News / Middle East

Egypt's Copts Welcome Government Change

Egypt's Copts Welcome Change of Governmenti
X
July 19, 2013 1:14 PM
Clouds of flies cover the piles of trash stuffed into homes and filling the alleyways here, buzzing in the midday heat. A woman leans out of her second story window, and deliberately drops a black plastic bag filled with trash that splats onto the ground below. The smell rising from every corner of this slum in the middle of Cairo is enough to tell you where you are: Garbage City. VOA’s Sharon Behn has the story.
Sharon Behn
Clouds of flies cover piles of trash stuffed into homes and filling the alleyways, buzzing in the midday heat. A woman leans out of her second story window, and deliberately drops a black plastic bag filled with trash that splats onto the ground below. The smell rising from every corner of this slum in the middle of Cairo is enough to tell you where you are: Garbage City.
 
The majority of people who live and work here, picking through mounds of trash with their hands to salvage what is recyclable, are Egypt's minority Coptic Christians. For decades, the Coptic community has been discriminated against, making it difficult for many to break out of this cycle of poverty. The fuel and power shortages and inflation of the past year have hit them hard.
 
Local shop owners say business has been bad, they have had trouble buying merchandise, and the security situation has been unstable. But they say the discrimination they felt under recently ousted Islamist leader Mohamed Morsi hit them even harder.
 
On the edge of the slum, through a large gate, is a huge open-air Coptic church carved out of cliffs of stone. Giant carvings of the life of Christ decorate the cliff walls. Coptic priest, Father Samaan, sat in a small underground room at the foot of the cliffs, and told VOA that life under Morsi had been hard.

“Justice did not exist,” he said. “Egypt was full of thugs, there was chaos, robberies, people were kidnapped.”

But there was more than that. Coptic churches were attacked, and Christians killed. Father Samaan said there was discrimination across the board, with Christians unable to get government jobs.
 


Under Morsi, Christians were too afraid to speak out, said Iskander Thabet, a local businessman. “Now things are completely different than during the past year,” he said. “Then we lived in great fear, horror, we were worried. We were scared to say we were Christian, or anything else. They would talk badly about our sisters, wives or daughters because we dress differently. What we went through was very difficult,” said Thabet.
 
But sectarian violence has increased dramatically in Egypt in the past few weeks, with Copts again as the major target. The Muslim Brotherhood has blamed the Copts, among others, for supporting the military's ouster of Morsi on July 3.

Erin Evers of Human Rights Watch in Cairo, said Copts are now being attacked for both being Christian and because they are seen as the most obvious opponents to Morsi.
 
Evers said while the Copts have not fared well for decades in Egypt, HRW is concerned by the spike in sectarian incidents in the past couple of weeks.

“It's really just happening across Egypt. It's not a matter of really being concentrated in the south or the north. It's just in cities all over Egypt, in five different cities so far. In some of the instances it is really clear that it is pro-Morsi supporters who are carrying out the attacks and in [some] instances it's not clear at all.”
 
Evers said that the country still has a strong sense of Egyptian nationalism. But she added that as the political fabric of Egypt starts to come apart under the pressure of constant demonstrations and lawlessness, xenophobia is growing.
 
Despite that, pharmacy student Hanat, wearing jeans and a ponytail, said as a Copt she feels a deep sense of relief that the Islamists are no longer in power, and welcomes the military's overthrow of Morsi.
 
“Now that the army is on our side, we feel safer; we feel that Egypt has been returned to us, that we have our strength back, everything. I feel like I had been tied, and now I am free. Egypt will be returned to us,” Hanat said.
 
Father Samaan, while sharing the hope among many Copts that life will improve under a new government, said concrete steps have to be taken to end discrimination. First, he said, any new constitution should be a secular one, and second, any reference to religion should be removed from the national identity cards.
 
“We are still praying that this great Egypt, this country they call the mother of the world, will become a model of non-discrimination for the world, where religion is for God alone and the homeland is for everyone,” he said.
 
Men coming to visit Father Samaan approach him respectfully, kissing his hand and asking for his blessing. He is a community elder to whom his followers listen. Their hope is that Egypt's new leadership will do the same.

You May Like

Ebola Death Toll Nears 5,000 as Virus Advances

West Africa bears heaviest burden; Mali toddler’s death raises new fears More

Jordan’s Role in Fighting IS Carries Domestic Risks

There are Western concerns Islamic State militants soon may unleash offensive in kingdom that could create upheaval - though nation has solid intel, grip on banking system More

Asian-Americans Enter Public Office in Record Numbers

A steady deepening engagement in local politics pays off for politicians like Chinese-American Judy Chu More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rulesi
X
October 21, 2014 12:20 AM
European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.
Video

Video Young Nairobi Tech Innovator on 'Track' in Security Business

A 24-year-old technology innovator in Nairobi has invented a tracking device that monitors and secures cars. He has also come up with what he claims is the most robust audio-visual surveillance system yet. As Lenny Ruvaga reports from the Kenyan capital, his innovations are offering alternative security solutions.
Video

Video Latinas Converting to Islam for Identity, Structure

Latinos are one of the fastest growing groups in the Muslim religion. According to the Pew Research Center, about 6 percent of American Muslims are Latino. And a little more than half of new converts are female. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti travelled to Miami, Florida -- where two out of every three residents is Hispanic -- to learn more.
Video

Video Exclusive: American Joins Kurds' Anti-IS Fight

The United States and other Western nations have expressed alarm about their citizens joining Islamic State forces in Syria and Iraq. In a rare counterpoint to the phenomenon, an American has taken up arms with the militants' Syrian Kurdish opponents. Elizabeth Arrott has more in this exclusive profile by VOA Kurdish reporter Zana Omer in Ras al Ayn, Syria.
Video

Video South Korea Confronts Violence Within Military Ranks

Every able-bodied South Korean male between 18 and 35 must serve for 21 to 36 months in the country’s armed forces, depending upon the specific branch. For many, service is a rite of passage to manhood. But there are growing concerns that bullying and violence come along with the tradition. Reporter Jason Strother has more from Seoul.
Video

Video North Carolina Emerges as Key Election Battleground

U.S. congressional midterm elections will be held on November 4th and most political analysts give Republicans an excellent chance to win a majority in the U.S. Senate, which Democrats now control. So what are the issues driving voters in this congressional election year? VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone traveled to North Carolina, one of the most politically competitive states in the country, to find out.
Video

Video Comanche People Maintain Pride in Their Heritage

The Comanche (Indian nation) once were called the “Lords of the Plains,” with an empire that included half the land area of current day Texas, large parts of Oklahoma, New Mexico, Kansas and Colorado.The fierceness and battle prowess of these warriors on horseback delayed the settlement of most of West Texas for four decades. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Lawton, Oklahoma, that while their warrior days are over, the 15,000 members of the Comanche Nation remain a proud people.
Video

Video Turkey Campus Attacks Raise Islamic Radicalization Fears

Concerns are growing in Turkey of Islamic radicalization at some universities, after clashes between supporters of the jihadist group Islamic State (IS) or ISIS, and those opposed to the extremists. Pro-jihadist literature is on sale openly on the streets of Istanbul. Critics accuse the government of turning a blind eye to radicalism at home, while Kurds accuse the president of supporting IS - a charge strongly denied. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

All About America

AppleAndroid