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 old.
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
Funeral procession of
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
Newspaper on line, 25 January – 1 February, 2006
(Translated from Arabic text by CEOHR)