Egyptian Government Policy of Forced Collective Deportation of Christians

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By Mary Abdelmassih

Egypt has witnessed recently an unprecedented upsurge in sectarian violence directed against the indigenous Christian citizens. Whatever sparked the explosive incidents, whether it was rumor or fact about an ‘honour crime’ committed by a Christian male, renovation of an old dilapidated church, a Christian praying with relatives within his own four walls, or even an ordinary fight between two parties; one Muslim and one Christian, results in collective Muslim mob punishment of all the Christians in the region; affecting their homes, businesses, property and even their lives.

Forced deportation of Christians from their villages after Muslim violence against them is also on the increase. Deportation of Copts took place twice in the last five months following sectarian violence, in the village of Meet Barbary, in Meet Ghamr last July and in Kom Ahmar, Farshout on November 21.. The plight of those affected by the forced evictions is great, having to leave behind all what they own,and start anew somewhere strange, without any form of government compensation or aid in relocation. In all incidents they were prevented from ever being repatriated back to their homes.

“Throught history, we have never seen citizens being deported by force from their towns and villages, ‘by order and under the eyes of the authorities’, as what has happened in the Egyptian villages of Higaza in Qena, Kafr Saad, Minia el.Qamh in Sharkia , Meet Barbary in Meet Ghamr, Dakahlia Province, and lately again in Qena in the village of Kom Ahmar, near Farshout.” said Dr. Naguib Gobrail, President of the Egyptian Union for Human Rights (EUHRO)

Collective evacuation of Copts took place on November 21, 2009 in the village of Kom Ahmar after Muslim mobs looted and burnt 80% of the Coptic-owned businesses in the town of Farshout and neighbouring villages, provoked by a rumour that the Copt Guirgis Baroumi allegedly sexually abused a 12-year-old Muslim girl . which is presently still under investigation ,

The security agencies has put pressure on Bishop Kirollos of the Coptic Orthodox Diocese of Nag Hammadi to accept deportation of one hundred and sixty-three children, women and men from the Christian inhabitants of the village of Kom Ahmar, home town of the accused Guirgis Baroumi to neighboring provinces. “These families were forced to leave behind their homes, land, jobs, schools and to accept deportation. Although some of them tried to refuse displacement, however, the pressures were stronger than them and they were deported to the monastery of St. Bidaba in Farshout while others went to stay with relatives, in Qena and Sohag,” said activist Rafaat Samir, EURO representation in the province.

“These solutions came from the security authorities and under the pretext of protecting Christians from confirmed information they have of forthcoming attacks on them by the Muslims. After their departure Muslims plundered and burnt their homes, their livestock and crops.”

Karim Guirgis and his cousin Latif Girgis refused to evacuate their home in Kom Ahmar. When their house was attacked by Muslim mobs and his door broken down through the use of fire arms, a police car came, arrested both Copts and charged them with possession of an ‘unliscenced’ pistol. Although the public prosecutor released them on bail, the State Security authorities detained them under the pretext of (security reasons), and deported the first to the Burg al-Arab the other to Wadi al-Natrun detention camps, “Their families have no news about their fate until now,” said Bishop Kirollos.

“None of the Kom Ahmar inhabitants have returned to their village. I contacted the security authorities, but was informed that the officials have to think it over.” Bishop Kirollos told. Coptic News Bulletin on December 2, “A Muslim family wanted to bring back just one Coptic family,who were their neighbours, but i refused, either they all return, or none at all.”

“The security forces evicted us in the middle of the night, we only had what we had on,” one deportee from Kom Ahmar told Coptic News Bulletin.”We had to seek refuge with our relatives in Sohag, We don’t know our fate yet. I am a teacher and I don’t know whether I will I lose my job. my home, and everything I toiled for all my life.” He said that his family have been separated from each other, each seeking refuge with different relatives in other provinces.

“It never happened in any country in the world that collective punishment is inflicted upon hundreds or thousands of Copts, due to an abuse committed by just one individual against a Muslim, resulting in destruction, looting and stealing of Coptic funds,” said Gobrial. “In my opinion, this only reflects the writings of senior Muslims writers advocating the permissibility of transgression against Coptic blood and their money.”

On how this policy of collective deportations was introduced in Egypt, Ezzat Andrawes of the Encyclopaedia of Coptic History explains that according to religious tribal rulings if an individual commits a wrong, his tribe or sect is annihilated by death or annihilated morally through exile, eviction and expropriation of their land and property,

“The Egypt Government implements the tribal expulsion plan for the benefit of Muslims; while it deports and exiles Christians from their homes and their land, we have never heard that Muslims have been evicted because they killed a Christian, or a single Muslim punished for that, even by imprisonment. We have dozens of incidents, the most important example is the village of Kosheh, in which Muslims slaughtered 21 Copts and the government did not displace the Muslims living there.” comments Andrawes.

“The Government invents a scenario for the implementation of its displacement policy, says Andrawes. “It always starts by making Muslims fabricating an incident to provoke an altercation with the Copts .. and the story always ends by displacing the Copts and cleansing the area of Christians. The Egyptian government prefers the Islamic religious tribal ruling, which not only deports them, but also seizes their land and property.”:.

On November 22, in a joint communiqué issued by fourteen Egyptian human rights organizations and lawyers called on President Mubarak to immediately intervene to save the Copts from the wrath of the mob. It also strongly condemned the evacuation of the Copts from Kom Ahmar by the security forces, in violation of the provisions of the Egyptian Constitution which stipulates in Article 50 and 51 “No citizen may be prohibited from residing or be forced to reside in a specific area except in the circumstances set out in the law.”

Many Copts believe that the increase in the deportation of Copts whenever there is a sedation is an pre-planned policy of the government to weaken the Copts economically and break down their congregations especially in Upper Egypt ,which is where the majority of the 12-15,000,000 Christians live.

The Copts evicted from Kom Ahmar, appealed to President Mubarak, the Prime Minister and Interior Minister and all human rights organizations worlwide to support their request to be repatriated back to their homes.