Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Forced eviction of Copts from village near Alexandria raises protests

 The Human Rights Committee of the Egyptian People's Assembly rejected, in an emergency meeting Sunday night, the forced eviction of eight Coptic families from their homes in Alexandria, stressing the importance of combating sectarian tension.
The Committee was called together at the request of representative Emad Gad of the Social Democratic party, who is a Copt himself. He said that the Human Rights Committee would issue recommendations that should be adopted by the PA and raised to the government to apply. He said that the expected recommendations are to stop the forced displacement and to hold the perpetrators accountable.
 The eviction of the eight families is one of the youngest incidents concerning tension between Copts and Muslims in Egypt. The place where it happened was the village of Sharbat in the Ameriya district of the Alexandria governorate. And the story was that hundreds of the village’s Muslim residents had attacked on 27 January the home and shops of a Coptic tailor, Murad Girgis, following rumors that he had an affair with a Muslim woman. Girgis, it seems,  was being blackmailed by a Muslim barber who accused him of having taken pictures of Muslim girls in the fitting room of his workshop. Fearing for his life, Girgis handed himself over to police, but to no avail. His properties, but also the homes and shops of his relatives were r set on fire.
Following these incidents a so called reconciliation meeting was held by the village elders, which was and attended  by the governor of Alexandria, Osama al-Fouli, the director of security and several MPs, affiliated with the Salafi Al-Nour Party. And at this meeting the eight Coptic families were forced to leave. They were told that their safety could not be guaranteed if they decided to stay. A committee was set up to sell their property.
The events were documented and forcefully rejected by the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR), which noted that ''the law does not permit customary reconciliation in cases of arson, and in sponsoring the customary agreement, governorate officials flagrantly violated the law, which necessitates a criminal investigation.
The EIPR utterly rejected this ''perpetuation of Mubarak-era policies that force victims of sectarian attacks—particularly those who have no stake in the original dispute—to accept the outcomes of illegal reconciliation processes and thus compel them to abandon their rights and accept the assaults on them—indeed, compel them to evacuate their homes and be expelled from their village—instead of the provision of protection and legal aid by state authorities.

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