On particularly prominent display here is the use of the Orwellian “reconciliation meetings,” where “reconciliation” depends in practice on Christians’ giving into whatever demands are imposed on them. “Alexandria: forced eviction of 62 Coptic families by the Salafis,” from AsiaNews, February 9:
Cairo (AsiaNews / Agencies) – The radical Muslims are trying to empty a village near Alexandria of its Coptic population – 62 families, on the basis of unfounded allegations against a Copt. The Copts of Kobry-el-Sharbat (el-Amerya) were attacked on Jan. 27 by a crowd of some three thousand Muslims led by Salafi leaders who set fire to the Copts houses and shops. The violence were sparked by the allegations of a barber Muslim Toemah, who claimed that a Coptic tailor of 34, Samy Mourad Guirgis, had “illegal” photos of a Muslim woman on his cell phone. Mourad has denied the charges, and turned himself in to police in fear of his life. The Muslims set fire to his house and his shop, and his whole family was forced to leave the village. Mourad is still under police custody.
Since then there have been three “reconciliation meetings” in the police headquarters in el-Amerya, attended by representatives of the Coptic Church, the Salafis and the Muslim Brotherhood. According to police, the woman concerned has denied the whole story, and no compromising photos of any kind were found Mourad’s cell phone. But radical Muslims argue that “Muslim honor has been damaged,” and at the first meeting, they refused any type of compensation for the Copts who were innocent victims of their violence.
On 30 January a crowd of Muslims attacked the village of Kobry- el-Sharbat for the second time, setting fire to three Christian homes, under the eyes of the security forces. Following this Islamic representatives have requested that a wealthy Coptic merchant, Soliman, be expelled from the village, accusing him and his sons of having fired into the air while their house was being burned. The family of the merchant denies that there were gunshots, and no one was injured. The police, however, has issued an arrest warrant for Soliman’s sons.
On 1st February in a “reconciliation meeting” demands were made for a number of Coptic families to be expelled from the village and the forced sale of Soliman’s assets, under the supervision of the Salafist Sheikh Sherif el-Hawary. Otherwise Kobry el-Sharbat would be attacked again, and the Coptic houses completely burned. Soliman signed the agreement, defined by father Boktor, who was present at the time, “a complete injustice.” Soliman agreed only to avoid further damage to the Copts. Magdy Khalil, head of Middle East Freedom Forum, said that “reconciliation meetings” were totally illegal, and that the complicity of Egyptian authorities is obvious and urged Copts to return to their homes. “If we accept this, we will open the door to an avalanche of forced evictions.” And forced deportation is a crime under international law.
(AINA) — National and international rights groups have consistently criticized the recourse to the so-called “reconciliation meetings” — dubbed “Bedouin sittings” — that take place between Copts and Muslim assailant after every attack on Copts. The meetings are conducted under the auspices of state security. Last week a series of meetings were held by radical Muslims to decide on the fate of the Copts in a village in Alexandria, and Muslims insisted that the whole Coptic population of 62 families must be deported because of an unsubstantiated accusation levied against one Coptic man.
Copts in the village of Kobry-el-Sharbat (El-Ameriya), Alexandria, were attacked on January 27 by a mob of 3000 Muslims led by Salafi leaders, who looted and torched homes and shops belonging to Copts. The violence was prompted by allegations made by a Muslim barber named Toemah that a 34-year-old Coptic tailor, Mourad Samy Guirgis, had on his mobile phone illicit photos of a Muslim woman. Mourad denied the accusation and surrendered to the police for fear for his life. Muslims looted and torched his workshop and home after he surrendered to the police, and his entire family, including his parents and his married brother Romany, were evicted from the village. He is still in police detention.
Three “reconciliation meetings” were held at the El-Ameriya village police headquarters. They were attended by Salafi and Muslim Brotherhood representatives from neighboring villages, as well as church representative. Muslims demanded the eviction of all Coptic inhabitants from the village because “Muslim honour had been damaged.”
Many believe that the mobile phone story was fabricated as an excuse to start violence against the Copts. According to the police, the woman in question denied the story and no photos were found on Mourad’s mobile phone, according to Ihab Aziz, a Coptic-American activist who is presently in Egypt.
During the first reconciliation meeting it was agreed that only Copts who were directly involved with the Mourad incident would be evicted, and the church demanded compensation of two million pounds for the innocent Copts whose homes and businesses were torched on January 27. Muslims, especially Salafis from the neighboring villages, refused any kind of compensation and insisted on the eviction of all Copts.
On January 30 a Muslim mob attacked Copts in Kobry-el-Sharbat for the second time, and torched three Coptic homes in the presence of the security forces, “which took the role of an onlooker and made no effort to stop the violence,” according to Joseph Malak, lawyer for the Coptic church in Alexandria. “This proves that the assailants were not afraid of the security forces or the law.”
Muslim representatives demanded the eviction of the wealthy Coptic merchant Abeskhayroun Soliman, together with his four married sons and their families, accusing them of causing sedition by shooting in the air when Muslims broke into and torched their home while the family was inside. “No one was wounded due to the alleged shootings, which the family says never took place. The police authorities issued an arrest warrant for two of the Soliman sons,” said Ihab Aziz.
The Solimans have been in hiding with a Muslim family which saved them from their burning homes, and is presently giving them protection. Muslims threatened that if eight Coptic families were not evicted by February 3rd, all remaining 54 Coptic families in the village would be subjected to violence after Friday prayers. They called it “Friday of Eviction” and “Friday of Clean-up.”
On Wednesday February 1, a hastily organized reconciliation meeting was arranged by security authorities, and was attended by Ebeskharion Soliman and one of his sons.
The terms of the agreement which resulted were:
– eviction of eight Coptic families, namely three of the Mourad families, in addition to five Soliman families.
– selling of the assets of the wealthy Abeskhayron Soliman family within three months by a committee, under the supervision of Salafi shaikh Sherif el Hawary. Soliman has no right to get involved in the sale or even accompany a prospective buyer.
– the Committee is to collect any money accrued from the sale of his land, properties, businesses as well as collect promissory notes pending from business transactions by the Soliman-owned chain of stores.
– in case of non-implementation of this Agreement, all Copts in the Kobry-el-Sharbat village will be attacked, their homes and property completely torched….