Egypt: Coptic Christians under attack

The Egyptian army killed some two dozen Coptic Christians who were protesting the army’s failure to punish a series of Islamist attacks on their churches.

“The honeymoon phase” of the Egyptian revolution is officially over, said Maksim Yusin in the Moscow Kommersant. Last weekend, the Egyptian army—which won such respect and praise from the people when it refused to fire on protesters during the uprising that ousted Hosni Mubarak—killed some two dozen Coptic Christians. Some witnesses said tanks rolled right over screaming demonstrators. The Christians were protesting the army’s failure to prevent or punish a string of Islamist attacks on churches in recent weeks. Sadly, such violence was only to be expected once Mubarak was toppled, in February. “As a rule, in Arab countries, Christians are only safe under secular dictatorships.” Once Saddam Hussein was gone from Iraq, for example, Iraqi Christians were forced to flee. And now in Egypt, the Islamists who were once “driven underground” are now free “to busy themselves with the Islamization” of the country.

The violence had nothing to do with Islamists, said the Tehran Hemayat in an editorial. It was provoked by a foreign conspiracy. “A group of Arab and Western countries is trying to justify their interventions in Egypt and prevent the popular revolution from being successful.” The Egyptian military would certainly like everyone to believe that, said the Doha, Qatar, Gulf Times. The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces put out a statement implying that foreign forces had incited the protests. But even if that’s true, “the focus should be on the disproportionate actions of the army before blame can be apportioned elsewhere.” No matter who started it, “the brutal force unleashed by the army was shocking.”

If the army takes sides in sectarian conflicts, Egypt is doomed, said Tariq Alhomayed in the London Asharq Al-Awsat. The army should be the guarantor of security in Egypt, “not a political force.” The best option would be for an interim civilian council to be established “to govern this transitional period and allow the Egyptian army to return to its barracks.” But where is the civilian leadership that could insist on such measures?

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That’s the key question, said Al-Sayyid Na’im in the Cairo Al-Jumhuriyah. We are supposedly in the midst of a presidential campaign. Yet “are the presidential candidates in Egypt even affected by the ongoing events on the streets?” Not one of them has called with enough urgency for an investigation into the army’s actions, or for real dialogue between Coptic Christians and the Muslim Brotherhood. As our country descends into conflict, the candidates say they want early elections and a transition to civilian government. But right now, with “violence, armed gangs, and insecurity” growing across Egypt, we are better off with “a continuation of the state of emergency.”

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