During the ten month period covered by the report, the NCHR received 5.826 complaints, 2,247 of which were concerned with economic and social rights, 1,762 were related with civil and political rights, 415 related to unfair trials, and 115 came from Egyptian expatriates asking the government to protect their rights abroad. Cairenes topped the number of complainants with 888. Giza residents followed, while Luxor was the least with only 98 complaints. The Interior Ministry responded to 58.4 per cent of the complaints leveled against it, the Justice ministry to 74.4 per cent, and the Education Ministry to a mere 34.8 per cent. The ministries of Media, Trade and industry, Communication and information technology ignored all complaints and no explanation was given on their part.
The report called for the removal of all the impediments against the participation of Copts and women in politics, and for the encouragement of young men and women to play a part in decision making, in a move moving towards political reformation.”
Iman Anwar, “Muhammad Kamal and Coptic youths,” Al-Akhbār in Arab West Report, Week 9, Art 41, March 3, 2007. URL: http://www.arabwestreport.info/year-2007/week-9/41-muh803ammad-kam257l-and-coptic-youths.
Kamāl said that he would not support having an article in the Constitution that stipulates an allocation of seats, because he is against all discrimination in favor of women, Copts, or youth. He also said that nobody wants Egypt to become like Lebanon, a state entangled in sectarian strife and war due to its sectarian-based political system. Kamāl indicated his dissatisfaction with parties that do not nominate enough Copts to run in elections. However, he believes that if Copts increased their participation in the political system they would receive more nominations from political parties.
Najib Jibrā’īl, “Why do Copts abandon their religion?” Al-Fajr in Arab West Report, Week 11, Art 57, March 19, 2007. URL: http://www.arabwestreport.info/year-2007/week-11/57-why-do-copts-abandon-their-religion.
“The author argues that the spiritual and doctrinal belonging of Copts in Egypt appears to be collapsing. People are distancing themselves from the church.
Jibrā’īl mentions different examples of the symptoms of collapse in the Coptic Orthodox Church. More than 200 cases of conversion were registered in the church in under two years. On the other hand, 300 cases were registered of people who had converted and wanted to return to the church.”
Christian Fastenrath, “Interview with Tarek Heggy at CIDT ,” Arab-West Report, Week 21, Art 2, March 21, 2007. URL: http://www.arabwestreport.info/year-2007/week-21/2-interview-tarek-heggy-cidt-1.
Tarek Heggy: “Somebody once asked me whether “it was correct that 300,000 Coptic girls are raped a year?” It is not 300,000, 30,000, 3,000, or even 300, and I very much doubt it would be 30. Then I discovered that people falsified certificates claiming that they had been raped in order to obtain asylum. The person who would falsify the papers was a Muslim, but it was his business.”
I am originally a lawyer, and it is my opinion that Egypt has discrimination but not persecution. They insist that persecution exists, but we do not have numbers and we do not have statistics, even when we go to the Dutch embassy to look at the reports. Yes, while there are clear cases of discrimination, discrimination and persecution are not the same, neither legally nor in degree. Persecution is a systematic plan for acting negatively. When it is not codified, left to the culture and people’s reactions, is becomes discrimination.
Stories that show that human rights claims of Copts need to be investigated.
Majdi Sam‘a and Huda Rashwa, “Copts count raises issues,” Arab-West Report, Week 14, Art 40, April 6, 2007. URL:http://www.arabwestreport.info/year-2007/week-14/40-copts-count-raises-issues.
The questionnaire for the 2006 census included religion but in publishing the 2006 census results the number of Copts and Muslims was not mentioned.
Muhammad Shamrūkh, “Five thousand Christians convert to Islam,” Al-Dustūr in Arab-West Report, Week 14, Art 9, April 7, 2007. URL:http://www.arabwestreport.info/node/16795.
The number of Christians who convert to Islam has reached almost 5000 a year. Security officials said that most Christian families have at least one person who left his/her family and converts to Islam. (Reviewer: No substantial evidence for this claim can be found.)
The percentage of Christians who convert to Islam is relatively high among middle and lower classes in Cairo, Alexandria, Minyā, and Fayūm. Love relationships are considered to be the main reason behind this increase as, for example, a Muslim man falls in love with a Christian girl who in return converts to Islam in order to marry him. No matter what the reasons are, according to the security bodies in Egypt, the issue of Christians converting to Islam does not appear to be related to belief and faith.
The problems behind the Islamizing process among Christians have increased to the extent that security bodies have given up on the procedures previously used to confront similar problems. These procedures usually began with a Christian filing a report with the police department and announcing that he has converted to Islam. At that point, police officers would contact the church which, in return, would send a priest in order to meet with that person. Such meetings usually ended with the person insisting on becoming a Muslim. Nowadays, Egyptian security faces accusations from both the Muslim and Christian community. The church accuses it of being discriminatory against Christians and supporting Islam, the country’s official religion. On the other hand, Muslims accuse it of being afraid of the church and the U.S. government which supports Christians in Egypt.
Hānī al-cAsar, "Christians who convert to Islam have economic or social problems," Christian researchers and lawmen say,” Al-Dustūr in Arab-West Report, Week 14, Art 10, April 7, 2007. URL: http://www.arabwestreport.info/year-2007/week-14/10-christians-who-convert-islam-have-economic-or-social-problems-christian.
Father ‘Abd al-Massīh Basīt believes that the number of 5000 converts to Islam is an exaggerated number. "The number of Orthodox churches in Egypt is almost 3000. This means that two people from each church convert to Islam; a very exaggerated number."
“Almost 90% of this number converts to Islam for financial reasons, while the rest converts to Islam because of either love relationships or because they want to get a divorce."
Mamdūh Nakhlah, president of al-Kalimah Center for Human Rights said that, according to the number of cases he encounters at the center every day, the estimated number of 5000 could be true. Also Jamāl As‘ad, former Member of Parliament, stated that it is an accurate estimate of the number.
cAntar cAbd al-Laṭīf and Shīrīn Rabīc, “Rumors spread about the Coptic Orthodox Church’s intention to conduct a census,” Ṣawt al-Ummah, in Arab-West Report, Week 18, Art 22, April 21, 2007. URL: http://www.arabwestreport.info/year-2007/week-18/22-rumors-spread-about-coptic-orthodox-churchs-intention-conduct-census.
The authors highlight the Egyptian government’s secrecy in announcing the real numbers of Copts. Rumors spread about the church’s intention to conduct a census to record the number of Copts in Egypt. Coptic families in Shubrā and Misr al-Jadīdah said some individuals, allegedly from the church, passed by Coptic houses and distributed applications to conduct a census, arguing that Copts lack confidence in the declared results of the government statistics.
Ṣawt al-Ummah published a photocopy of the application signed by Father Antonius in Shubrā.
Najīb Jibrā’īl said the aim of the census was to accurately count the number of Copts in every diocese for goals related the church’s administration.
Regarding the numbers of Copts in Egypt, the official declared number is 7.8 million. Jibrā’īl said the number has not officially been proven, especially considering that the statistics from ten year ago reveal a number of 10 million Copts.
Many of the Coptic clergymen denied the news. Father ‘Abd al-Masīh Basīt denied the church’s intention to prepare the statistics, arguing that sometimes individual clergymen can prepare statistics to direct the affairs of their diocese.
Father Marqus Azīz asserted that there are more than 7.8 million Copts, describing the number as very unfair and unjust. He added that the church avoided preparing statistics separate from the government to avoid any conflicts with the latter.
Hibah Bayyumi, “Abu Bakr: The number of Copts is imprecise because the cell of religion is optional,” Ākhir Sā‘ah in Arab-West Report, Week 17, Art 14, April 25,2007. URL: http://www.arabwestreport.info/year-2007/week-17/14-ab363-bakr-number-copts-imprecise-because-cell-religion-optional-pp-32-33.
“While declaring the results of the 2007’s census, the head of the Central Agency for Public Mobilization and Statistics says that the number of Copts in Egypt is inaccurate because the cell of religion on the application form is optional.” Egypt’s population has increased with 24.37% in the past ten years and is now 76 million. CAPMAS uses the optionally filled in information because it forms the basis of issuing a building license for a church.
Yusuf Sidhum, “Toward legislations that activate the constitutional amendments,” Al-Dustūr in Arab-West Report, Week 17, Art 41, April 29, 2007. URL: http://www.arabwestreport.info/year-2007/week-17/41-toward-legislations-activate-constitutional-amendments.
Representatives of all political trends spoke about citizenship. They stressed the necessity of publishing the results of the last census and the right of every Egyptian citizen to know the ethnical and religious composition of Egyptians. They also spoke about the need for a unified law for building mosques and churches to eliminate one of the most important manifestation of inequality between Egyptians.
Yusuf Sidhum, “Amendments translate into law,” Watani International in Arab-West Report, Week 17, Art 42, April 29, 2007. URL: http://www.arabwestreport.info/year-2007/week-17/42-amendments-translate-law.
Political parties, MPs and civil society organizations in Egypt are investigating how the constitutional amendments approved last March should translate into laws. The public should assume a major role in this process if the amendments are to result in legislation enhancing citizenship concepts and political freedoms, securing fair representation and valuing people’s dignity. And thus Watani organized a Watani Forum (in other texts also called Watani Salon). Yusuf Sidhum reports from this forum:
The citizenship concept topped the agenda. “Citizenship” was moved to article 1 of the Constitution. Before, it was only in article 40 which maintained that “Citizens are equal before the law. They have equal public rights and duties without discrimination due to sex, ethnic origin, language, religion or creed.”
Many demanded a transparent announcement of the ethnic and religious composition of the population according to the last, recent census. A unified law for places of worship should be issued as well, to eliminate a major legislative inequality among Egyptians.
Article 62 now stipulates that “It is possible for the electoral law to stipulate a system combining individual parliamentary representation and party slate system.
Assigning quotas for less privileged segments, including women, Copts, and young people, on party electoral lists was strongly advocated.
It is strongly hoped the above would be a step forward in the course of political reform in Egypt.
Majdi Khalil, “The citizenship rights of Copts between the ruling regime’s conduct and Islamists ideology,” Waṭanī al-Dawlī in Arab-West Report, Week 18, Art 28, May 6, 2007. URL: http://www.arabwestreport.info/year-2007/week-18/28-citizenship-rights-copts-between-ruling-regimes-conduct-and-islamists-ideology.
“The ruling regime seeks to turn Copts into a community similar to Greek and Armenian communities that practice economic and occupational activities are gradually isolated from the mainstream of society, and if they feel the burden of discrimination and persecution they migrate abroad.” Copts should “have the determination to achieve all their citizenship rights.”
cAmr Bayyūmī, ‘Coptic thinker foretells the Christians’ ‘extinction’ in Egypt in the coming century,” al-Misrī al-Yawm in Arab-West Report, Week 19, Art 51, May 1, 2007. URL: http://www.arabwestreport.info/node/17100.
Dr. Kamāl Farīd Ishāq, professor of Coptic Language at the Institutions of Coptic Studies, said the number of Copts is dangerously decreasing in Egypt due to reasons like emigration, conversion, and birth control. Father Marqus ‘Azīz disagrees with the pessimistic language of Dr. Kamāl Farīd Ishāq but agrees that the proportion of Copts is declining.
Robeir al-Faris, “The figure that brings on a headache,” Watani International in Arab-West Report, Week 19, Art 38, May 13, 2007. URL: http://www.arabwestreport.info/year-2007/week-19/38-figure-brings-headache.
This month’s reading of Coptic-related issues in Cairo’s papers begins with the highly controversial issue—which should not be at all controversial—of the number of the Coptic population in Egypt. The daily al-Dostour (The Constitution) printed an interview with General Abu-Bakr al-Guindy, head of the Central Apparatus for Public Mobilisation and Statistics, in which he talked about the recent census. The paper asked General Guindy on why the number of Copts went missing from the official census report, to which he replied: “Ask about anything but this matter which is bound to bring us a headache.” Three guesses anyone why the headache?
The Administrative Court’s recent ruling against allowing Christians who had converted to Islam then reconverted to Christianity to have their current religion documented on their ID cards was widely discussed in the papers. The weekly al-Mougaz (The Brief) printed a story, which was later reported in several other papers, of the father of the 13-year-old twins Mario and Andrew, who converted to Islam in 2000 then reconverted to Christianity in 2002. In the meantime he carried two ID cards, one as a Christian and one as a Muslim. He also separated from his wife. As the second school term began last February, the mother of the twins, who are pupils in an Alexandria school, discovered that her children were being taught Islamic religion instead of the Christian religion they were studying during the first term—and for that matter all their lives. The school insisted this was the father’s religion and consequently the children’s. The case is currently in court.
Youssef Sidhom writes:
This year all Egyptian should be sure to acquire new, computer - issued ID documents since the old, manually- issued once are being phased out and will soon be entirely invalidate. Yet many Copts find the process, which should go smoothly since it depends primarily on data already registered and authenticated by the Civil Register offices on the old documents, which are normally submitted upon application for the new documents, riddled with almost insurmountable difficulties. Data entry errors by Civil Register clerks occur and, instead of directly correcting them by referring to the original documents, the clerks send the victims of these errors on arduous tasks to verify their claims.
“Sidhum then provides several examples and asks “Is there not a case of an Egyptian Muslim who was listed a Christian in ID document issued by the Civil Register? I hope to be acquainted of such a case – if any – to report on it, at least so as not to be accused of exclusively addressing Christians’ grievances.”
Sami Jad al-Haqq, Hani Ahmad Rizq, “A scoop…we have an organizational map containing names and phone numbers prepared by the Church of Shubra al-Khimah to distribute Christian supervisors of the electoral commissions in order to control Coptic votes,” Ṣawt al-Ummah in Arab West Report, Week 20, Art 32, May 21, 2007. URL: http://www.arabwestreport.info/year-2007/week-20/32-scoopwe-have-organizational-map-containing-names-and-phone-numbers-prepared.
“Sawt al-Ummah has obtained serious documents which confirm that the Coptic Orthodox Church is exploiting every election to participate in political life in an organized fashion, which raises doubts about the church’s real intentions.”
Every Coptic Orthodox diocese draws an organizational map of the area in which it is located and divides it into main areas. Every main area has an official whose responsibility is to oversee voters’ agents in sub-committees in which ballot boxes are located. The author says that he has obtained a map of Shubrā al-Khīmah. In the footnotes, the phone numbers of the diocese of Shubrā al-Khīmah and its operations room are written, while Hānī ‘Āyid’s, the areas’ general official, name and phone number are written in the header. In the map, the constituency is divided into five main areas. Each area has an official whose name and phone number are also written. These officials are in charge of listing Copts’ names, directing them to their electoral committees, and mobilizing them to vote for the candidate endorsed by the Coptic Church or for proposed laws in referendums.
Sulayman Shafiq, “For Egypt not for Copts,” Rose al-Yūsuf in Arab West Report, Week 20, Art 14, May 22, 2007. URL: http://www.arabwestreport.info/year-2007/week-20/14-egypt-not-copts.
“The events of al-Khānkah in 1972 until the events in al-‘Ayyāṭ in 2007 have marked 35 years of tension, conflict, and sectarian clashes in Egypt.
The Egyptian press has recorded a total of 202 incidents, an average of six incidents a year.
The author outlines the incidents as follows:
78 scuffles occurred between families for reasons that were not sectarian but a result of (non religion related) tensions. They were, however, turned into sectarian crisis; more than 80 percent of these events occur in cities.
71 incidents resulting from Christians praying in unlicensed places of worship. Hard-liner Islamic movement’s got involved and clashes over the illegal houses of worship ensued as occurred in al-‘Ayyāt and al-‘Udaysāt among others; more than 82 percent of these events occurred in the countryside.
53 incidents as a result of relationships between men and women of different religions resulted in sectarian clashes.
The author said that if these numbers are evaluated, there has been an average of about six incidents a year between 1987 and 1995. The frequency of clashes increased from 1987 through 1994, the years that witnessed the greatest number of sectarian violence incidents, which were related to al-Jamā‘ah al-Islāmīyah and al-Jihād Group’s orders. The author highlighted that the average decreased to three incidents a year between 1995 and 2007. It can also be said that of the clashes in cities, more than 60 percent occurred in slums and poorer areas, and about 40 percent involved the lower classes.
‘Ala’ Fahmi, “No Copt will assume al-Wafd presidency,” Ākhir Sā‘ah in Arab West Report, Week 21, Art 49, May 23, 2007. URL: http://www.arabwestreport.info/year-2007/week-21/49-no-copt-will-assume-al-wafd-presidency.
“The General Secretary of al-Wafd party Munīr Fakhrī ‘Abd al-Nūr, a Copt, said in an interview that al-Wafd will not participate in elections because of its huge number of constituencies.
Abd al-Nūr is against allocating parliamentary seats for Copts or constituencies as he believes that any discrimination between them may lead to disaster. He asserted that he does not aspire to assume the al-Wafd presidency for he may not have the leadership personality and that the party will never have a Coptic president. However, al-Wafd does not discriminate between Muslims and Copts.”
Tamir Shukri, “The ILO: Egypt discriminates against Copts,” Arab-West Report, Week 22, Art 30, May 31, 2007. URL: http://www.arabwestreport.info/year-2007/week-22/30-ilo-egypt-discriminates-against-copts.
The ILO stated “Copts in Egypt…are denied equal access to education and equal opportunities in recruitment and promotion. Very few are appointed to key positions in the government or are candidates for parliament. Enrolment of Copts in police academies and military schools is restricted, and very few are teachers and professors.” The Egyptian Minister of Labor and Immigration Mrs. ‘Ā’ishah ‘Abd al-Hādī denied the accusations, hinting that Copts own more than one-third of the national wealth in Egypt, despite representing only 10% of the population. “In all its laws and legislations, there is no single text discriminates the Egyptian citizens according to religion,” said the minister, adding: “The first article of the Constitution highlights the principle of citizenship as the base between the state and its citizens with no features of favoritism.”
The head of the Word Center for Human Rights Mamdūh Nakhlah stated “no statistics in Egypt can identify the economic activities according to religious bases,” and that there are no accurate population statistics.
Coptic thinker Jamāl As‘ad condemns the minister’s statement, which has divided the country into Muslims and Copts, he said, “in a way that serves the American plans in the Middle East region.” As for owning one-third of the national wealth, As‘ad regards it as the minister wanting to tell Copts: “Be satisfied with economics and leave other aspects of life including politics.”
Sāmir Sulaymān, a professor of Political Economics at the American University in Cairo [AUC], considers the minister’s statements as a provocation of sectarian strife, “Because she simple tells people that only 10% of the population owns one-third of your income.”
Tamir Shukri, “Is the minister’s statement to respond to the ILO’s report or to anger Copts?” Arab-West Report, Week 23, Art 30, June 6, 2007. URL: http://www.arabwestreport.info/year-2007/week-23/30-ministers-statement-respond-ilos-report-or-anger-copts.
Last month, the International Labor Organization issued a report on discrimination in the Middle East and North Africa. Foreign Minister Ahmad Abū al-Ghayt, has strongly denied the allegations and expressed gratitude for the outstanding role played by Copts in society. Abū al-Ghayt has sent a message to the head of the ILO, saying that the report was based on inaccurate sources of information.
The Egyptian minister of labor and immigration, ‘Ā’ishah ‘Abd al-Hādī stated “Although they represent just 10% of the population, they own more than one-third of the national wealth in Egypt.”