Nag Hammadi massacre

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Nag Hammadi Massacre
Location Nag Hammadi, Egypt
Date 7 January 2010
Target Coptic Christians
Attack type
Shooting
Deaths 9 in the attack
2 in associated attacks
Non-fatal injuries
11
Perpetrators Muslim gunmen

The Nag Hammadi massacre was a massacre of Coptic Christians carried out on the eve of 7 January 2010, in the Egyptian city of Nag Hammadi. The massacre occurred at the hands of Muslim gunmen in front of the Nag Hammadi cathedral, as Coptic Christians were leaving the church after celebrating the midnight Christmas mass according to the Coptic calendar. The massacre resulted in the murder of eight Copts and one Muslim bystander.[1][2] Nine other Copts were confirmed to be wounded, and two Muslims were reportedly wounded in the attack.[3]

Following the attack, two other Coptic Christian women were killed in nearby villages when Muslim mobs set their houses on fire. Numerous Coptic businesses were looted and destroyed in the accompanying attacks.

The Nag Hammadi massacre gained widespread international attention, and was condemned by Pope Benedict XVI,[4] Lebanese MP Nadim Gemayel,[5][6] Italian foreign minister Franco Frattini,[7][8][9] and Canadian foreign minister Lawrence Cannon.[10][11] The attacks were one of the most serious outbreaks of anti-Christian violence in Egypt, and the worst since the murder of 21 Coptic Christians in Kosheh in January 2000.

Background[edit]

Coptic Christians form the largest religious minority in the Middle East, and represent between 15% and 20% of a population of over 80 million Egyptians[12][13][14][15][16][17][18][19] though estimates vary (see Religion in Egypt). The Coptic community has been targeted by hate crimes including physical violence, and has been facing varying degrees of discriminatory government policies like restrictions on building churches and a school curriculum focused on Islam.[20] Since the 1970s, the rise of Islamist movements in Egypt was coupled with sectarian violence. Disputes over land and inter-faith relationships have sometimes split communities along religious lines. Local authorities' handling of such cases has been criticized by civil rights groups. Police are accused of delaying their response to reports of fighting and then simply arresting equal numbers of Muslims and Christians in order to create some sort of balance. Sometimes criminal investigations are dropped in favor of informal reconciliation meetings.[20][21][22] Other forms of anti-Christian discrimination in Egypt include discrimination in hiring in the public sector and staff appointments to public universities, prohibition from studying at Al-Azhar University (a publicly funded institution with approximately half a million students), and barring from certain jobs such as Arabic language teachers.[23]

Events[edit]

Bishop Kyrillos (Cyril), the Coptic Orthodox bishop of Nag Hammadi, had warned the Egyptian police that there have been threats in the days leading up to the Christmas Eve service. For this reason, he decided to end his mass one hour earlier than normal. He told the Associated Press that, for days, he had expected something to happen on Christmas Eve. He said he left the church minutes before the attack, and had to take the back door when a suspicious driving car swerved near him. Seconds later he heard the mayhem, lots of machine-gun shots.[24]

As the Christian worshipers were leaving the Nag Hammadi Cathedral after the Christmas Eve service, a car pulled up and gunfire was sprayed into the crowd. As a result, eight Copts, all aged between 15 and 23, were killed. Six died immediately, while two more died the following day because of severe injuries.[25][26] In addition one Muslim bystander was also killed in the attack.[3][27] Nine other Copts were confirmed wounded, and two Muslims were reportedly wounded in the attack.

In addition, two Coptic women died when a Muslim mob set the houses of Christians on fire in nearby villages.

Aftermath[edit]

On 8 January 2010, three men were arrested and charged with premeditated murder in association with the Nag Hammadi massacre.[22] The names of the three accused men were Mohamed Ahmed Hassanein, more commonly known as Hamam el-Kamouny, Qurshi Abul Haggag and Hendawi Sayyed. The trial opened on 13 February 2010. Despite initially confessing to the police, they have pleaded not guilty to the charges of premeditated murder, putting lives of citizens at risk, and damaging property.[28] The Supreme State Security Court adjourned the trial until 20 March 2010; since then, the trial has been delayed repeatedly, twelve times. The accused men appeared in court for the final verdict on 16 January 2011. The verdict was carried out sentencing el-Kamouny the death penalty for the "premeditated murder" of seven people, as well as the "attempted murder" of the nine others who were wounded.[29] The other two defendants are to appear in court once more to receive their final verdict on 20 February 2011.[30]

Motives[edit]

Egyptian officials suspected that the shooting may have been "in revenge for the alleged rape of a 12-year-old Muslim girl by a Christian man" in the nearby town of Farshout in November, which at the time led to five days of riots and attacks on Christian businesses and properties in Upper Egypt.[3] A man was arrested and charged with the alleged rape on 21 November 2009, and is due to stand trial.,[31] However, the man continuously denied the allegations, and Christian sources believed he had been framed.[32][33]

Egyptian reaction[edit]

Following the Nag Hammadi massacre and the associated attacks, the Egyptian police raided the homes of Coptic Christian families in Nag Hammadi on 10 January 2010, and arrested 22 young Copts, most of whom were teenagers. These Copts were detained at the Nag Hammadi police station for a few days, then transferred to jail in the isolated New Valley Governorate. None of the arrested Copts was ever formally charged with any crime.[26]

It was not until two weeks after the massacre that President Hosni Mubarak made his first remarks directly condemning what happened. He stated that "The criminal act in Nag Hammadi has made the hearts of Egyptians bleed, whether Copts or Muslims".[22]

The Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR) condemned the attack, stating that despite warnings by local church authorities of possible violence during the Coptic holiday, police had not bolstered security for Christmas.[22]

On 9 January 2010, hundreds of people in Cairo demonstrated, carrying placards condemning "the shocking silence of the authorities" and stating "We are All Copts". On the same day, Egyptian police arrested 20 people who demonstrated in the town of Bahgura against the Nag Hammadi massacre.[21]

On 15 January, 29 Egyptian human rights activists, bloggers, and members of political parties visited Nag Hammadi in order to show solidarity with the Coptic community against the recent attacks on Coptic civilians. All 29 activists were arrested by Egyptian police while on their way to pay their condolences to the families of the Coptic Christians shot and killed one week earlier. The group included prominent activists such as Wael Abbas, members of 6 April Youth Movement, and members of the Democratic Front Party. The group included 8 women, one of whom was a French citizen. The activists were detained and interrogated by the prosecutor the Qena Governorate. A number of them was charged with demonstrating illegally, chanting slogans against the state, and causing disorder. Group members denied these allegations, stating that Egyptian police arrested them when they arrived at the train station, and that the group had not had time to engage in any activities.[21][34]

International reaction[edit]

The Nag Hammadi massacre gained widespread international attention, and was condemned by Pope Benedict XVI,[4] Lebanese MP Nadim Gemayel,[5][6] Italian foreign minister Franco Frattini,[7][8][9] and Canadian foreign minister Lawrence Cannon.[10][11]

The actions of the Egyptian government in the aftermath of the crime were also strongly condemned by Sarah Leah Whitson, the Middle East director of Human Rights Watch. "The Egyptian authorities should be focusing on the causes of the tragic shooting of six Coptic Christians," she stated. "Instead, they're arresting activists whose efforts to express their condolences is an important step toward healing sectarian fractures."[21][34]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Al-Ahram newspaper mentions that the sole Muslim victim was killed at the outskirts of the city while riding a taxi with some of his Christian friends "قتل أيمن المسلم بجوار رفيق المسيحي في سيارة تاكسي علي حدود المدينة. المصادفة قادت رفيق ومينا إلي سيارة أجرة‏,‏ يقودها أسامة محمد عبد اللطيف‏'‏ أمين شرطة بمركز نجع حمادي يعمل علي تحسين أحواله المعيشية‏,‏ فمرتبات الحكومة هزيلة لا تسمن ولا تغني من جوع‏..‏ثم تقابلا مع سامح صلاح شقيق سوزان‏,‏ وأيمن حامد هاشم‏,‏ وأخذوا التاكسي يتجولون به ليلة العيد‏. عاد من شغله في السابعة مساء‏,‏ ثم اغتسل وخرج‏..‏وقابل رفيق في العاشرة‏..‏وماتا معا برصاصات بلطجي لا يعرف ربنا‏!"
  2. ^ El Fagr newspaper stated that the Muslim victim, who was also the guard of the church, was not on duty when he was killed. He had finished his duty at 7:00pm, gone home to change, then went out with some of his Christian friends "لم يكن المجند أيمن حامد الحارس المسلم لكنيسة نجع حمادي والذي قتل برصاص الكموني ورفاقه في ساعة عمل، كان قد أنهي ورديته في الحراسة الساعة السابعة مساء ليلة العيد، وخرج مع بعض أصدقائه الأقباط - من الطبيعي أن يصاحب شبابا قبطيا فهو حارس كنيستهم - قضي ساعة مع أصدقائه في بهجورة، ثم عاد إلي نجع حمادي لينتظر أصدقاءه حتي يخرجوا من قداس العيد ليكملوا سهرتهم."
  3. ^ a b c "Egypt Copts killed in Christmas church attack". BBC News. 2010-01-07. Retrieved 2010-03-07. 
  4. ^ a b Pope condemns murder of Coptic Christians in Egypt, (AFP) – 10 Jan 2010
  5. ^ a b "Lebanese PM النائب نديم الجميّل Nadim Gemayel stands in solidarity with Egypt's Copts يتضامن مع أقباط مصر (Arabic)". Nadimgemayel.com. Retrieved 2011-01-02. 
  6. ^ a b "Nadim Gemayel denounces the attack on Christian Copts in Egyptنديم الجميل يستنكر الاعتداء على المسيحيين الأقباط في مصر (Arabic)". Lebanese-forces.com. Retrieved 2011-01-02. 
  7. ^ a b "Minister Frattini dismayed by the recent violence against the Coptic Christian community in Egypt". Italian Foreign Ministry. 2010-01-07. Retrieved 2010-03-07. 
  8. ^ a b "7 people killed in a shooting incident in southern Egypt". Allvoices.com. 2010-01-07. Retrieved 2011-01-02. 
  9. ^ a b [1][dead link]
  10. ^ a b "Canada Condemns Attack on Coptic Christians". International.gc.ca. 2010-01-07. Retrieved 2011-01-02. 
  11. ^ a b "Canada Condemns Attack on Coptic Christians". Vladtepesblog.com. 2010-01-21. Retrieved 2011-01-02. 
  12. ^ "Egypt from "The World Factbook"". American Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). 4 September 2008. 
  13. ^ "The Copts and Their Political Implications in Egypt". Washington Institute for Near East Policy. 25 October 2005. 
  14. ^ IPS News . Retrieved 09-27-2008.
  15. ^ [2]. The Washington Post. "Estimates of the size of Egypt's Christian population vary from the low government figures of 6 to 7 million to the 12 million reported by some Christian leaders. The actual numbers may be in the 9 to 9.5 million range, out of an Egyptian population of more than 60 million." Retrieved 10 October 2008.
  16. ^ Ibrahim, Youssef M. "Muslims' Fury Falls on Egypt's Christians". The New York Times, 15 March 1993. Retrieved 10 October 2008.
  17. ^ "Egypt from "U.S. Department of State/Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs"". United States Department of State. 30 September 2008. 
  18. ^ "Egypt from "Foreign and Commonwealth Office"". Foreign and Commonwealth Office -UK Ministry of Foreign Affairs. 15 August 2008. 
  19. ^ "Egypt Religions & Peoples from "LOOKLEX Encyclopedia"". LookLex Ltd. 30 September 2008. 
  20. ^ a b Egypt's anxious Copts 'await next catastrophe', BBC
  21. ^ a b c d "International Freedom of Expression eXchange". Ifex.org. Retrieved 2011-01-02. 
  22. ^ a b c d "Egypt's anxious Copts 'await next catastrophe'". BBC News. 2010-01-25. Retrieved 2010-03-07. 
  23. ^ John Pike. "Coptic Christianity". Globalsecurity.org. Retrieved 2011-01-02. 
  24. ^ "Clashes in Egyptian town after Coptic killings". BBC News. 2010-01-07. Retrieved 2011-01-02. 
  25. ^ "Muslims kill Christians on Christmas Eve At Nag Hammadi". Besara7a.wordpress.com. Retrieved 2011-01-02. 
  26. ^ a b "تصريحات " مجرد سؤال ؟". Justaq.wordpress.com. Retrieved 2011-01-02. 
  27. ^ Egypt arrests Nag Hammadi shooters, Gregg Carlstrom | 8 January 2010
  28. ^ "Egyptian Coptic murder trial opens and is adjourned". BBC News. 2010-02-14. Retrieved 2010-03-07. 
  29. ^ "Egypt Sentences Muslim to Death in Killings of Christians". NYTimes. 2011-01-16. Retrieved 2011-01-19. 
  30. ^ "Egypt attacker gets death sentence". AlJazeera News. 2011-01-16. Retrieved 2011-01-19. 
  31. ^ Fadl, Essam (2010-02-09). "Lawyer of alleged Coptic rapist requests trial transfer". The Daily News Egypt. Retrieved 2010-03-08. 
  32. ^ "Egyptian Christian Framed in Sexual Assault Case". Aina.org. Retrieved 2011-01-02. 
  33. ^ [3][dead link]
  34. ^ a b "Human Rights Watch". Hrw.org. 2010-01-16. Retrieved 2011-01-02.