News / Middle East

Anger at Egypt’s Military Leaders Grows

Angry Egyptian Christians protest outside St. Mark's Cathedral against the military ruling council, Oct. 10, 2011, a day after at least 24 people were killed in central Cairo
Angry Egyptian Christians protest outside St. Mark's Cathedral against the military ruling council, Oct. 10, 2011, a day after at least 24 people were killed in central Cairo

As Egypt's Copts bury their dead from Sunday's violence in Cairo, members of the interim civilian Cabinet have offered to resign. But the move is unlikely to lessen the anger that has spread beyond the Christian community and is aimed at the country’s military leadership.   

Deputy Prime Minister Hazem el-Beblawi is reported to have offered his resignation to protest the government’s handling of the violence Sunday, the worst since the popular uprising earlier this year toppled President Hosni Mubarak.  It was not immediately clear if the resignation was accepted.

Army soldiers run after Egyptian Coptic demonstrators in Cairo, Egypt Sunday, Oct. 9, 2011.
Army soldiers run after Egyptian Coptic demonstrators in Cairo, Egypt Sunday, Oct. 9, 2011.

Criticism of the interim civilian Cabinet has been growing. The chairman of the opposition Wafd party, Sayyid Badawi, says the Cabinet has been largely ineffectual.

Badawi says the current government has been unable to solve many problems.

Egypt's Coptic Christians Say Equality Demands Not Met

  • Sunday's violence in Cairo highlighted long-standing tensions between Egypt's Coptic Christians and Muslims, and with the nation's military leadership.
  • Copts have long been asking for changes to laws that hinder the building of churches and do not recognize the conversion of Muslims to Christianity. Copts complain about employment discrimination and have often clashed with majority Muslims over church construction and other issues.
  • Coptic Christians are the largest religious minority in Egypt, comprising roughly 10 percent of the nation's 80 million people. Their ancestors trace back to the days of the Roman Empire. They are followers of Saint Mark the Evangelist, known to them as one of the Seventy Disciples of Christ.
  • Saint Mark is believed to have introduced Christianity to Egypt, beginning in the seaport of Alexandria, where the Coptic Church is still based. Copts share many beliefs of the Roman Catholic Church but hold different views about the divinity of Jesus.
  • A recent dispute over new construction at a church in southern Egypt heightened tensions between Copts and the government. A protest in Cairo Sunday against the recent burning of a southern church escalated into clashes with government forces that left 26 people dead.
  • Many Copts say Egypt's post- Hosni Mubarak leadership has been too lenient on Islamists, who they blame for a series of attacks on the Coptic community. But their complaints pre-date the ouster of the former president in February.
  • In January, Copts held a series of protests after a New Year's Day bombing killed about two dozen worshippers at a church in Cairo.
  • In August, Egyptian authorities proposed an anti-discrimination amendment to the criminal code in a bid to curb sectarian attacks against Coptic Christians. The measure could impose jail sentences on those found guilty of religious, ethnic or gender discrimination.
  • But military rulers have been slow to enact promised reforms like the ones Copts are demanding.

He is demanding it be replaced by what he calls a government of national salvation.

But to many other anti-government protesters, these short-term politicians are beside the point. The real leadership, they argue, remains the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces.  And they want it gone.

Coptic protesters are denouncing the military leader, Mohammed Hussein Tantawi, in no uncertain terms.  “The people,” they chant, “want the field marshal to hang.”

It is a stark change from a battle cry of Egypt’s uprising, when demonstrators called out that “the people and the army are one.”  Today, those people are angry, suspicious and shocked, after an initially peaceful demonstration Sunday turned violent, leaving 26 people dead. The head of the Coptic church, Pope Shenouda, has called for a three day fast to mourn the victims, most of them Christians.

Few among them are persuaded by official promises to investigate the violence. Luka Darwish is a Muslim student who has been protesting alongside Coptic Christians against the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, or SCAF.

“The government and the SCAF have to go. That's it.  It's done. It's obviously that they are counterrevolutionaries," said Darwish. "They are against the revolution."

The military rulers have been slow to enact promised reforms. Most seem to come only after intense protests or riots.  Copts, for example, have been asking for changes to religious laws that hinder the building of churches and don’t recognize the conversion of Muslims to Christianity. Only after Sunday’s violence has the SCAF said it will move quickly on Coptic concerns.

Hala Mustafa, the editor of Democracy magazine in Cairo, says by nature, the military rulers are conservative and old habits die hard.

"This is the legacy of the past because it has been the same policy for the last 30 years and I think some of the old state establishments are acting the same way, like nothing happened, like we didn’t pass through the 25th of January movement," said Mustafa.

But one of the few things that Egypt's new rulers have changed in the last eight months is to end the suppression of Islamist groups, the more extreme of which have launched attacks on minority Christians. And it is that change, Mustafa believes, that should make the military rulers act on the Coptic demands.

"This is the most important thing in order to enhancing and imposing the concept of citizenship with no discrimination. So I think this is something that should be adopted, otherwise I think that the sectarian tensions will continue," Mustafa added.

No matter how long it takes to transfer to true civilian rule - election dates have been repeatedly pushed back - Mustafa warns of the possible alternative if the issue of religious equality is not addressed. Many of the sectarian battles witnessed in the region, she notes, have their roots in just such discrimination.

Follow our Middle East reports on Twitter
and discuss them on our Facebook page.

You May Like

Koreas Mark 61st Anniversary of War Armistice

Muted observances on both sides of heavily-armed Demilitarized Zone that separates two decades-long enemies More

Judge Declares Washington DC Ban on Public Handguns Unconstitutional

Ruling overturns capital city's prohibition on carrying guns in pubic More

Pricey Hepatitis C Drug Draws Criticism

Activists are using the International AIDS Conference to criticize drug companies for charging high prices for life-saving therapies More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Students in Business for Themselvesi
X
Mike O'Sullivan
July 26, 2014 11:04 AM
They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Students in Business for Themselves

They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Not Even Monks Spared From Thailand’s Junta-Backed Morality Push

With Thailand’s military government firmly in control after May’s bloodless coup, authorities are carrying out plans they say are aimed at restoring discipline, morality and patriotism to all Thais. The measures include a crackdown on illegal gambling, education reforms to promote students’ moral development, and a new 24-hour phone hotline for citizens to report misbehaving monks. Steve Sandford reports from Bangkok.
Video

Video Virtual Program Teaches Farming Skills

In a fast-changing world beset by unpredictable climate conditions, farmers cannot afford to ignore new technology. Researchers in Australia are developing an online virtual world program to share information about climate change and more sustainable farming techniques for sugar cane growers. As VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports, the idea is to create a wider support network for farmers.
Video

Video Airline Expert: Missile will Show Signature on Debris

The debris field from Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 is spread over a 21-kilometer radius in eastern Ukraine. It is expected to take investigators months to sort through the airplane pieces to learn about the missile that brought down the jetliner and who fired it. VOAs Carolyn Presutti explains how this work will be done.
Video

Video Treatment for Childhood Epilepsy Heats up Medical Marijuana Debate

In the United States, marijuana is classed as an illegal drug by the federal government. But nearly half the states have legalized it, to some degree. Proponents say some strains of marijuana might have exceptional health benefits, for treating pain or inflammation in chronic conditions such as cancer, multiple sclerosis and epilepsy. Shelley Schlender reports on a strain of medical marijuana developed in Colorado that is reputed to reduce seizures in childhood epilepsy
Video

Video Airbus Adds Metal 3D Printed Parts to New Jets

By the end of this year, European aircraft manufacturing consortium Airbus plans to deliver the first of its new, extra-wide-body passenger jets, the A350-XWB. Among other technological innovations, the new plane will also incorporate metal parts made in a 3-D printer. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video AIDS Conference Welcomes Exciting Developments in HIV Treatment, Prevention

Significant strides have been made in recent years toward the treatment and prevention of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. This year, at the International AIDS Conference, the AIDS community welcomed progress on a new pill that may prevent transmission of the deadly virus. VOA’s Anita Powell reports from Melbourne, Australia.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.

AppleAndroid