Pogrom in Cairo

Posted: October 13, 2011 in Christian persecution, International Oppression

HAVE YOU EVER seen a pogrom? Sarah Carr has.

10-13-11 Jeff Jacoby

“The Coptic Hospital tried its best to deal
with the sudden influx of casualties,” wrote Carr, a Cairo-based
journalist and blogger, in  her firsthand account of Sunday’s deadly attack on Christian protesters
by the Egyptian military. “Its floors were sticky with blood and there was
barely room to move among the wounded.”

In one room of the hospital morgue Carr counted
the bodies of 12 people, some of whom had been killed when soldiers in armored
personnel vehicles charged the crowd, firing and random and crushing the
protesters they ran over. One of the victims was “a man whose face was
contorted into an impossible expression. A priest . . . showed me the remains
of the man’s skull and parts of his brain. He too had been crushed.”

What happened in Egypt on Sunday was a massacre.
Government security forces assaulted Coptic Christians as they marched
peacefully to the headquarters of the state TV network. They were protesting
the recent burning of St. George’s, a Coptic church in the Upper Egypt village
of El-Marinab. Yet broadcasters loyal to the ruling military junta exhorted
“honorable Egyptians” to help the army put down the protests. “Soon
afterward, bands of young men armed with sticks, rocks, swords, and firebombs
began to roam central Cairo, attacking Christians,” the Associated Press reported.
“Troops and riot police did not intervene.” Video of the
violence was quickly uploaded to the Internet. So were even
more graphic images
of the murdered protesters.

Back during the Tahrir Square demonstrations against strongman Hosni Mubarak,
the Egyptian military was widely praised for not using force to crush the
protests and keep Mubarak in power. Then-Defense
Secretary Robert Gates
, for example, declared that Egypt’s military had
“conducted itself in exemplary fashion” and “made a contribution
to the evolution of democracy.” Popular, too, was the notion that the
uprising could catalyze a
new era of interfaith solidarity
. “Egypt’s religious tensions have
been set aside,” reported the BBC
in February
, “as the country’s Muslims and Christians join forces
at anti-government protests.”

But the “spirit of Tahrir Square” has
ushered in neither liberal democracy nor a rebirth of tolerance for Egypt’s
ancient but beleaguered Christian minority.

One of the country’s leading liberal reformers, Ayman
, said Monday that with the latest bloodshed, the military has lost
whatever goodwill it accrued last spring. It’s hard to believe that the ruling
Supreme Council of the Armed Forces cares. In the eight months since Mubarak’s
ouster, the
military has tried and convicted
some 12,000 Egyptian civilians in
military tribunals, often after using torture to extract confessions. The
country’s hated emergency laws, which allow suspects to be detained without
charge, not only remain in force, but have been expanded to cover offenses as
vague as “spreading rumors” or “blocking traffic.” And just
as Mubarak did, the generals insist that government
is all that stands between Egypt and social chaos.

As for Egypt’s Coptic Christians, their plight
has gone from bad to worse. Post-Mubarak Egypt has seen “an explosion of
violence against the Coptic Christian community,” the
international news channel France24
was reporting as far back as May.
“Anger has flared up into deadly riots, and houses, shops, and churches
have been set ablaze.”

With Islamist hardliners growing increasingly
influential, hate crimes against Christians routinely go unpunished. Copts, who
represent a tenth of Egypt’s population, are subjected to appalling
humiliations. The mob that destroyed St. George’s had first demanded that the
church be stripped of its crosses and bells; after the Christians yielded to
that demand, local Muslims insisted that the church dome be removed as well.
For several weeks, Copts in El-Marinab were literally besieged, forbidden to
leave their homes or buy food unless they agreed to mutilate their nearly
century-old house of worship. On September 30, Muslim thugs set fire to
the church
and demolished its dome, pillars, and walls. For good
measure, they also burned a Coptic-owned shop and four homes.

Many Copts are choosing to leave Egypt, rather
than live under this intensifying anti-Christian persecution. The Egyptian
Union of Human Rights Organizations calculated last month that more than 90,000
Christians have fled the country
since March 2011. At that rate,
estimated human-rights advocate Naguib Gabriel, one-third of Egypt’s Coptic
population will have vanished within a decade.

Or maybe sooner — maybe much sooner — if
Sunday’s anti-Christian pogrom is a sign of things to come.




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