Fear of Massacre Grips Christian Village in Egypt; Crops Destroyed
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(AINA) -- Fears of an impending massacre has gripped the Christian Copts in the village of Ezbet Boshra, El Fashn, which was scene to Muslim mob attacks on Copts on Sunday (AINA 6-22-2009).

Egyptian State Security has placed only Coptic villagers under curfew since the Muslim assaults on Sunday. According to correspondent Mary Bassit of Copts United, The terrified villagers fear that being confined to their homes, while Muslims are free, might encourage Muslim fanatics to massacre them, especially with the bias of the security forces.

Lawyer Makkar Watany, who was detained with the 19 other Copts after Sunday's events, told Coptic News Bulletin on 6/23/09 that they were mistreated during police detention, with several Copts suffering broken limbs and wounds. "I was singled out as the police knew that I am a Coptic activist and have connections with the NGOs in Cairo. I was beaten by a junior office, in spite of being a lawyer." he said. "The other Coptic detainees told the police that they 'are ready to die as they have nothing more to lose.'"

Watany also expressed his fear of a massacre saying that the village presently finds itself in an uncanny situation. "There are approximately 1500 security policemen in a small village with 500 inhabitants, among which there are only 200 poor Coptic villagers. I refrain from even looking out of the window for fear of getting shot."

Human rights organizations and the media are prevented by security to enter Ezbet Boshra village; telephone and Internet lines are disconnected; cell phones are working sporadically.

On the popular El Mehwar' TV, the Governor of Beni Suef, Dr. Ezzat Abdulla bluntly said that "Christians need a permit before being allowed to pray to avoid friction." He stated in the interview that he is ready to give them (the Copts) another place far away to use for prayer. "The problem is that it starts with a place, then it is turned into a church; we have a role in the selection of a praying place which will not cause friction," he said. It is worth noting that the disputed Coptic Diocese building is near a mosque. The interviewer, Motaz El Demerdash, asked the Governor why Copts have to request permission to pray while Muslims do not; the governor did not answer. Mr. Demerdash commented that the only way to stop this escalating sectarian tension is by the enactment of a unified law for building places of worship.

Less than 24 hours after the Governor's TV interview, the director of the local council, overturned the aired Governor's promise of finding the Copts a nearby suitable praying place, not further than 800 meters from the previous one. He declared that there is no place available and that the Copts will have to pray in the nearby village's church. Watany said "This is completely unacceptable; it will have to be over our dead bodies." According to a previous interview with the village priest, Reverend Isaac Castor "the neighboring village's church is 3 miles away and extremely small, hardly accommodating its own congregation. We cannot pray in the street."

"What is heartbreaking is that the moment the local council director statement was announced, all Muslims were ecstatic and went out in the streets, dancing and chanting 'Come to Jihad' and the 'Cross is the enemy of God," said Watany who lives in the village, "with the security forces chanting along with them! The terrified Copts are confined to their homes, while Muslims are celebrating outside," he said.

Watany went on to say "After the sit-in of Bishop Estephanos of Beba El Fashn Diocese, clergy, NGOs and youth in St. Mary's Cathedral in El-Fashn on 6/22/09, a compromise was reached, between Bishop Estephanos and the State Security in Beni Suef, according to which, the 19 detained Copts would be released on condition of giving up praying in the disputed Church building, and Copts can find another faraway place instead to pray in. Banking on this agreement, we found a house belonging to a Coptic woman, and we acquired another nearby home, totaling 200 sq. meters. It was agreed with Bishop Estephanos during his meeting in Beni Suef that he would contact the State Security to arrange for the start of the conversion of the place we found. But now with the statement of the Director of the local council, nothing will materialize."

Although the prosecution dropped its charges against the village priest, Reverend Isaac Castor, he has been confined to his home with his toddlers and ten young children since Sunday, without any telephone or outside communication.

Free Copts reported that crops belonging to Copts were destroyed by the security on three consecutive days. "The crops used to be destroyed at night, now with the presence of the security forces, it is done in broad daylight," said Watany to Coptic news.

Today 'Sunshine' Organization of Human Rights said that State Security soldiers still continue with their assaults and intimidations against the Copts of Ezbet Boshra village, and that security destroyed on Tuesday 06/23/09 crops owned by Copts who are still under curfew. When asked by a Copt why they were doing this, one member of the security forces, said "We just feel like it, and we will take you one house at a time," according to Sunshine, which has been following the situation since its development. A complete file on the incidents with interviews accusing the State Security of complicity has been published by Copts United.

The Egyptian Union Human Rights Organization EUHRO issued today a press release demanding the intervention of the Minister of Interior, accuses him of failing to protect the Copts and their property. The Press Release went on to say that the Egyptian Government assumes full responsibility for the recent events by failing to enact the long overdue unified law for building places of worship and the present inequality between Muslims and Copts in the provision of places of worship. Dr. Naguib Gobraeel, President of EUHRO asked: If this is not Coptic persecution then what is?"

By Mary Abdelmassih

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