10/18/2012, 00.00
EGYPT
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Chaos in Egypt a year after Maspero Copt massacre

by André Azzam
Thousands of Christians and Muslims marched on 9 October along the path taken by protesters a year before to commemorate the 26 young Copts killed. Since then, nothing has changed, whilst chaos and violence are spreading across the country. On 12 October, the Muslim Brotherhood and liberal groups clashed in Tahrir Square with more than a hundred people injured, 50 seriously. Pro- and anti-Brotherhood protests break out across Egypt.

Cairo (AsiaNews) - Copts in Egypt feel they are a fragile and precarious situation after fundamentalists took power imposing constraints, mainly on women, and Sharia. In the last two weeks, scores of Christian families have fled their homes in North Sinai, as a result of threats from Muslim fundamentalists who do not want Christians to live among them anymore. Recent events confirm the trend.

On 9 October, thousands of Egyptians, both Christians and Muslims, held a huge demonstration to commemorate the first anniversary of the Maspero battle. On that "black Sunday" of October 2011, 26 young Coptic demonstrators were killed. They had come to take part in a huge protest march that had been organized to condemn the destruction of two churches and tens of houses of Christian inhabitants in a village near Aswan.

The march started from Shubra, a suburb north of Cairo's main train station, an area built by Muhammad Ali in the 19th century to resemble Champs Élysées. Since then, the resident population increased manifold to 6 million. With one of the highest densities in the world, it has been popularly dubbed Cairo's "China.'

The neighbourhood also has a large Christian community. And it was from here that protesters set of to reach the Maspero complex, which houses Egypt's national TV, along the Nile, as well as the Information Ministry.

A bloodbath occurred when armoured cars drove into demonstrators and a call for civil war was launched from national TV when Copts were accused of "savagely attacking our glorious armed forces" in charge of protecting such a strategic building. Twenty-eight people died, including Mina Daniel who has become an iconic figure, a martyr of the Revolution like blogger Khaled Said, who was killed by the police in Alexandria on 6 June 2010, whose death almost triggered a revolution like the one that of 25 January 2011 .

On 9 October 2012, a commemoration march bymany thousands of Egyptians, both Christians and Muslims, took the same path of the 9 October massacre. Participants decided not to shout provocative slogans, but organized a funeral procession with hymns, including Ode to Joy, the final movement in Beethoven's 9th Symphony, joining sadness and hope. At the same time, the victims' families gathered in St Mark's Cathedral for prayers. A year since the massacre, the victims' families have not seen any trial take place, nor have they received any compensation. Only four soldiers were sentenced to two- and three-year terms in prison.

In such an obnoxious and deleterious situation, the criminal court in Cairo has acquitted the 24 people arrested in connection with the "Battle of the camels" of 2-3 February 2011 in Tahrir square.

The acquitted include old regime figures such Fathi Sourour, a former speaker of the People's Assembly (lower house), and Sawfat al-Sherif, a former speaker of the Senate. However, Fathi Sourour is expected back in court to explain how he accumulated his wealth, which prosecutors claim was done illegally. General Prosecutor Abd al-Hameed Mahmud soon stated that he would appeal the judgment.

When President Morsi removed him from office and appointed him Egypt's ambassador to the Holy See, General Prosecutor Mahmoud rejected the presidential order, saying that only the judiciary could remove him for gross mistakes.

General Prosecutor's opposition to the president got hotter on Thursday 11th and Friday 12th, with Justice Department officials protesting in front of the Supreme Court, in the heart of Cairo on Thursday and a huge gathering in Tahrir Square on Friday, pitting supporters of civil society against Mohammad Morsi's followers.

On the 12th, at noon Friday prayers, demonstrators from civil society groups protested Morsi's "hundred days" and his failure to do what he promised. A battle, but "without camels, followed. police were no where to be seen.

More than a hundred people were injured from cuts to the afce and the head. One demonstrator los an eye.

Two Muslim Brotherhood buses were set on fire next to the square. Eventually, Morsi's supporters left the Tahrir square to gather in front of the Supreme Court, to call for the "purification" of the Justice Ministry.

Prime Minister Hischam Qandil condemned these incidents "that prevent from building a democratic society and a solid economy".

More demonstrations were reported elsewhere in Egypt. In Mehalla al-Kobra, the big textile industrial centre n the middle of the Delta, demonstrators attacked the Muslim Brotherhood seat, burning the picture of Mohammad Morsi, while Brotherhood members protested all over the country against the general prosecutor, calling for the cleansing of the justice system.

On 12 October everybody had forgotten that it was the 20th anniversary of the violent earthquake that shook the country, killing 600 people, and causing the collapse of numerous buildings, both old and new. At the time of the 1992 earthquake, the Muslim Brotherhood tried to outperform the government in terms of assistance to disaster victims.

On the same day in 1990, parliamentary Speaker Rifaat al-Mahgoub and four of his bodyguards were shot in a terrorist action as his convoy was crossing a bridge in Cairo.

In view of the confused situation, Copts on 1 October began three days of fasting to find the right successor to Pope Shenouda III, who died last March. The election commission started its work on the 4 October to examine a group of 17 candidates.

According to Bishop Boula, official spokesman of this commission, the criteria needed for the future chief of Egypt's Church "are age, experience, psychic state, spirituality, management skills, social relations in Egypt and abroad and in relation to Muslims and Christians".

At the moment, all of the Egyptian people, as much Muslims and Christians, is facing an extremely precarious situation, with runnaway prices, widespread disorder and uncollected garbage piling up all over the county. Recent effort to embellish Tahrir square by planting flowers and trees in the rotunda in the centre of the square were trampled yesterday.

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