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Scandal in Luxor

Leaders in the National Party Instigate Discord

    Evidence points out to leaders in the ruling party as instigators of the sectarian crisis [that took place] in Luxor [Jan. 18, 2006]. One of these instigators is a member of the current Shura Council (the Egyptian Senate) and the other is a former member of the National Assembly (Maglis Al-Shaaab). Al-Odaysat village – with its Muslim and Coptic population – has always lived in harmony until sedition was plotted.  

     The village has an Evangelical church and a reception hall belonging to the Coptic Orthodox Church where the congregation has been praying for the last 30 years. Prior to Epiphany, Coptic pastors obtained permission from the local authorities to celebrate the feast. Coptic Pope Shenouda blessed the event and a cross was put up on the building. Once the local Security Directorate knew of what the Copts had done, a delegation was dispatched to the pastors demanding from them to bring the cross down and cancel officiating the liturgy, presumably due to lack of adequate security personnel needed to keep order in the area. Tension began to brew after the pastor refused to hand the key of the reception hall to the security personnel who wanted to enter the building.

     Soon after that, rumors spread among the populace claiming that the reception hall was suddenly transformed into a church. Muslims started harassing Copts by throwing stones and fireballs at the reception hall. Eyewitnesses saw the former member of the People’s Assembly setting fire in houses neighboring the reception hall. As to the member of the Shura Council, he was the principal instigator of this unprovoked attack, which was carried out by about 700 Muslims trying to destroy the reception hall.

     To defend the building, Copts: women, youths and children, threw stones from the roof to ward off the attackers. Other groups of attackers raided 20 houses, belonging to Copts, and looted their contents including cattle, after having cut off electricity and water from the village. When Copts called the fire-brigade, attackers hindered their entry into the village. Later, when firefighters could enter the village, they could do nothing, but just stand still, for there was no water to distinguish the fires.

     The aggression took place while Copts were preparing for the celebration of Epiphany and continued for 5 hours, during which houses were burned down, plantations were damaged, and cattle and sheep were exterminated. Security forces arrived at the end [of the attack] to throw gas grenades!

     The incident ended up with two deaths, Kamal Shaker Megalaa, whose funeral took place at that prayer house at 5 AM of last Saturday. Meanwhile, a medical report issued by Luxor International Hospital mentioned the death of a child, 9 years oldOther victims suffered wounds, cuts, broken ribs and gas inhalation caused by fire smoke and gas grenades.

     Among these victims are Thabet Asaad Narouz, Yasser Mohammad Rabi’, Mohammad Amir Ali, Yacoub Anwar Ragheb, Michel Anwar Ragheb, Guirguis Wissa, Narouz Abdelmalak, Shenouda and Farid Zakhary, and Waguih Fawzi, in addition to police officer Ahmad Hosni and two soldiers from Central Security.   

     In his comments on the incident and its outcome, Dr. Samir Farag, chairman of the High Council of Luxor, admitted of the security negligence, and the lack of professionalism in dealing with the situation. He fears the repercussion of the incident on tourism. He also pointed out to the existence of ‘hidden hands’ that messed in the dark and succeeded in exploding the situation.

     Police arrested more than eleven persons, both Muslims and Copts, for prosecution. Meanwhile, eyewitnesses openly accused leaders from the [ruling] National Party of playing a major role in instigating discord [between Muslims and Christians]. According to the same source, one of these two members has been following his father’s footsteps in preventing the Copts from rebuilding their village church, which was destroyed by his father 30 years ago. As to the former member of the People’s Council, he too was accused of organizing meetings with Muslims in the village to instigate them against Christian neighbors.


     After all, Copts have been using this building for prayers during the last three months under the watch of the security forces. They had done some renovations to it, so they can pray and celebrate religious feasts in it like they do in a church. They also thought that the latest presidential decree authorizing governors to issue permits to renovate and rebuild churches would apply to them.

     Prior to the celebration of Epiphany, they informed the local authorities to provide security, which was not only denied but met with a concerted aggression.


On the Margins of the incident
      Funeral procession of Kamal Shaker Megalaa was attended by over 5000 Copts and 100 clerics from different churches of Upper Egypt. Whereas international media and press were noticeably present, there was no Egyptian official participation. Even Dr. Samir Farag, Chairman of the High Council of Luxor remained in his office to follow up on the situation. On the other hand, both Muslim and Christian clergy agreed to settle all disagreements and resort to official channels whenever there is any dispute.

     Members of the local popular councils convened an emergency meeting at Al-Odaysat municipal council where they issued a statement affirming that the situation is calm and stable [!!!!]   


Al-Ahaly Newspaper on line, 25 January – 1 February, 2006
(Translated from Arabic text by CEOHR)

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