Muslims Torch Christian Homes in Egypt
By Mary Abdelmassih
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(AINA) -- Coptic Christians in the Upper Egyptian village of el-Nowahed, Abu-Tesht, in Qena Province, were victims of an attack by a Muslim mob of nearly one thousand on Monday, November 15. The attack started at nearly 10:00 pm on Monday evening and lasted until the early hours of Tuesday morning.

The large mob of Muslims from el-Nowahed and the surrounding villages besieged and waged an attack against Coptic homes amidst cries of "Allah is the greatest" and other Islamic Jihadist slogans. They threw fireballs, gasoline and stones at Coptic homes and detonated Butane Gas cylinders. Christian-owned homes were looted and shops were broken into, plundered and burned. There were no reported casualties.

The attack resulted in the burning of twenty-two Coptic-owned homes (video), two commercial shops, a bakery, as well as livestock. The sound of automatic weapons fired in the air was heard, to terrorize and intimidate the Copts, according to Ra'fat Samir, who heads the Luxor branch of the Egyptian Union for Human Rights.

Coptic News Bulletin aired a recording of phone calls made to several Copts from inside the burning village. Terrorized Copts were hiding on the roof tops of their homes, afraid to venture in the streets, could only cry out: "help us, save us, they are burning us." None of them could concentrate enough to tell the reporter the reason behind the sudden Muslim attack, they just kept pleading for help.

Security forces were able to impose order a few hours later, and a curfew was imposed on el-Nowahed village and the city of Abu-Tesht.

The rampage against the Coptic inhabitants of the village came in the wake of a story which circulated in town three days earlier, about an affair between 19-year-old Copt Hossam Noel Attallah and a 17-year-old Muslim girl, Rasha Mohamed Hussein, a relative of the village mayor. According to Anba Kyrillos, Bishop of the Diocese of Nag Hamadi, some witnesses saw the teenage couple walking together towards the graveyards, after which it was rumored in the village that he raped her, "although a Muslim woman confirmed that Hossam did nothing wrong to the girl," he said.

A Police report was issued and both were brought before the public prosecutor, after which the young man was detained by State Security, fearing an escalation of events similar to what took place in Farshout last November in which Copts were attacked over a three days period by Muslim mobs, due to an accusation of a Coptic man having allegedly raped a Muslim girl (AINA 11-22-2009, 11-23-2009). No one knows the whereabouts of the Coptic teenager Hossam after State Security detained him.

An eyewitness who was himself beaten by Muslims said the mob blocked the fire brigade from reaching the burning homes and one fire engine arrived hours late, reported activist Miriam Ragy. He also said that security forces went into the houses of Copts and arrested them.

Copts accused the authorities of severe inadequacy, because although being aware of the incident of the Copt and the Muslim girl, they only stationed three security cars at the entrances of the village. "But when the security officers saw the large mobs entering the village from all sides and attacking it, they fled, leaving it unprotected to operations of terrorism, sabotage, arson and looting of Coptic property," said activist Ra'fat, adding that security forces were only guarding St. George's Church.

Activist Attorney Mamdouh Nakhla of Al-Kalema Human Rights Center condemned the Muslim attack, stressing the collusion of State Security with the offenders, by failing to arrest any of the perpetrators so far and even chasing the Copts and arresting them, "because of their interviews with some Coptic websites in relation to the incident." Nakhla said that his Center will send a fact-finding committee to the village.

Bishop Kyrillos said that the present estimates of the damage to the Coptic property is approximately 250,000 Egyptian pounds.

Dr. Naguib Gobrail, President of the Egyptian Union of Human Rights, said "We all reject that Copts would become a "Whipping-boy," where every time an individual Copt is accused of committing some crime, the entire Coptic community should be made to pay the price and be punished by waging attacks on their lives and property. He asked if Muslims would accept the same treatment if circumstances were reversed.

Dr. Ghobrial said he will file a compensation lawsuit against the Prime Minister, the Interior Minister and the Governor of Qena, on behalf of all the Coptic victims of el-Nowahed for moral and material damage.

Ghobrial accused the authorities of failing in its duty of protection and complicity with the perpetrators, adding that it was completely unacceptable that security would arrest Copts, as was the case in el-Nowahed. "Has the victim become the perpetrator or are they afraid of the opponents?"

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