In response to massive sectarian violence at Imbaba, Giza, Copts are out protesting in huge numbers and will start an open sit-in before the State TV building in Maspero until their demands are met.
“We won’t leave Maspero until either we are shot or the army arrests those responsible for sectarian violence,” Saeed Fayez, an activist and legal advisor to Maspero Copts Youth Union, told Ahram Online.
The protesters' main demand is the punishment on whoever took part in the bombing of the Two Saints Church in Alexandria on New Year’s Eve, the burning of a church in Soul Village, and the burning of two churches in Imbaba last night.
As protesters approached Maspero, army forces tried to stop them with taser sticks. One protester was injured and the armed forces stopped suppressing the protesters in a couple of minutes. After Copts managed to restart their protest, a group of residents from the area started attacking them to disperse the protest. Within moments things had calmed down again. To avoid more violence, protesters created checkpoints in Maspero.
Copts at Maspero were chanting against Field Marshal Tantawi, head of Supreme Council of the Armed Forces. “We want Marshal Tantawi to step down!” they chanted.
Many protesters believe that the military is responsible for the violent sectarian attacks, as they have not arrested those responsible for the burning of a church in Soul after Mubarak stepped down. “If justice had taken place earlier, Salafis wouldn’t have done that yesterday,” Nabil Gobraial, a rights lawyer, told Ahram Online, referring to clashes last night in Imbaba that left hundreds injured and at least 10 dead.
Eyewitnesses in Imbaba yesterday allege that the army remained inert as Salafis burned two churches, burned Copts’ houses, and attacked Copts in the district. “The police and the army were there and stayed watching the scene,” Fayez told Ahram Online.
“Here are the Copts, where are the Salafis?” chanted the protesters. Protesters are not protesting against Muslims, but Salafis, they say. “The Salafis are acting like a group of thugs who are holding a weapon in one hand and the Quran in the other,” Mina Hanna, one of the protesters, told Ahram Online.
Some protesters think that Saudi Arabia is supporting the Salafis in Egypt. “We were never like this, all this is planned by the Saudis,” Ashraf Tarek, one of the protesters, told Ahram Online.
Meanwhile, Salafis released an official statement today denying taking part in any of the sectarian violence yesterday in Imbaba. "We as the Salafis are againist any blood shedding and the media is responsible for portraying us another way," according to the statement released by the Salafis.
The statement also called on the Egyptian army to take control of all weapons found on citizens and to search mosques, churches and affiliated organisations for weapons.
Meanwhile, a group of protesters started a protest near to the US embassy asking for American interference to end sectarian violence in Egypt. They then marched to the High Court, downtown, and continued protesting for around two hours from 2pm. Many protesters were holding wooden crosses and chanting with anger.
The sectarian violence shaking Egypt has left many Copts afraid and angry at the same time. “I don’t understand what is going on. I came here to ask the army to protect us,” one of the protesters told Ahram Online.
“They don’t want us in the country anymore. So where do we go? I am terrified for my wife and children,” one of the protesters said.
In connection to the Imbaba violence, Salafists claimed that a woman who converted to Islam was being detained in one of the churches that were attacked and burnt.