Sunday, October 23, 2011

The Copts' New Enemy: Mohammed Hussein Tantawi

by Anna Mahjar-Barducci

The youth in Tahrir Square are maybe only just starting to realize that Mubarak was just one of the pieces of the regime, which did not fall at all, and is not ready to give Egypt free elections.

The Egyptian revolution did not actually change much. Mubarak is not there, but the army still is. Even though, the media celebrated the role of the Egyptian military forces, now the people of the Arab Spring are seeing that the old guard is still governing and has no intention of leaving. The Day of Shame of the Egyptian army reached its peak on October 9, when the army brutally attacked the Coptic community.

The new enemy of the Copts is Field Marshal Mohammed Hussein Tantawi. Former Minister of Defence under the regime of Hosni Mubarak, and now the Chairman of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces [SCAF] and the de facto is the head of state of Egypt.

The sequence leading to the recent massacres started when a group of Copts staged a demonstration in the Maspero neighborhood of Cairo to protest the burning of a church in the Upper Egyptian governorate of Aswan. The army soon intervened and attacked the protestors for no reason, killing at least 27 Copts and injuring at least 300. A petition, circulating among U.S. human rights organizations, reports that a military tank even ran over a protester's head, smashing it to pieces. One of the protestors who believed n the January revoltion was Mina Daniel, killed by the army.

The petition reports also states that every year the US government gives $1.3 billion to SCAF, and suggests that U.S. citizens should ask their representatives to stop American aid to an army that is attacking its citizens rather than protecting them. "Under the rule of Egypt's Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), 12,000 Egyptians were sentenced to military court since last January. During Mubarak's rule, only 500 Egyptians were sentenced by military court. More churches were burned and the perpetrators not sentenced under this military rule." the petition states. "The hated Emergency Law has been renewed, and heavy-handed censorship has brought upon the arrest of journalists and the storming of the offices of independent news media."

During the violence, as reported by the Egyptian state media – now controlled by a new master, Mohammed Hussein Tantawi - there were false reports that three members of the military were killed by Copts, who were allegedly calling for "Muslims" to come to help the Army kill their fellow Christians. As written in the petition, "the Egyptian Army (SCAF) used this [demonstration] as an opportunity to pit Egyptian against Egyptian, using state television to call upon Egyptians to "protect" the army from these "attacks" by Coptic protesters."

As the online media outlet put it: "In an unprecedented move, broadcasters on state television at one point called on the Egyptian public to head to Maspero en masse to defend Egyptian soldiers from angry Christian protesters, thereby further fuelling the sectarian flare-up. Call-ins from viewers, meanwhile, supported the state's official version of events. 'Armed Christians clashed with and killed military police,' one call-in viewer claimed. State television also aired footage of injured military police officers." Egyptian human rights activists are now asking for - at least -- the resignation of the Minister of Information, Osama Heikal, as the TV coverage of the Maspero's massacre is considered by many state-sponsored incitement against the Copts.

The Egyptian media showed no sympathy for the Coptic community even in the aftermath of the massacre. The state-run press backed the government's position by also trying to place the blame of the Maspero clashes on the Copts. Egyptian Journalist Ahmed Zaki Osma, on, in an article entitled, "Editorial Pages Shift Maspero Blame," presented the following report about the Egyptian press:

"A week after a Maspero protest turned deadly when the army crushed a Coptic demonstration, local papers are taking a tone that suggests the nation's military rulers are not to blame. […] Now the local media are finding another scapegoat: Coptic religious leaders, clergy and intellectuals are responsible, not only for the Maspero violence but also for threatening national unity, according to several papers. […] Emad Hussein, in his weekly column in the privately owned Al-Shorouk, directs his anger toward two Coptic priests, Flobataire and Naguib Gobraiel, a lawyer for the Coptic Church, accusing them of threatening the unity of the country."

Sherif Emil, a Coptic activist based in Canada, recently wrote that "Egypt is still waiting for its revolution," that will bring a secular and democratic State. As, until now, the Tahrir Square's Revolution did not bring any of the political pluralism hoped for; but has only, from one side, unleashed the brutality of the Army and on the other side, Islamic radicalism managed to be let loose on society. Members of the Egyptian democratic movement are numerous, but at the same time scattered and with no leader. The Egyptian Army that doesn't want, in any way, another revolution to take place against the regime is now intimidating the population with violence. The only structured political opposition to the Egyptian oppressive regime is the Muslim Brotherhood. The Army led by Tantawi, and the Muslim Brotherhood, even though they oppose each other, have however a common enemy: the Copts. The Coptic community is constituted of more than ten million people standing for a pluralistic country and for religious freedom. These are two democratic values that annoy both the Army and the Muslim Brotherhood. The Copts are seen by the Muslim Brotherhood and the Salafists groups as a barrier to the building of an Islamic State in Egypt, whereas the Army sees the Copts as an element of disturbance, especially since they went out of the streets to peacefully demonstrate for human rights.

"Egypt has become a pre-genocidal society, where a segment of the population has been singled out for labeling as sub-human, unworthy of rights, unworthy of protection. The message is that Christians can be killed with impunity and their property and rights can be violated without repercussions. This is no longer just the work of Islamist groups. It has now been condoned and institutionalized by the government and the military, a military infiltrated by Islamists, a military that still receives $1 billion a year from the U.S. government. The end result that we dare not imagine is dangerously close."

Why is Tantawi not being charged with crimes against humanity?

Anna Mahjar-Barducci


Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.

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