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

HRW: Egypt's Trial of Morsi ‘Badly Flawed’

Human Rights Watch says former Egypt leader's detention without charge for more than three weeks after his removal from office violated Egyptian law; government rejects criticism More

Photogallery Lancet Report Calls for Major Investment in Surgery

In its report published by The Lancet, panel of experts says people are dying from conditions easily treated in the operating room such as hernia, appendicitis, obstructed labor, and serious fractures More

Music Industry Under Sway of Digital Revolution

Millions of people in every corner of the Earth now can enjoy a vast variety and quantity of music in a way that has never before been possible 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.
Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populationsi
X
April 24, 2015 10:13 PM
A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populations

A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Data Servers Could Heat Private Homes

As every computer owner knows, when their machines run a complex program they get pretty hot. In fact, cooling the processors can be expensive, especially when you're dealing with huge banks of computer servers. But what if that energy could heat private homes? VOA’s George Putic reports that a Dutch energy firm aims to do just that.
Video

Video Cinema That Crosses Borders Showcased at Tribeca Film Festival

Among the nearly 100 feature length films being shown at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival in New York City are more than 20 documentaries and features with international appeal, from a film about a Congolese businessman in China, to documentaries shot in Pakistan and diaspora communities in the U.S., to a poetic look at disaffected South African youth. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video UN Confronts Threat of Young Radicals

The radicalization and recruitment of young people into Islamist extremist groups has become a growing challenge for governments worldwide. On Thursday, the U.N. Security Council heard from experts on the issue, which has become a potent threat to international peace and security. VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports.
Video

Video Growing Numbers of Turks Discover Armenian Ancestry

In a climate of improved tolerance, growing numbers of people in Turkey are discovering their grandmothers were Armenian. Hundreds of thousands of Armenians escaped the mass deportations and slaughter of the early 1900's by forced conversion to Islam. Or, Armenian children were taken in by Turkish families and assimilated. Now their stories are increasingly being heard. Dorian Jones reports from Istanbul that the revelations are viewed as an important step.
Video

Video Migrants Trek Through Western Balkans to Reach EU

Migrants from Africa and other places are finding different routes into the European Union in search of a better life. The Associated Press followed one clandestine group to document their trek through the western Balkans to Hungary. Zlatica Hoke reports that the migrants started using that route about four years ago. Since then, it has become the second-most popular path into Western Europe, after the option of sailing from North Africa to Italy.
Video

Video TIME Magazine Honors Activists, Pioneers Seen as Influential

TIME Magazine has released its list of celebrities, leaders and activists, whom it deems the world’s “most influential” in 2015. VOA's Ramon Taylor reports from New York.
Video

Video US Businesses See Cuba as New Frontier

The Obama administration's opening toward Cuba is giving U.S. companies hope they'll be able to do business in Cuba despite the continuation of the U.S. economic embargo against the communist nation. Some American companies have been able to export some products to Cuba, but the recent lifting of Cuba's terrorism designation could relax other restrictions. As VOA's Daniela Schrier reports, corporate heavy hitters are lining up to head across the Florida Straits - though experts urge caution.
Video

Video Kenya Launches Police Recruitment Drive After Terror Attacks

Kenya launched a major police recruitment drive this week as part of a large-scale effort to boost security following a recent spate of terror attacks. VOA’s Gabe Joselow reports that allegations of corruption in the process are raising old concerns about the integrity of Kenya’s security forces.
Video

Video Japan, China in Race for Asia High-Speed Rail Projects

A lucrative competition is underway in Asia for billions of dollars in high-speed rail projects. Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Malaysia Thailand and Vietnam are among the countries planning to move onto the fast track. They are negotiating with Japan and the upstart Chinese who are locked in a duel to revolutionize transportation across Asia. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Bangkok has details.
Video

Video Scientists: Mosquitoes Attracted By Our Genes

Some people always seem to get bitten by mosquitoes more than others. Now, scientists have proved that is really the case - and they say it’s all because of genes. It’s hoped the research might lead to new preventative treatments for diseases like malaria, as Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Bible Museum Coming to Washington DC

Washington is the center of American political power and also home to some of the nation’s most visited museums. A new one that will showcase the Bible has skeptics questioning the motives of its conservative Christian funders. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Armenia and Politics of Word 'Genocide'

A century ago this April, hundreds of thousands of Armenians of the Turkish Ottoman empire were deported and massacred, and their culture erased from their traditional lands. While broadly accepted by the U.N. and at least 20 countries as “genocide”, the United States and Turkey have resisted using that word to describe the atrocities that stretched from 1915 to 1923. But Armenians have never forgotten.
Video

Video Afghan First Lady Pledges No Roll Back on Women's Rights

Afghan First Lady Rula Ghani, named one of Time's 100 Most Influential, says women should take part in talks with Taliban. VOA's Rokhsar Azamee has more from Kabul.
Video

Video New Brain Mapping Techniques Could Ease Chronic Pain

From Boulder, Colorado, Shelley Schlender reports that new methods for mapping pain in the brain are providing validation for chronic pain and might someday guide better treatment.

VOA Blogs