Imagine that one of your family members is accused of a crime. There is no solid evidence against him but all your family members—including relatives who live nearby—are forcibly removed from their homes and relocated to another city. You have no say in the matter.
That’s exactly what happened recently to Coptic Christians in a small village near Alexandria, Egypt.
Assyrian International News Agency, on Jan. 27, a Muslim barber named Toemah in the village of El-Ameriya alleged that a 34-year old Coptic tailor named Mourad Samy Guirgis possessed several illicit photos of a Muslim woman on his cell phone. Salafists and various Islamist groups urged Muslims to take action against the offending Christian.
Violence ensued as 5,000 Muslim villagers went on a rampage, burning and pillaging the homes and shops of innocent Coptics. This reportedly occurred even though the accused man turned himself in to police and no photos were found on his phone. Many of the 62 Coptic families fled for their lives.
After Coptics endure such attacks, their leaders usually attend “reconciliation meetings” with Muslim elders. When the Christians of El-Ameriya recently attended one such meeting, Muslims demanded the eviction of all Coptic residents of the village because “Muslim honor had been damaged.”
The Coptic Christians demanded compensation of two million pounds ($331,000) to repair the damaged homes and businesses. The Muslims refused.
As the talks proceeded, another attack occurred as militant Muslims torched three Coptic homes in the same village. Again—according to AINA—security forces looked on and did nothing to stop the attack.
A lawyer with the Coptic Church of Alexandria, Joseph Malak said the lack of response proves that “the assailants were not afraid of the security forces or the law.”
Here’s more from the AINA, including terms of the settlement agreement between the Coptics and Muslims:
Muslim representatives demanded the eviction of the wealthy Coptic merchant Abeskhayroun Soliman, together with his four married sons and their families, accusing them of causing sedition by shooting in the air when Muslims broke into and torched their home while the family was inside.
"No one was wounded due to the alleged shootings, which the family says never took place. The police authorities issued an arrest warrant for two of the Soliman sons," said Ihab Aziz.
The Solimans have been in hiding with a Muslim family which saved them from their burning homes, and is presently giving them protection. Muslims threatened that if eight Coptic families were not evicted by Feb. 3, all remaining 54 Coptic families in the village would be subjected to violence after Friday prayers. They called it "Friday of Eviction" and "Friday of Clean-up."
On Wednesday Feb. 1, a hastily organized reconciliation meeting was arranged by security authorities, and was attended by Ebeskharion Soliman and one of his sons.
The terms of the agreement which resulted were:
• Eviction of eight Coptic families, namely three of the Mourad families, in addition to five Soliman families.
• Selling of the assets of the wealthy Abeskhayron Soliman family within three months by a committee, under the supervision of Salafi shaikh Sherif el Hawary. Soliman has no right to get involved in the sale or even accompany a prospective buyer.
• The Committee is to collect any money accrued from the sale of his land, properties, businesses as well as collect promissory notes pending from business transactions by the Soliman-owned chain of stores.
• In case of non-implementation of this Agreement, all Copts in the Kobry-el-Sharbat village will be attacked, their homes and property completely torched.
Abeskhayron Soliman signed the agreement, which most Copts viewed as "humiliating." Father Boktor, who attended the meeting, described the reconciliation agreement as "utter injustice."
Wissa Fawzi, member of the Maspero Coptic Youth Union in Alexandria, said that Soliman has nothing at all to do with the Mourad story, but signed the agreement to save his family and the Copts in the village, "otherwise there would have been a massacre of the Copts on that Friday."
He said that Security authorities pressured Soliman into accepting the terms of the agreement by threatening him with refusal of police protection for him and his family.
"What constitutes the real crisis is the complicity of security officials in the process of displacement," said Fawzi.
Copts in Kobry-el-Sharbat were stunned after hearing the news of the eviction of the "top Copt" in their community, whose wealth is estimated at more than 20,000,000 Egyptian pounds.
"There is a feeling of humiliation and being completely under the mercy of the radical Muslims," said Rami Khashfa of the Alexandria Maspero Youth Union. "They are terrorized and are scared of the future. Copts in the neighboring villages are also scared."
He said that Copts in the village are thinking of moving elsewhere.
Egyptian Christians worry this settlement will result in additional acts of thuggery and injustice against them and they warn it will “open the door for an avalanche of forced evictions.”
Whatever happened to The Muslim Brotherhood's campaign promise to protect the rights of minorities?