Monday, October 10, 2011

Maspiro clashes against the Copts

Photo Credit: Mohammed Hossam Edin
Dear readers,

Please forgive my sketchy cite form as I attempt to get the news out.

Violence occurred last night against the Coptic people of Egypt. Ten percent of Egypt's 80 million people are Copts. Cairo on Edge After Deadly Violence A group of mostly Coptic protesters clashed Sunday with military and police forces in the Maspiro area of Cairo.  I have not been feeling well, so I learned of this from my Coptic teaching assistant. I have reached out to some of my Coptic students to make sure they are okay. They appear to be fine.
Sarah Carr reports that Coptic protesters rallied regarding an attack of a church in Aswan on September 30th. I summarize and paraphrase her compelling, vivid, and scary report here. The march began in the Cairo district of Shubra. (Sarah Carr, "A Firsthand account: marching from Shubra to deaths at Maspiro," AMAY 10/10/2011)  The march statred at 4 p.m. The army had apparently hit a priest while dispersing protesters in front of the Maspiro state TV building on Wednesday. The march came under attack around 6 p.m. rocks were thrown at protesters from the bridge. Outside the Ramsis Hilton Hotel, gunfire began. Two armored personnel carriers started driveing through the protesters, and soldiers began firing at random. An APC drove toward the crowd, flattening protesters. Sarah Carr, "A Firsthand Account: Marching from Shubra to Deaths at Maspiro," Al Masry Al Youm, October 10, 2011

Other reports confirm that the army shot bullets intensively once the march arrived at Maspiro. ("At Coptic Hospital, Christians Hysterical over lost relatives," AMAY, 10/10/2011) Several victims were run over by Egyptian military armored personnel carriers. According to medics at the Coptic Hospital, all dead bodies were either run over by military vehicles or shot with gunfire. The floor of the Coptic Hospital was covered by blood.

Egyptian state TV has reported that "Christian protesters stole weapons from the army and killed soldiers."

The violence at the Maspiro state TV building left 24 dead, and 272 injured. ("Clinton Made no Statement," AMAY10/10/2011) The US embassy did ask people to remain calm. US Embassy statement about Maspiro Violence

I am at the AUC campus in New Cairo, and we are perfectly safe here. The university has issued no official security warnings. I am holding class tonight, and I have told my students they can choose whether to attend.

Prime Minister Essam Sharaf warned Egyptians of a "despicable conspiracy against Egypt." ("Sharaf: We are facing a conspiracy," AMAY 10/10/2011) Is this guy serious? I really do not think the New York Times got this story completely right. But, feel free to make up your own mind. Church Protests in Cairo turn deadly

As of 12:18 a.m this morning, eyewitnesses were reporting that groups of thugs were attacking Christian-owned businesses. A fierce street battle occurred on Ramses Street near the Coptic Hospital between groups in civilian clothes. Rioters set cars on fire, and threw molotov cocktails. Hundreds of thugs attacked the Coptic Hospital but were unable to get inside. Street clashes continued until early this morning. The MB condemned the clashes, but blamed both Coptic protesters and the military. By last night, the police had control of Tahrir Square, and protesters had left the area. ("Live Updates: As death toll rises in clashes," AMAY, 10/10/2011)

Some are concerned that the clashes could have been instigated by provocateurs. I second that emotion.  It is not plausible that unarmed Christians attack the military.  Mohamed Selim al-Awa, an Islamic thinker and presidential hopeful says that he has a video clip which exonerates the Coptic protesters from shooting at army soldiers. He says that gunmen arrived from  nearby streets and shot at protesters and army forces at the same time. ("Islamic Presidential Hopefuls condemn violence," AMAY 10/10/2011) Some Muslim Activists have expressed solidarity with the Copts, stating that the problem is not between Christians and Muslims, but between the military and Christians. ("At Coptic Hospital," )

The question of the day is who is the instigator? It could be a bid by the old NDP to derail democracy. One of my colleagues suggested that it was the Copts trying to bring attention. I do not believe that, because why would the Copts attack their own hospital?  Some Islamists have suggested that the incidents in Maspiro could be a bid by the military to tighten its grip on power. This strikes me as plausible. Or it could be the military working with the NDP . . . .

And then this craziness by Presidential candidate Aboul Fotouh who says "Christians picked the wrong time and place."

Oh dear. Gloria dios, se pican los pecados del mundo, ten piedad, ten piedad.


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Dear Mostafa, good to hear from you. This has just upset me so much. The important thing is that people keep talking in a calm way, and remain friendly across religious lines.

    I agree with you that this work has the fingerprints of Hosny Mubarak on it.

    I am generally skeptical of claims of Israeli involvement. But I guess it is possible.

    I mean, I think it is ridiculous that people need licenses to build houses of worship for God in the first place. I do not agree with that policy, and people should be allowed to be temples, or churches or mosques whenever they own the land to do so.

    There is no reason whatsoever that the armed forces should have become violent. Regardless of religion, it is never acceptable for the military to fire on unarmed civilians.

    Peace out, and prayers for Egypt. I am really really sad.

  3. Dear Dr. Warigia

    Please do not be sad from my opinion, maybe I right and maybe I am wrong. But, I am not against Copts and also I am not the one who implements this law. I have more than 20 Christian friends from several years and also I have good Christian neighbor. I am against any violence from military or police to any religious. Finally, I am not talking about any religion, but I am talking about the conflict between Copts and military.

  4. Dear Mostafa,

    I am sorry, you did not upset me. I did not communicate clearly. The SCAF and the incident upset me, not your comments. Your comments were perfectly reasonable and absolutely fine. Take care. Hugs, WMB

  5. Dear Dr. Warigia
    Thank you very much for your words to me. You know that I am one of your students and also I learn from you too much. Please forgive me because I didn’t understand your words.