Dozens of Copts protest Dahshour evictions

Ahram Online, Sunday 5 Aug 2012

A group of Coptic protesters shouted anti-Brotherhood slogans outside the Presidential Palace in Cairo

Mother at Dahshur Village, Giza
Egyptian Christian Sameha Wahba, 70, the only Christian who remains at Dahshour village, is hosted by Muslim family of Mahmoud Abou Abdel Karim. (AP)

On Sunday evening, dozens of Copts protested in front of the Presidential Palace in Heliopolis, Cairo, against the forced migration of Christians in Dahshur, Giza.

The protesters chanted: "Where is Dahshour's right?" "Down with the Brotherhood's supreme guide's rule," and "Down with El-Shater's rule."

Protesters held banners with the slogans: "Where is justice? Why did they kick out the Christians?" and "What does Morsi want? Does he want us to kiss his feet?"

A fight erupted in the village of Dahshour last week, when a Coptic man who irons for a living and one of his Muslim customers became entangled in a brawl after the Copt accidently burned his client's shirt. The fight escalated, drawing more people, and left one Muslim, Moaz Mohamed Mohamed, seriously wounded.

Mohamed later died, and sectarian clashes re-erupted on Wednesday, 1 August, leaving nine people, including the Director of Criminal Investigations of Giza Security Directorate Mahmoud Farouq, injured.

More than 120 Coptic families living in the area were forced to leave town, fearing they would be violently expelled.

Protester Nader Magdy told the Al-Ahram Arabic website: "I had to leave my village because they threatened us with murder and they said any Christian will be shot dead."

Magdy also added that "I am totally sympathetic regarding the death of the Muslim youth named Moaz, but it's my right to live in my village safely and it is not appropriate that they steal our homes from us."

President Morsi's office has condemned the attacks, and said that perpetrators will be punished according to the law.

Islamist group Al-Jamaa Al-Islamiyya released a statement late on Friday saying that it is unlawful to assault the lives and properties of Christians under any circumstances, adding that it is sacrilegious and forbidden in Islam.

Al-Jamaa Al-Islamiya also stated that they don't believe the Dahshour clashes result from sectarian tensions between Muslims and Christians, but rather that "this was a random incident not related to religion and that was initiated by a man who irons laundry for a living, who is a Christian Copt."

Clashes were renewed early Wednesday when Mohamed died. Several houses belonging to Christian residents in addition to two businesses in the town were burned down by crowds angered by Mohamed's death.

Security forces interfered when reportedly Muslims and Christians faced off and started firing guns and throwing Molotov cocktails and stones at one another in clashes that left nine people injured.

According to Al-Ahram Arabic website, there was also a failed attempt to set the Mary Girgis Church on fire before security forces used tear gas to disperse angry crowds. A special security team was appointed to secure the church and Copts' homes in the village.

Three central security trucks were set ablaze, three police officers and thirteen soldiers were injured in the church clashes according to Al-Ahram.

Forced eviction and banishment of Copts have occurred several times following sectarian clashes over the past two years. The most recent example forced banishment was in January of this year in the town of Ameriya in Alexandria.

Al-Jamaa Al-Islamiya's political wing, the Construction and Development Party, is among the political groups intervening to end the clashes in Dahshour.

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