Egypt’s minister of tourism weighed in on the 9 October attacks on demonstrators at Maspero, calling the incident a “catastrophe in every sense.”
Minister Mounir Fakhry Abdel Nour also blamed the bloody events, which saw Coptic Christians and fellow demonstrators come under attack by the army in front of the state TV building, on last month’s attack on a church in Aswan. The church was attacked by Muslim youths in the village of El-Merinab who insisted that it did not have a permit. Coptic Christians responded by taking to the streets in protest: protests which culminated in the Shubra march to Maspero on 9 October. Abdel Nour insists that he was aware of the Aswan crisis and even warned officials that the situation may spiral out of control if not handled properly.
“I was made aware of the [Aswan] crisis about 40 days ago by the Egyptians Against Discrimination Organisation,” Abdel Nour says. “I called the minister of interior and the governor of Aswan and told them to keep an eye on any developments, and they responded by telling me that everything is under control. Obviously it wasn’t. Unfortunately the minister and the governor did not deal with the crisis in a courageous manner.”
Speaking to TV journalist Motaz El-Demerdash on the El-Hayat 2 channel, Abdel Nour insisted that the Coptic march, which ended in the deadly clashes in front of Maspero, were entirely peaceful. He added that the demonstrators, who began their march in the Shubra district of Cairo, did not intend to turn violent. Rather “infiltrators” tried to create divisions between the army and the people – especially Coptic Christians – by firing live ammunition at the unarmed protesters from on top of 6 October Bridge.
Abdel Nour also slammed state TV’s coverage of the violence, accusing it of inciting hatred against the Copts. He also expressed apprehension that the first post Mubarak elections, set for 28 November, will be held in the midst of this unstable environment.
“I am worried about holding elections in this climate,” Abdel Nour said. “But I will not run for any seats because I want to focus on my job, especially as we are heading into a very important tourism season.”