured.

“This time it’s different” says Coptic activist Rola Sobhy “Every time there’s an attack on Copts, they try to give us some ‘painkillers’ to calm the situation, and yet it happens again and again.”

“Structural changes need to take place” adds Sobhy “We don’t want them to rebuild the attacked churches: we know how to do that already. What we need is to try Salafist sheikhs who incite sectarian violence, including Sheikh Hassan, who is being treated like a hero.”

Salafist Sheikh Mohamed Hassan joined a delegation of army officers that went to Atfeeh, Helwan, where a church was burned on 4 March, reportedly as a result of a love affair between a young Muslim woman and a young Coptic man, leading to a mob attack on the church, as well as Coptic homes in the village.

Mohamed Hassan gave a speech, showing solidarity with Christians and denouncing all kinds of violence against Copts, however Copts seem uncomfortable with the idea of the army using a Muslim sheikh to address Christians.

“This is a clear political game between the army and the Muslim Brotherhood,” elaborates Rola “they incite people against each other, point fingers at Salafists, so that people say ‘oh yes, the Muslim Brotherhood is less harmful than Salafists’ and we vote for them in the elections.”

That way, Rola adds, Tantawi, who is part of the former regime, is no longer threatened by a new president who might put him on trial, considering he would have helped get the Muslim Brotherhood reach a parliamentary majority or even presidency.

One old woman, with a tattoo of a cross on her wrist, sitting on the pavement began sobbing hysterically and shouted “Enough discrimination, enough second-class treatment for my son – this time we’ll take our revenge.”

By Salma El-Wardani

Egypt's Coptic Christians Protest Against Sectarian Attacks

RTTNews) - Thousands of Egyptian Coptic Christians demonstrated in the country's capital city of Cairo on Monday to protest against the Muslim-Christian sectarian violence triggered by the attacks on two churches over the weekend.

Monday's demonstration was staged outside the building housing Egypt's state television in Cairo, marking the second day of such protests at the same venue. The protesting Christians are alleging that the army had failed to protect them from attacks by the Muslim majority.

They are also demanding the removal of Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, the head of Egypt's ruling military council which replaced the regime of ousted President Hosni Mubarak after the February uprising.

At least 12 people were killed on Saturday, after hundreds of conservative Muslims attacked and set fire to two churches in Cairo. Further clashes broke out on Sunday, with Christians and Muslims pelting each other with stones. More than 150 people from both sides were reported to be injured in the two days of fighting.

The violence erupted late Saturday after rumors spread that a Christian woman was being held in the Saint Mena Church in Cairo's Imbaba district against her will because she married a Muslim man and wanted to convert to Islam. The woman in question has since denied those claims in a TV interview.

The Egyptian military has since restored order in Cairo and arrested more than 190 people over their involvement in the sectarian clashes. The military also pledged to enforce new laws that forbids attacks on churches and other places of worship.

Egypt's Coptic Christians Protest Against Sectarian Attacks

"The Supreme Military Council decided to send all those who were arrested in yesterday's events, that is 190 people, to the Supreme Military Court," the army said in a statement, adding that the move would act as a "deterrent to all those who think of toying with the potential of this nation".

Official demographic figures indicate that most of Egypt's Christians, who constitute almost ten per cent of the north African country's 80-million population, are Copts. They are descendents of native Egyptians converted into Christianity in the first century AD.

The Copts still follow a calendar based on Ancient Egypt and celebrate Christmas on January 7. Despite being the largest Christian community in the Middle East, they regularly complain about discrimination, harassment and sectarian attacks in their home country.

The developments come just over a couple of months after Mubarak was forced to step down from office on February 11 following mass protests across the country against his 30-year rule and handing over of the control of the nation to the military

Friday, May 6, 2011

The Triumph of Sectarianism in Upper Egypt

Written by Mary Abdelmassih
3 May 2011

(AINA) -- Between the April 14 appointment of the Christian Major General Emad Mikhail as governor of the southern province of Qena and the Prime Minister's decision on April 25 to suspend his appointment for a three months period, "Egypt lived through the biggest and most dangerous political and sectarian crisis in its modern history.

Although no blood was shed and no clashes between Muslims and Christians took place, the 'civil state' was put to a difficult test -- which it failed miserably," wrote journalist Mohamed Hamdy in an article for the daily newspaper Youm7.

The Muslim Brotherhood and Salafi leaders managed to bring thousands of protesters from inside and outside Qena, who after Friday prayers on April 15 staged an 11-day sit-in in front of the governorate building, demanding the removal of the new governor. Muslim protesters vowed to bar Major General Mikhail, who replaced the former Christian governor Magdi Ayoub, not only from entering the governorate building to carry out his functions as Governor but from the whole province, with some vowing to kill him.
The Muslim protests against the new Christian governor escalated in time. At first, the Muslim Brotherhood announced the reason for refusing Gen. Mikhail was only because he was an ex-policeman who worked for the State Security and was involved in the killing of the demonstrators in Tahrir Square in Cairo during the January 25 Revolution. This was refuted by Major General elNomany, minister of local development. The Muslims said that Christians joined them in refusing the Christian governor. This was refuted by the church, stating that Christians did not participate in any protests.

The Salafis, who control the majority of mosques in Qena, recruited the Imams to preach and issue Fatwas (religious edicts) saying the rule of non-Muslims over Muslims in not admissible, as per 'Allah will not give access to the infidels (i.e. Christians) to have authority over believers (Muslims) [Koran 4:141].

The demonstrators openly demanded a "Muslim governor in a Muslim country," walking the streets chanting "Mikhail is an infidel pig,", "There is no god but Allah and Christians are the enemies of Allah" and "Muslim, Muslim, will govern us" (video of Muslims chanting "we will never be ruled by a Christian governor").

Protesters declared their rejection of any negotiation with the ruling military governor and commander of the southern region before the dismissal of governor Mikhail. The minister of interior and the minister of local development also failed in their mission to end the protests and open the railway routes, and went back to Cairo with the same message: "no negotiations before the dismissal of the Christian governor."

The protesters called for the establishment of an Islamic state under the slogan "No god but Allah -- Islamic - God willing," provoking a state of fear among many Christians. They waved the Saudi Arabian flag. The protesters then blocked the railroad track and highways between Cairo and Aswan for 8 consecutive days, completely paralyzing railway stations in Aswan, Luxor and Qena and causing the suspension of rail services for 8 days (video).

The armed forces did not intervene to stop the demonstrators from blocking the highway.

On April 21 27 renowned Egyptian human rights organizations sent a letter to Field Marshal Tantawi, head of the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, and to the Prime Minsiter Dr. Essam Sharaf, expressing their deep concern over the events in Qena. The letter said "There were reports of raising the Saudi Arabian flag and the declaration of Qena as an 'Islamic Emirate,' and in this context, all roads leading to the province were cut off, including the railways." It went on to say that the Salafis removed students out of schools and shut them down, closed the Dandara Bridge which connects the west and east of the Nile, offloaded female passengers from busses to separate them from the male passengers in public transport, attempted to cut off the water supply from the province of the Red Sea, and prevented Christians from celebrating Palm Sunday.

The letter blamed the attitude of the military council and the government for the escalation of the objections posed by the Islamists groups to the appointment of governor Mikhail from being an ex-policemen to being a Christian. According to the letter, "They were encouraged because of the lenient attitude of the State represented by the military council and the government to past violations, such as the demolition of the church in Soul (AINA 3-5-2011) and the cutting off of the ear of citizen Ayman Anwar Mitry in Qena (AINA 3-26-2011), with the State only sponsoring reconciliation sessions between the two parties which are humiliating to the Christians and a way of trying to go around non-application of the law. "They even used at these meetings Salafi clergy who have always incited against the native Christians, which has encouraged these groups to ignite the fire of sectarian strife."

Egyptian Coptic female activist Hala el Masry, who lives in Qena, said the Salafis were the main players and when the Muslim Brotherhood saw matters got out of control, they pulled out of the protests. She stressed that the Salafis were collecting signatures for the appointment of one of the Salafi clerics as Amir (leader) of the faithful and governor of Qena. On April 28 the Salafis raised the Saudi Arabian flag for the second time, and staged a sit-in in front of the mosque of Sheikh Abdelrehim el-Qenawi, demanding the appointment of Sheikh el Qurashi as Amir of the faithful and governor of Qena, reported Coptic activist Mariam Ragi.

The position of the army was incomprehensible to many Egyptians and dozens of articles appeared criticizing the inaction of the military towards the radical Muslims in Qena in blocking off the railway connecting Qena with Cairo, as well as several other main highways. The articles called on the military to force the Salafis to respect the authority of the State.

When all efforts failed to dissuade the Muslims in Qena to end their protest and accept the new Christian governor, the government suspended the governor's appointment for three months, giving sectarianism the final word.

Mary Abdelmassih

Obama Oblivious to Religious Persecution of Christians

Written by Bruce Walker
The New American
1st May 2011

All over the world, Christians are persecuted for their faith. The murder of Coptic Christians in Egypt and the protests of radical Muslims against the appointment of a Christian Governor of an Egyptian province are recent examples of that oppression.

Native Christian Iraqis, in a nation where Obama still has American troops, have fled their ancestral homeland in droves to escape the brutal persecution of Muslims and the “blessings” of democracy without individual rights. Christians in China are arrested, their Bibles confiscated, and their churches ransacked — all for the state offense of practicing their faith as they wish. In fact, no communist regime allows the free practice of religion.
Nations such as India, with an unmerited reputation for tolerance, allows attacks on Christians as brutal as anything seen in the Islamic world — almost especially upon those Dalits, or “untouchables,” who have converted to Christianity.

Though America does not have an established state religion (despite the fretting of federal judges and the ACLU), there are plenty of other nations of the world that do: Saudi Arabia, Iran, Sikkim, Bhutan, and a host of others. These countries with non-Christian state religions do not trouble the Obama administration at all. Though President Obama delivers serious messages to celebrate Ramadan, Kwanza, and just about every religious holiday except those of the Christian religion such as Easter, leaders of Buddhist, Hindu, and Islamic nations would not dream of giving an official government Easter or Christmas message.

Many people in European nations such as England, Denmark, Scotland, and Norway — which still have established state churches — have a low view of Christianity, even as brutal Muslim religious law is being enforced in their countries by street thugs, as well as by anti-religious government offices and court systems.The definition of “hate crimes” in much of the West has come to mean any sincere profession of the ancient Christian faith.

So it should surprise no one that since President Obama took office, his administration has not designated a single “country of particular concern” (CPC) for religious freedom violations. The term CPC is grounded in the 1998 International Religious Freedom Act, which was intended to tie America's foreign policy to the promotion of religious freedom. It identifies any country that is a "systematic, ongoing, and egregious" violator of religious freedom. President Bill Clinton in 1999 designated Burma, China, Iran, Iraq, and Sudan as CPCs. President George W. Bush, on January 16, 2009, gave eight nations that designation — Burma, China, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, and Uzbekistan.

Though it is highly doubtful that the Religious Freedom Act can do much to help persecuted Christians in other countries, President Obama's failure to even make a symbolic gesture to protect such people may violate this federal law, which requires him to take specific actions against any CPC, including sanctions and diplomatic protests.

The U.S. Commission for International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) wrote to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in January 2010 urging her to take action on CPC designations, and repeated the exhortation last January. Nothing has happened. Leonard Leo, chairman of the USCIRF, observed:

The Obama administration continues to rely on the prior administration’s designations but hopefully will make new designations and apply meaningful actions very soon in order to underscore America’s resolve in bolstering the freedom of religion or belief around the world.

According to,

Although Saudia Arabia is widely viewed as a particularly severe violator of religious freedom, an indefinite waiver prevents the imposition of sanctions ... as a consequence of its designation. Uzbekistan has also been covered by ... waivers.

Chairman Leonard Leo noted, "As a result of these waivers, the United States has not implemented any policy response to the particularly severe violations of religious freedom in either country."

The USCIRF also reported that:

The promotion and protection of religious freedom is underutilized in U.S. foreign policy. This has been the case in both Democratic and Republican administrations, which is unfortunate, as IRFA provides the U.S. government with unique capabilities to address some of the most pressing foreign policy challenges the United States faces today. The U.S. government is working to encourage respect for human rights around the world, while at the same time engaging in conflicts where actors are motivated by ideas advancing violent religious extremism. In light of this, promoting religious freedom can help policymakers achieve crucial foreign policy goals, given that many egregious limitations on freedom of religious practice not only constitute human rights abuses but also can impact national security.

None of this should be very surprising to Americans. President Obama has shown a profound, though often subtle, disdain for serious Christian faith, and has almost never condemned anti-Semitic comments from his friends in the radical Left. It should also come as no surprise that federal statutes and specially created federal commissions have failed woefully to protect liberties in America or to champion religious freedom abroad.

When Americans have acted effectively to protect Christians and Jews, it has almost always come from private, voluntary cooperation (such as the boycott of German goods in the 1930s to protest Nazi anti-Semitism, or the church protests against the imprisonment of prelates in the Soviet empire. Likewise, the promotion of faith and the dispelling of slanders of Judeo-Christian traditions comes most effectively from the private donations and missions of individual Americans and organizations, who go around the world with help, comfort, and love.


Written by Dioscorus Boles
30 April 2011

The Coptic Camilia Shehata, 25, exposed to intimidation
and terror by the Islamists in Egypt

Camilia Shehata Zakher [i] is an ordinary 25 year old Coptic school teacher from Deir Mawas, Minya in Upper Egypt, and wife of Father Tadros Samaan, the Coptic priest of Saint Mark’s Church in Mawas Cathedral, Minya, where there is a large concentration of Copts, but also a strong presence of the Islamists/Salafists, including Jama’a Islamiya, Jihad and Wahabists, who over the last months and years have been, together with their colleagues in other villages and towns of Egypt, stirring anti-Coptic sentiment; preaching hate; involved in intimidations against the peaceful Coptic communities; attacking their churches and properties; and injuring and killing some.

Even al-Qaeda, which is the central point for all these groups, has added its weight, and called its followers to attack Copts everywhere – the Alexandria Massacre on New Year Day 2011 being the latest, and which led to 23 Copts being dead.

Camilia inadvertently entered the annals of history when In July 2010 she disappeared from her home, but after a few days she reappeared in Cairo at the flat of one of her Coptic relatives. It was believed that her disappearance was due to a marital dispute with her husband. So far, it looked like any other regular incident, but the Islamists have chosen to make it a public matter, and complicated her case, converting it into an unnecessarily clash between the Muslims and the Coptic community. They alleged that Camilia, on disappearance, converted to Islam and that, upon reappearance, she was forced back to Christianity. Despite much evidence to the contrary, the Islamists would not listen. Such evidence included a statement by Dr. Saliem al-Awwa, himself an Islamist who is not known for his sympathies with the Copts, who said on TV that Camilia never converted to Islam – you can watch the video here: . Not only him, but even Dr. Ahmad al-Tayyib, the Grand Sheikh of al-Azhar, denied in Egyptian press that Camilia ever converted to Islam in the presence of Azhari representatives.[ii] [iii] Moreover, Camilia herself appeared in video, published by the Egyptian daily, El-Youm7, and in which she denied the Islamists’ allegations, and confirmed that she was Christian, and that she never became Muslim – you can watch her video here:

In the video, during which shooting a reported from the daily was present, and who confirmed its authenticity, Camilia says:

Iam Christian with all my heart… I am talking to you in full freedom and without any pressure or intimidation. I am appearing to defend my husband, my child, my Church and my religion which is Christianity.

She then goes on to deny having been subject to torture, brainwashing or being detained in a monastery or church, as alleged by the Islamists, and then she adds:

This is illogical because the Church teaches us to love, but I assure you that I am in a safe and pleasant place.[iv]

But, not convinced of any evidence, and resolved to make it an issue with the Coptic Church, the Islamists declared that their top objective as a new political group in Egypt following the Revolution was “freeing Camilia from the grips of the Church”; and on 29 April 2011, around 5,000 of them, after Friday prayer, marched to the Coptic Patriarchate in Abbasiyya, Cairo, demanding Camilia’s “release”, the ouster of Pope Shenouda, and his trial for criminal offenses. To Copts and all independent observers, it is clear that the Islamists are using Camilia’s case as a rallying cry against the Copts, and to prove their existence on Egypt’s political theatre and justification as the staunchest defenders of Muhammadanism in a country that suffers from high rates of poverty and illiteracy.

Islamists full of hate using Camilia’s case to press for their agenda
(here they use a re-worked picture showing her clad in an Islamic veil, which she never wore)

In their campaign to intimidate the Copts and the Coptic Church, the Islamists, in addition to their traditional methods, called for boycotting of Coptic businesses, and further marginalising the Copts. But maybe what could have been the most serious development, had it not been so laughable, is their claim that their agitation for Camilia’s “release” is for religious freedom and human rights’ sake: the Church, they say, has imprisoned her, and prevented her from converting to Islam. So they seem to have learned from their masters in subterfuge, the Muslim Brotherhood, to put a liberal-democratic cloak on their religionist and racist rhetoric, to cover it in order to deceive and to annoy at the same time.

The Copts must understand that this is not about Camilia, or any of what the Islamists call “her sisters” who they allege have been kidnapped by the Coptic Church to prevent their conversion to Islam. As with the Governor of Qena’s case, this is a battle for domination – and in this battle they use all sorts of intimidation and terrorism, not only against the Copts, but also against the Moderate Muslims, who look at these Islamists, and their claims, with disgust. If they win Camilia’s case, and manage to resist the appointment of a Coptic governor to Qena, they will spread their influence and authority over all Egypt. This, with the case of the Qena Governor, is the first of a series of battles in the process of Islamisation of Egypt[v] and the surrender of Egypt to the dark and intolerant forces of Islamic fanaticism.

Coptic Nationalism is, therefore, appalled to find that some Copts do not understand the symbolic importance of this battle. Some call for Camilia’s “release”, as if she is under arrest by the Church, and some unfairly criticise Pope Shenouda for “mishandling of the situation”, as they say. Fearing attacks against themselves, some see no moral problem in scarifying some of our girls to the whims of the Islamists. They forget in the process that Camilia is a Copt; that she is Christian by her own admission; that she is not imprisoned by the Church; that she is, in fact, hiding away from the Islamists who pose a real risk on her freedom and life. When the Sunni sources, in which these Islamists strongly believe, say that an apostate from Islam must be killed; when Muhammad’s Hadith, “Whoever changes his (Islamic) religion, kill him,”[vi] can be quoted, there is no chance that the Islamists can claim the moral superiority on this matter, or be able to present it as a battle for religious liberty on their part. The Copts, and with them the world, must know that Camilia is hiding from the Islamists because if she comes out, she will be killed unless she declares that she is Muslim. As we have seen in the video, she has said publicly that she is Christian, but the Islamists wouldn’t listen – they are convinced that she did convert to Islam. Now, getting the Islamists involved in her choice of Faith will end in one of two horrible outcomes for her: either she converts to Islam, against her wish, because of their threats and intimidation of herself, family and community, in order to avoid application of had al-ridda (the penalty for apostasy, which is execution) on her, and attacks on her family and Copts; or she stays put, and confirm her Faith in Christ, for which she will nevertheless be killed by the Islamists for apostasy as they are convinced that she did become Muslim last year when she left her home first time! You can see her dilemma, and hope you will understand then the concerns of our Church leadership for her safety.

Today, 30th April, news came that the Egyptian Public Prosecution ordered the Coptic Church to release Camilia so that she may appear before the law. This is insane: regardless of the dangers that her appearance publicly may put her in, Camilia’s faith is a private matter and is her own business alone–-it is none of the business of the Islamists, the Public Prosecution or the State. The Coptic Church cannot hand over one of her followers who is hiding from the intimidation and terrorism of the Islamists – if it did, it will lose credibility with many Copts, let alone betraying its spiritual duty. It is a relief that news followed suit rapidly that the Church refuses the Public Prosecution’s order.

The Camilia crisis is becoming intimidation of the Copts and the Coptic Church on a larger scale; but the Copts, and their Church, are accustomed to that. They will resist any order from Caesar that will not respect’s what is God’s. Copts everywhere must understand that this is not a simple individual’s case, important though as it is for Camila and her family, who must be languishing under tremendous stress and fear – it is a matter of collective significance: it will decide the legal status of the Copts in Egypt for the foreseeable future, if the Copts, or the Coptic Church, capitulate. This is a clash, which we didn’t want, didn’t create, didn’t invite; but it was planned, manufactured and pushed to the forefront of politics by the Islamists – it is a clash between the Egyptian forces of modernity, religious liberty and tolerance, and the forces of Islamic fundamentalism, religious despotism and intolerance.

To what camp will the Egyptian State lean, and with whom will it side? And what will the international community do? These are questions which we will have to wait to see the answers for. But the Egyptian authorities, as represented in the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) and the Ministry, must know very well that they are playing with fire; that they are paving the way to lasting divisions in the Egyptian polity; that the international community know that they are dithering and wavering when they are expected not to; that they are failing in their duty to protect the Copts and their basic freedoms and human rights; that they cannot continue to do so for long, and that the world cannot afford to let them do so; that, due to their failures, coming on the heels of past failures by Mubarak and Sadat, Egypt has now been classified by the United States, Egypt’s foremost friend, as a Country of Particular Concern (CPC) because of its serious violations of the Copts’ religious freedom; that soon economic sanctions may be imposed on Egypt; and that once economic sanctions are imposed, they should blame only themselves for their continuing negligence and incompetence in running the affairs of Egypt to international standards.

But, to solve the problem, the Coptic Nationalists propose a solution to this crisis: Camilia can be smuggled out of Egypt, where religious liberty does not exist, to a safe and free country where she can conduct her life in peace and in the way she chooses, away from the intimidation and terrorism of the Islamists. There she can freely decide whatever religion she wants to follow, or, indeed, no religion at all. We urge the Western powers, particularly the United States of America and the European Union, to help with this proposal, or indeed take complete ownership of it.

Dioscorus Boles

The White House/Israel___Cairo/Riyadh Axis. Hiding the Black Book

Written by Countbernadotte blogspot
30 April 2011

There are those who know that what is taking place in the wings is far, far greater than what is being promulgated to the public for consumption. Mubarak’s is a case for careful examination and should never be taken for granted.

Information coming from private sources inside the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces tells a story, part of which is now well known and the remaining is subject to many speculations. But Mubarak’s destiny had been discussed and concrete steps had been taken different from what the public have been told. Mubarak will not be tried. Mubarak’s investigation will be farcical in nature, and designed only to mollify and placate the angry public.

To understand how events have progressed, and for everything to make sense, a brief background may be necessary for anyone who had not been there in Tahrir physically or digitally.

In the early hours of the revolution, there were very few exchanges with the Americans, if any. But during the early days, most of the exchanges, were reciprocal information between the White House Specialists on the Middle East and Tantawi’s Office in Kobreyl Qubbah as well as Joint General Command in Madinet Nassr. Very few were fielded to O’roobah Palace in Heliopolis to Mubarak himself.

America had no precise information on the timing or scope of the event. Much like Mubarak's regime, the US embassy Cairo had heard rumors and read digital messages but that was it. The US embassy’s Maggie Scobey was taken by surprise and could not provide any intelligence to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. The White House had no choice but to rely on Pentagon’s communication with Lt. General Sammy Annan, who, early on was at the Pentagon and had to cut his visit short when the temperature of Tahrir rose to a critical level.

The White House obtained a very solid promise from Lt. General Sammy Annan that he would dismiss any order to use the army against the civilian population. That promise was obtained from General Annan while he was in DC at the pentagon, and was confirmed several times after his return to his Office at Joint General Command in Madinet Nassr.

Lt. Genral Sammy Anan With US Counterpart

General Annan discussed this heatedly with Field Marshal Tantawi, who while had no objection to the principle, resented that his Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff should have made that decision and given such promises without deferring the matter to him first.
US Zionist Jew Joe Lieberman
Eventually, however, they both put the matter behind them especially when the difference was one of order and chain of command as well as military decorum rather than disagreement on duty and strategy. Lt. General Annan, however, was not 100% certain of his Boss' absolute and incontrovertible stance on initial action.

After January 28th, both Tantawi and Annan, along with all senior members of the Brass had no squabble on what their action should be, and with Mubarak’s intransigence, leading to ordering the army to crush the uprising by any and all means necessary, a decision was made to isolate him and his Old Crone along with their son the minute they sensed that they did not have a president, but a family acting as if they were monarchs or the royal overlords of the land.

Air Marshal Reda Mahmoud Hafez; Commanding General of the Air force ordered Cairo-West air base’s commanding officer to dispatch a squadron from their fighter air wing to fly “greeting formation” passes over Tahrir Square to reassure the millions that Egypt’s armed forces were on their side. Unfortunately neither the protesters nor the press understood what “Greeting Formation” flights were and thought that the F-16 fighter jets screaming over their heads were exhibiting hostile intentions against the civilians and gave defying fist signs with roaring cries as if to say, “We’re not scared of you.” ... Even foreign media were confused and reported this as a warning of impending aerial bombardment or scare tactics.

All those events were taking place while intensive communication was underway between the Tantawi-Annan team and the White House through the Pentagon to ensure that the Military was standing by the people or at least standing neutral. It was. But the communication had delved into a different topic altogether. The US was scared out of its wits and worried about all the dirty secrets between the US-Israel and Cairo-Riyadh axis.

Once the regime had fallen and was out of all official channels of communication, the US turned its attention to ensuring its strategic interests were not being threatened. The US had full confidence in the military institution but had no idea what the popular uprising might draw into the theater of influence in Egypt. This prompted intensive direct talks between the parties.

High level Congressional envoys including the most ardent Zionists of them all arrived one after another for closed door talks with Tantawi. They discussed Israel, the treaties, The Muslim Groups and the Mubaraks.

Britain’s Prime minister came to talk with both Tantawi and Ahmad Shafiq (then acting prime minister) regarding Muslim groups, Israel, the Treaties and the Mubaraks & his money. They also discussed, apparently, the imperative for a European standard legal proceedings against convicted members of the ousted regime. Tantawi wasted no time allaying British concern regarding military tribunals. David Cameron was impressed by what he heard from Tantawi regardong the deeply rooted traditions of Egypt's Judiciary system which has direct roots in both French and British counterparts.

The EU sent its chief of parliament to discuss Muslim groups, election, and transfer of power. They also discussed Mubarak and the looted funds in EU banks as well as string attachments to EU financial assistance. But perhaps one of the more sensitive issues about which, the EU was concerned, had to do with the nature of future trials for members of the deposed regime and whether capital punishment would ever be considered especially when there were close to 1000 killed by police snipers and assault including children and infants.

French President Sarkozy dispatched both his Prime Minster and Foreign Minister to discuss Muslim Groups, Israel, the Treaties, and the Mubaraks. … At one time Tantawi thought that all those high level envoys were on Mubarak’s Death-Will, lining up to inherit his Loot! Tantawi was also dismayed by the incredible and hypocritical degree of paranoia regarding Muslim groups while Muslims were being persecuted and targeted by Christian Extremists everywhere in their countries

Tantawi had to give assurances that all national Security secrets would remain 100% protected and Mubarak himself would be protected by the army. Tantawi-Annan had to agree to provide the US with assurances that, in exchange for his resignation, Mubarak would not be subject to any uncontrolled proceedings such as public Kangaroo Trials where, he would have to blurt out all state secrets.

This explains the army’s frantic reaction once State Security Buildings were compromised by the revolution and revolutionary elements had invaded several buildings, and documents were grabbed.

The US was quick to immediately send extremely loud alarms to protect or destroy those documents and leave no paper trails. Digital files were rescued and the military kept them in highly secured archives. The US was very pleased with the military’s quick reaction.

All documents destructions were sanctioned and pre-approved by Tantawi or his assistants. All State Security officers who were arrested for documents destruction without specific orders were subsequently released. No action was taken against them nor were they subject to any investigation. The public was given various cover stories that had been pre-rehearsed.

Tantawi's policy with remnants of the old regime's police apparatus was pragmatic. The police is not the State Security, yet State Security is a crucial division of the police. All the police excesses which were unforgivable by the people were equally unforgivable by the military.

The dilemma resided in what to do with internal security should a decision for collective punishment be taken? Undoubtedly many police personnel acted in pure criminal fashion. They were arrested and are still in detention pending trials.

The question remained, however, that despite the fact that the people's demands to dismantle the entire police apparatus are valid, no government, be it as it may, transitional, civilian or military could just dispense with the nation's police apparatus and replace it with a fresh replacement.

What Marshall Tantawi did was all he could do with what he had to maintain law and order, and even at that, law and order had either disintegrated or suffered severe blows in many parts of the country even with many units of the army acting as police to help in maintaining the security of the street.

The question of the family Loot was a very delicate matter and it was agreed that it would not be discussed until sufficient information was gathered and collected. Contrary to what the public and press had been told, The Old Crone and Her Two sons did travel abroad on the private jet several times, apparently, to take care of family Loot. Marshal Tantawi put an end to it once the Flight Crew complained that they were being coerced by the Old Crone to break the rules.

Meanwhile, across the ocean in the US, The Mubarak’s attorney in Washington DC, in what was described as one of the greatest blunders of US State Department's recent history of gaffes, was summoned by Hillary Clinton, and was designated her special envoy to Egypt. He arrived in Egypt, met the Mubaraks, and received instructions on what action to take regarding the family Loot. Nobody in Egypt was certain whether this was not on purpose. circumstances, however, do suggest that it was not just another gaffe.

Communication between Riyadh and Sharm el Sheikh continued, and representatives of the Fat, pot-bellied King in Riyadh came to meet Tantawi to ensure that all their state secrets would be protected and that Mubarak would not be subjected to humiliating public trials for fear of copy-cats in their own countries. Financial deals were struck contrary to what the public were told.

Many scenarios were discussed with the US and the Gulf States with regard to Mubarak. The general outlines were: public outrage would be contained with carefully orchestrated arrest and investigation proceedings giving the impression that there was no special considerations. Eventually, however, he would be exonerated of the most serious charges of murder and high treason. All other charges of corruption and profiteering would be dropped purely on humanitarian grounds provided the loot is returned to the public treasury.

Egypt’s external debt is $59 Billion Dollars. The financial deal had to do with assisting Egypt with addressing this insidious and horrific burden that was caused by none other than Mubarak himself, for whom many highly interested parties are, apparently, requesting special treatment. The Question of restitution came up.

Deals had to be struck, and while the details are national security secrets, the general outlines have to do with whatever assets smuggled to Gulf area banks. Those funds will be quietly returned to Egypt in any form Egypt may dictate while handling the matter delicately and with anonymity for all parties concerned.

All funds that Egypt could regain independently from outside the Gulf area shall be matched 1:1 until the entire amount of Egypt's external debt is settled. Financial arrangements, other than the returned looted money, shall take place in the form of treaties signed by future government to render all transactions legal and official; Meanwhile, Mubarak's case must be handled with extreme delicacy.

The US may have had good reasons to believe they owed Mubarak at least the semblance of dignity after 30 years of loyal service to his masters in Tel Aviv and the White House. This explains their repeated pleas to spare Mubarak the indignity of public humiliation. The Military had no quarrel with the concept, however, public outrage has compelled Tantawi to tell Hillary Clinton's envoys that Egypt has to do what it must ... Albeit, delicately.

The Arabians had all the good reasons (in their views) to treat Mubarak and his family with utmost decorum and honor. After all, they are all the same type of despotic and decrepit dictatorial heaps. And for considerations of national interests, Tantawi had to yield to diplomatic initiatives to satisfy both internal public demands and external interests, provided those interests were of benefit to national security.

Whether under arrest, prosecuted or pardoned, the military will remember the requests for special treatment and its own lack of desire to humiliate the former dictator, however, no promises were made for extending the special considerations to his family. If any, such considerations would be strictly stemming from the nature of the post-revolutionary political milieu, and evidence is already showing signs that, in Egypt, this is the norm.

Muslims Protest At Church in Cairo

Written by Mary Abdelmassih
30 April 2011

(AINA) -- Thousands of Muslim demonstrators gathered in front St. Mark's Cathedral in Cairo, vowing not to leave until they know the whereabouts of Coptic women, especially Camilia Shehata (AINA 7-23-2010) who allegedly converted to Islam but are held against their will by the Coptic Orthodox Church in monasteries and churches. The sit-in was called for by the newly-founded Coalition for the Support of New Muslims.

At the time of the Muslim demonstrations, His Holiness Pope Shenouda III was not present in his residence within the grounds of the Cathedral. The head of security at the Cathedral closed the gates and it was reported that Christians have been asked not to come to the Cathedral to avoid altercations with the protesting Muslims.
The Cathedral was cordoned off by the military police and security forces. Cairo saw today three separate protests staged by Salafis against Pope Shenouda and the church, marching afterwards to the Coptic Cathedral in Abbasiya. The first demonstration was in front of El-Fatah mosque in Ramsis Square, the second in front of Al-Nour mosque Abbasiya Square, and the third came out of the Sharia Association mosque in Ramsis.

The protesters demanded the resolution of the "ten demands", which they called for last Sunday, during their protest in front of the el-Kayed Ibrahim mosque in Alexandria, mainly the "trial of Pope Shenouda", " the release of Camelia Shehata and Wafaa Constantine" and "inspection of monasteries and churches to look for Muslim women held by the church."

The Muslims chanted "Islamic, Islamic, against your will, Islamic" in front of the Cathedral and "They abducted Wafaa Constantine, By Allah we will not be silent" and "With our souls and blood, we will defend Islam." They held banners and photos of the alleged Muslim converts who were allegedly abducted by the church, as well as banners calling for an Islamic State (video of demonstration).

At the time of their afternoon prayers, thousands of Muslims prayed with the organizers, who asked the demonstrators to turn their backs to the Cathedral.

Islamic lawyer Mamdouh Ismail gave a speech in which he called for the realization of human rights and the rule of law, pointing out that this sit-in is not directed against the cathedral as a house of worship for Christians, whom he described as partners in the homeland. He also asked the Christians "to participate in the demonstrations demanding the appearance of Camelia." In the same context, Khalid Al Harbi, director of the "Islamic Observatory against Proselytizing," said "we will not go and we will not plead with anyone, but we will take our rights with our own hands."

A difference of opinion emerged between the organizers of the protest about when to end the protest. Renowned Muslim Salafi leaders Dr. Yasser Borhamy, from Alexandria, sent a message to the protesters asking them to disperse, saying the reason behind the protest was to deliver a message and so that no sectarian strife should occur because of the Salafis, while others like Abu Yehia, who claims he was with Camelia when she converted to Islam, wanted to break into the Cathedral.

Dr. Naguib Gabriel, head of the Egyptian Union of human rights organization, told Voice of the Free Copts that although demonstrations are legal, the Salafi demonstrations aim at incitement to sectarian strife in Egypt. "They call for the release of Camilia Shehata, who said she was a Christian and will live and die as a Christian," he said (video of Camilia). "Also, the authority who can say if she converted to Islam is Al-Azhar and the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar confirmed two weeks ago that Camilia never set foot there. Do they want a confrontation with the Copts? Do they want bloodshed just because these people are making illegal demands?"

Gabriel said that the Supreme Council of the armed forces should put an end to these demands and the insults to Pope Shenouda and the church as they did last week and on April 25 in Alexandria. He pointed out the disgrace of Egypt being designated a "country of particular concern" by the US Commission on International Religious Freedom. He added that the armed forces have to protect the Copts from the Muslims, otherwise he will go to the International institutions to do so.

Egypt receives $300 million from the U.S. every year to improve on human rights, "So where is this money?" Says Gabriel. "Do we take it to put it in our pockets? Where is this improvement?" He said that a Coptic conference will be held on May 8, to discuss the dire situation of the Copts after the January 25 Revolution.

Islamic lawyer Ismail said after the sit-in was called off , that he has reached an agreement with the army to solve the issue of Camellia Shehata by bringing her out on one of the satellite channels to declare whether she converted to Islam or not , and in exchange the Salafis are to suspend until such time all their demonstrations and sit-ins.

Mary Abdelmassih

Lara Logan speaks out about assault in Egypt

Written by Bikya Masr
29 April 2011

CAIRO: For the first time since American reporter Lara Logan was attacked by a mob at Tahrir Square in February, the journalist is speaking out. In an interview with the American news program “60 Minutes,” the CBS correspondent says that during the attack she “thought she was going to die.”

On February 11, Logan was in Tahrir Square preparing for a live report for America’s CBS News, when the crowd turned violent and she was separated from her cameraman and crew. In an interview with the New York Times, which published on Thursday, Lara Logan says she was ripped away from her team, including an elite British bodyguard, by a group of men who tore away her clothes and beat her. To address the reports that she was raped, Logan told Brian Stelter of the New York Times, “for an extended period of time, they raped me with their hands.”
According to her interview in the Times, Ms Logan estimates that the attack lasted for about 40 minutes and involved between 200 and 300 men.

For about an hour, Logan says that she was able to interview participants in the crowd at Tahrir and the mood was one of celebration. Then her Egyptian interpreter said he heard conversations in the Arabic-speaking crowd which gave him reasons to believe something sinister was about to take place. The interpreter advised Lara and her team to immediately get out of the crowd and find a safe place, but before that could happen, the mob of several hundred surrounded Ms Logan, separating her from her entire crew, and encircled her.

Logan said in her interview with “60 Minutes,” that what happened next was a sexual assault and beating that she feared she would not survive. “There was no doubt in my mind that I was in the process of dying,” she said. “I thought not only am I going to die, but its going to be just a torturous death that’s going to go on forever…”

What kept Logan determined to survive her attack, she says, were the thoughts of her two young children. A group of Egyptian women and soldiers rescued Logan after they were able to break through the crowd and reach her. Egyptian soldiers drove Ms Logan and her team back to their hotel, where she received an examination and medical treatment. She returned to the United States the following morning where she entered hospital for four days.

The reaction in Egypt to Lara Logan’s assault was one of anger and shock. Many in Egypt’s pro-democracy community which supported the revolution, immediately spoke out against the attack on Ms Logan, and the issue of women’s rights finally came out from the shadows. There were others who would have preferred to silence those who spoke out about violence against women.

After the attack on Logan became news, Egyptian-American activist, Karim Mohy, took to Facebook to create a group in order to form a demonstration to put pressure on the new Egyptian government to bring Logan’s attackers to justice. According to Mohy, the response to his Facebook call to action was not met entirely with support. Some responded to the call to demonstrate with disappointment that an attack on a “foreign white woman” is gaining so much attention, while harassment against Egyptian women on a daily basis goes mostly ignored.

Dalia Ziada, who heads the American Islamic Congress in Cairo, and who frequently writes about Egyptian human rights, said after the incident that what occurred against Ms Logan is “an unusual occurrence” in Egypt. Ziada reported that during the overnight demonstrations to oust former President Mubarak, there were men and women both, “sleeping in Tahrir Square and yet there were almost no reports of abuse.”

This controversy highlighted the sensitivity in Egypt when it comes to openly discussing sexual harassment and assaults against women. Only in recent years have women’s rights groups been able to garner any government support in their fight for criminalizing such crimes on women and girls.

Another issue that came up after the attack on Ms Logan was timing. Several comments online by Egyptians involved in the revolution and expatriates living abroad, showed concern that the assault on Lara Logan and the sensationalized media reporting in the West would overshadow the victory at Tahrir Square. One woman who commented on Karim Mohy’s Facebook group gave caution that Mohy’s planned demonstration could be “misconstrued or misrepresented in the media, especially the Egyptian media,” and she disagreed that Karim Mohy was the appropriate leader for such a protest. The woman who called herself Kathy, said it would “be better if this effort were led by a respected Egyptian women’s organization, like ECWR [The Egyptian Center for Women’s Rights], to avoid being misperceived as putting foreigners first, or even worse, as anti-Egyptian, anti-Egyptian revolution, or Islamophobic,” she wrote.

According to studies conducted by the Egyptian Center for Women’s Right (ECWR) in 2008, 98 percent of foreign women and 83 percent of Egyptian women surveyed had experienced sexual harassment in Egypt. Meanwhile, 62 percent of Egyptian men confessed to harassing women and 53 percent of Egyptian men faulted women for “bringing it on.”

Female activists in post-Mubarak Egypt say they are concerned that women’s rights are still being overlooked as people focus on several other issues in the “New Egypt.” “Harassment in Egypt has affected all women: Egyptian as well as foreign, young and old, Christian and Muslim, veiled and unveiled,” Nehad Abu Komsan, the chairwoman of the independent ECWR, said. “But for too long this has been a hidden issue.”

“Women’s rights are not about any one individual,” Komsan said. “If we hold protests exclusively for Lara Logan, the government would just say ‘this is one incident; we’re sorry’ and award compensation. Case closed… We want to preserve the interests not just of Lara Logan, but of women in general.”

To date there have been no identifications made of the alleged attackers of Lara Logan and no arrests in the incident have been made. Nehad Abu Komsan says that some of the frustration by women’s rights activists have been removed in light of new government cooperation in combating assaults against women, but she said social attitudes cannot be changed overnight. “Women have been given confidence by this revolution – we now need them to speak out more loudly against harassment,” said Komsan.

Logan began her first day back to work at CBS this Wednesday, and says she is healing. “I am so much stronger now,” she said in the “60 Minutes” interview. Logan hopes that by speaking out she will encourage other women who are victims of sexual assault, especially female journalists, to also report incidents against them. Logan says that her interviews with “60 Minutes” and the New York Times are the only interviews she will be giving regarding the attack and that she is now focused on getting back to work reporting on foreign affairs for CBS News.


Written by Dioscorus Boles
29 April 2011

ALMASRY ALYOUM English Edition has published today (Fri 29 APR 2011, 16:39) that the Coptic Church has rejected the Annual Report, 2011, by the United States Commission for International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) ,[i] under the heading: Coptic Church rejects US commission report, which you can find here:

The paper does no back its claim with any evidence. It opens its article with the words:

The Coptic Orthodox Church in Egypt rejected the US Commission on International Religious Freedom’s (CIRF) annual report, which condemned Egypt’s lack of religious freedom. The church called on the Supreme Council of Armed Forces (SCAF) and the government to solve Copts’ problems internally without regard to the content of the American report.

The report released Thursday accused Egypt of not protecting religious minorities or prosecuting crimes against them.

Then it quotes a Coptic priest, Father Abdel-Masih Basit , who is a much loved priest in the Coptic Church but does not represent it. But even with him, there is nothing to point to a rejection by him of the USCIRF Report. Read what the paper’s article says about him:

Father Abdel-Masih Basit, a clerical professor and pastor in Mostorod, called on the SCAF and Prime Minister Essam Sharaf’s government to solve Copts’ problems, which have been aggravated after the revolution due to attacks from extremist groups. He stressed that the solution must free from foreign intervention.

Basit cited attacks on Christians in Moqattam and on a man in Qena whose ear was cut off as crimes the government has not prosecuted.

It is clear there is no condemnation whatsoever by Father Abdel-Masih Basit of the Report, but Egyptian papers are not known for their accuracy, competency or credibility. Indeed, they are known for leading campaigns of intimidation to coerce the Coptic lay and ecclesiastical leaders to deny the existence of religious persecution in Egypt, and to reject international reports or intervention to solve its religious souring problem.

Of course the Coptic Church may reject the USCIRF Annual Report under intimidation. Sometimes it does that in the hope of keeping internal tranquillity and warding off attacks against its people and worshiping places. The Copts understand that. But, most importantly, the world has grown to understand the hostage situation of the Coptic Church; and so it takes any public denial by the Church of persecution, or rejection of an international report on the violations against the religious rights of the Copts, with a pinch of salt.

As for the Copts, and the Coptic Nationalists, we know that the findings of the Report are entirely accurate; and we do welcome it wholeheartedly, and support the designation of Egypt as a Country of Particular Concern (CPC). It is a move by the US, a friend of Egypt’s leadership, which was long overdue. Since 1971, when ex-President Anwar al-Sadat introduced Sharia into the Egyptian Constitution, he gave the signal to the Islamists to up their pressure on the Copts. He, followed by his successor, Muhammad Husni Mubarak, sponsored a hate-mongering ideology towards the Copts, and fostered a hostile environment towards them that culminated in attacks, the worst of them we witnessed lately in New Year 2011, when 23 Copts, getting out of church in Alexandria, were massacred by Muslim extremists.

The Copts were hopeful that the slogans of the 25 January Revolution, ‘Dignity, Equality, Social Justice’ will lead to an improvement in the Coptic situation, but, alas, to their disappointment, things continued as bad as they were before, and on top of that the Islamists’ power has been rising, threatening Egypt’s future, progress and unity. The USCIRF Report talks about the continuing violations, and holds Egypt’s leadership responsible – and so they should. The conclusion which the Copts and the international community have come up with is that the Egyptian political leadership has failed in its duty of protecting the human rights of the Copts and their religious freedom. Only the Egyptian leaders, past and present, should be blamed for the grave situation that led to Egypt being blacklisted, and put in the same basket with other countries notorious for their religious-hatred and exclusionism, such as Saudi Arabia and Iran.

Now it is time for Egypt’s present leadership, Muhammad Hussain Tantawi and Dr. Essam Sharaf, to do something to prevent the inevitable sanctions, including economic, that will follow through if their failures continue. And a passing remark to our Egyptian papers, if you want to be considered credible and respectable papers by the Copts, Moderate Muslims, and the international community at large, you must prove it.

[i] For the Report, go to:



Written by Dioscorus Boles
28 April 2011

The USCIRF Annual Report, 2011, in which Egypt is designated CPC for the first time

COPTIC NATIONALISM welcomes the classification of Egypt as a Country of Particular Concern (CPC) by the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) in its Annual Report that has been published today, 28 April 2011. Egypt has failed before the 25 January 2011 Revolution, and after it, in its national and international commitments to protect the natural rights of its Copts, who amount to over 10 million of its citizens.

In its Press Release (28 April 2011) the USCIRF explains what is a CPC and why Egypt has been designated for the first time a CPC:

CPCs are nations whose conduct marks them as the world’s worst religious freedom violators and human rights abusers…In the case of Egypt, instances of severe religious freedom violations engaged in or tolerated by the government have increased dramatically since the release of last year’s report, with violence, including murder, escalating against Coptic Christians and other religious minorities. Since President Mubarak’s resignation from office in February, such violence continues unabated without the government’s bringing the perpetrators to justice. Consequently, USCIRF recommends CPC designation for Egypt.

The Report is not an activity in academia – it is a Report designed to help the US policy makers identify those countries that have the worst religious freedom record. Where non-economic policy options designed to bring about cessation of the particularly severe violations of religious freedom have reasonably been exhausted, an economic measure generally must be imposed, according to the US Department of State.

The Coptic Nationalists support the addition of Egypt to the list of CPCs. Since 1971 Copts have experienced a series of repeated violations of their religious liberty, and despite many deputations, and requests to the political leadership of Egypt – whether ex-presidents Muhammad Anwar al-Sadat and Muhammad Husni Mubarak, or its post-25 January Revolution government, represented in Muhammad Hussain Tantawi, Head of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), and Dr. Essam Sharaf, the Prime Minister – all have fallen on deaf ears. It is clear that these failed leaders have the interests of the Islamists first. The Coptic Nationalists regret that Egypt has joined notorious countries for their religious freedom record, such as Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Sudan, Nigeria, Iran and Iraq. We have, together with many Moderate Muslims in Egypt, tried to avoid Egypt being added to such a list, and had hoped that Egypt’s political leadership would act on its own to improve the plight of the Copts, but, alas, no one heeded the message.

Now it is the time for Tantawi and Sharaf to act, and to act NOW.

Leonard Leo, Chairman of USCIRF

Leonard Leo, Chairman of USCIRF, in his Opening Remarks, talks about the three kinds of violations, or themes, that his Commission has observed in the 2011 Annual Report:

When it comes to religious freedom, there are three main kinds of violations our Commission has observed and documented in this Report.

First, there is state hostility toward religion, religious communities and/or religious leadership.

Second, there is state sponsorship of extremist ideology and education.

And third, there is state failure to prevent and punish religious freedom violations.

State hostility involves active persecution of dissenting religious believers. State sponsorship involves active promotion, including exportation, of radical ideas and propaganda against these or other believers. State failure involves neglecting to take action necessary to protect them against other citizens who threaten them because of their differing beliefs.

Another word for a state’s failure to protect is impunity. It is impunity that especially concerns this Commission, because it receives the least attention at precisely the time that it is growing tremendously.

Coptic Nationalism can cite plenty of examples to show that Egypt has failed miserably on the three counts - the Egyptian State has shown hostility towards the Copts; sponsored extreme ideology and education; failed to prevent and punish religious freedom violations.

On Egypt, Leonard Leo says in his Opening Remarks:

It is partly because of our concern about impunity that today, for the first time, we are recommending that Egypt be designated a CPC. We are acutely aware that the success of Egypt’s current political transition depends on its full respect for the rule of law, including respect for fundamental human rights, of which religious freedom is critical.

According to our findings, the Egyptian government engaged in and tolerated religious freedom violations both before and after President Hosni Mubarak stepped down on February 11 of this year. In his waning months, religious freedom conditions were rapidly deteriorating, and since his departure, we’ve seen nothing to indicate that these conditions have improved.

This is especially true on the impunity front, where attacks on religious minorities, particularly Coptic Christians, but also disfavored Muslims, have risen. The severe level of violence and the failure to convict those responsible – including two of the three alleged perpetrators in last year’s Naga Hammadi murders – continued to foster a climate of impunity, making more violence likely.

Despite the transitional government’s initial efforts to dismantle the repressive state security apparatus, Egypt’s state of emergency remains and laws and practices that discriminate continue to hinder religious freedom. Since February 11, military and security forces have allegedly used excessive force, including live ammunition, against Christian demonstrators and churches.

Then he advises the US government on how to pressurise Egypt to improve the Coptic situation:

As part of a CPC designation, USCIRF recommends that the U.S. use some of the money it gives Egypt for military assistance to enhance physical protection for Copts and other religious minorities and their places of worship. The U.S government should also provide more aid to organizations promoting democracy and governance training, as well as for civil society groups promoting human rights and religious freedom reforms.

These recommendations are particularly welcomed by Coptic Nationalism. We must not hide the fact that this is political pressure imposed on Egypt’s political leadership: it is meant to induce Egypt, which is considered a friend of the US, to abide by international standards in human rights, and to earn its position in the civilised international community. And the Copts cannot be blamed for seeking international intervention to improve their plight – the people who shoulder the blame, fairly and squarely, are Egypt’s failed political leadership, which could have protected the Copts’ natural rights and saved Egypt’s reputation, but have chosen not to. History will judge these politicians severely as miserable failures – but the present leadership has still some opportunity to reverse its previous policies, and save Egypt from the grasp of the Islamists and the Islamist ideology that threatens Egypt’s Copts and Moderate Muslims alike.

Nina Shea, one of USCIRF Commissioners. Has worked hard for the Copts. This is a special expression of gratitude

For more on this, go to:

The Website of USCIRF

USCIRF Press Release (28 April 2011)

Opening Remarks by the Chairman of USCIRF, Leonard Leo

The USCIRF full Annual Report 2011

Media coverage of the USCIRF Report by the end of 28 April 2011

“Panel blacklists Egypt for religious oppression” (Washignton Times)
“US board faults Egypt on religious freedom” (Agence France Presse)
“Türkiye dini özgürlüklerde izleme listesinde” (CNN Turkey)
“Country of concern” (World Magazine)
“Recurrent attacks on Copts has Egypt slated for US religious freedom blacklist” (Ahram Online)
“Egypt Named to US List of 14 Religious Freedom Violators” (Voice of America)
“Ai Cập có tên trong danh sách 14 nước vi phạm quyền tự do tôn giáo” (Voice of America Vietnam)

“Religious freedom report criticizes Egypt and Obama” (Deseret News)
“Despite own poor record, US faults Egypt on religious freedom” (Press TV)


Copts Demand Return of Missing Christian Girls

Written by Emad Khalil
Almasry Alyoum
28 April 2011

Dozens of Copts staged a protest on Thursday in front of Egypt's High Court, demanding the return of a number of Christian girls they describe as "disappeared".

A number of Coptic lawyers have submitted a report to the attorney general requesting that the minister of interior, Mansour al-Essawy, establish the location of eleven Christian girls who they say have disappeared since the 25 January revolution.

Demonstrators, including the families of the missing girls, also demanded that the head of the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, help locate the girls.

A statement by a Coptic group called the Maspero Youth Union denounced the "kidnapping" of Christian girls, giving the names of some of the lost females.

According to the statement, they include Heba Iskandar, who disappeared from Maadi along with her children, Heba Adel, who has been lost since 6 April after driving her son to school, and Maryam George Boqtor, who was lost with her children while buying them clothes before Easter celebrations.

Feuds have been raging between Egypt's Muslims and Copts over the past few years concerning converts on both sides, with each camp accusing the other of forcing people, particularly females, to change their faith.

The latest case of this type was that of Kamilia Shehata, the wife of a priest in Minya, Upper Egypt, whose disappearance in July 2010 enraged the Coptic community. Many Copts believe that she was kidnapped and forced to convert to Islam.

Many Muslims, meanwhile, believe that Shehata is now being held against her will by the Coptic Church as a punishment for converting, and have staged several protests demanding her release.

Emad Khalil

Recurrent attacks on Copts has Egypt slated for US religious freedom blacklist

Written by Ahram Online
28 April 2011

An advisory body to the US State Department has called for Egypt, among other countries, to put on a blacklist for curtailing religious freedoms

A US commission called Thursday for Egypt to be put on a blacklist for lack of religious freedom, saying attacks on Coptic Christians and other minorities have worsened despite political changes.

In its annual report, the US Commission on International Religious Freedom voiced concern about what it saw as serious violations in a number of countries, including China, Iran, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Vietnam.

The commission, an autonomous advisory board, added Egypt to its recommended list of "countries of particular concern" on matters of religious freedom, a designation that can carry economic sanctions unless governments address US concerns.

But the US State Department has ultimate authority to put or leave off nations on the list and, to the commission's chagrin, President Barack Obama has not designated any additional countries of particular concern since taking office in 2009.

Leonard Leo, the chair of the commission, said that Egypt experienced "severe religious freedom violations" both before and after the mass protests that forced out longtime president Hosni Mubarak in February.

"Not everything in Egypt has changed. Violence against Coptic Christians and other religious minorities continues unabated without the government bringing the perpetrators to justice," Leo said.

Christians, who make up 10 per cent of Egypt's population of 80 million, have been the target of several recent attacks and repeatedly accused authorities of systematic discrimination. In Alexandria, a suicide bomber blew himself up outside a church as worshippers emerged from a New York's Eve mass, killing 23 people.

The State Department lists eight countries of particular concern on religious freedom matters: China, Eritrea, Iran, Myanmar, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Uzbekistan. Most have rocky ties with the United States.

The commission again asked the State Department to add Egypt, Iraq, Nigeria, Pakistan, Turkmenistan and Vietnam to the list. Besides Egypt, the recommendations were the same as the last annual report in 2010.

In China, the commission said that authorities severely curtailed the freedoms of Tibetan Buddhists and Uighur Muslims and stepped up efforts to discredit and imprison leaders of various faiths.

In the past year, China detained more than 500 Protestants and kept in custody dozens of Catholic clergy for not registering with the government, the commission said, adding that China had also destroyed Christian meeting points.

The board reported severe mistreatment of the Falungong, a spiritual movement banned by China in 1999, saying that practitioners were "tortured and mistreated in detention".

The commission said that religious freedom was also deteriorating in Iran, especially for minorities such as the Bahai — a faith founded in the country in the 19th century that is considered heretical by the Shia clerical regime.

Recognised minorities — Jews, Christians and Zoroastrians — also suffered worsening treatment, and even members of the Shia majority came under pressure if they dissented from the official line, the commission said.

The report said Saudi Arabia's record improved slightly but it still committed "systematic, ongoing and egregious violations of religious freedom".

Among countries recommended to be put on the blacklist, the commission voiced deep concern about Pakistan, where Punjab's governor Salman Taseer and Minorities Minister Shahbaz Bhatti were assassinated this year.

The two had advocated reforms to Pakistan's blasphemy laws. The commission said the laws had contributed to an "atmosphere of violent extremism and vigilantism" against minorities, including the Ahmadiya Muslim sect.

Thursday, May 5, 2011