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A Guest Blogger Comments on Maspiro: The Massacre of Christians in Cairo

Posted on the 11 October 2011 by Warigia @WarigiaBowman

A Guest Blogger Comments on Maspiro: The Massacre of Christians in Cairo
Dear friends,
This post was written by my teaching assistant. His name is John Ehab. He is a Copt, a journalist, an activist, and a masters student at AUC. It was published in an Italian newspaper. If you read Italian, check it out here. Un Esercito Contro I Copti, L'Indro.
Here it is in English.
After a deadly evening in Cairo Sunday night, families gathered to bid farewell to the 24 victims in a crowded mass funeral. The ceremony took place in Cairo’s central Coptic Cathedral in the presence of thousands of family members, supporters, activists and politicians. The killings took place after hundreds of Copts marched to protest the destruction of a church early last week in Aswan, which has not been resolved by the state. Eyewitness accounts say that they were showered with live ammunition by members of the Egyptian armed forces. Witnesses added that protestors were literally bulldozed by Armored Personnel Carriers(APC), leaving behind a number of casualties. The Coptic Church synod, the highest council of the Coptic Church in Egypt, issued a statement that was read at the funeral assuring that violence had come from the side of the Armed Forces, not from the Copts. “We confirm that violence, with all its forms, was not used (by the protestors).” The statement also expressed that “Copts feel that the problems are reoccurring continuously without punishing the perpetrators”. The church called for three days of fasting and prayer to show that, for the Christians in Egypt, their only hope is to turn to God.
Many analysts have pointed out that the church’s statement reflects a lack of hope in the state. “You can read between the lines that the church no longer trusts those who run the state in Egypt, whether from the Security Council of Armed Forces , or the Cabinet,” said Ahmed Zaki Osman, a reporter familiar with Coptic issues. “The Christians simply have no hope in the state to bring them their rights anymore.”
One of those who attended the funeral, Zachariah Adly, who had also participated in the march the night before described his experiences to L’indro. Adly, a truck driver, said that the march had started in the primarily Christian area of Shobra, and continued several kilometers to the area of the state run TV, known as Maspiro in central Cairo.
“On the way people started stoning us from a bridge, until we reached the street leading toward the state TV building. Armed forces started shooting directly in the air and then began aiming at us. A few minutes after we saw their tanks coming towards us quickly to disperse the crowd.”Adly had to jump over a car onto the sidewalk to keep from being run over by the rushing vehicles.
Adly pointed out that the violence had come from the armed military forces, rather than civilians or even the security police. “In the same spot there were tens of riot police standing by and there were no clashes with them.” 
That afternoon state TV, the mouthpiece of the Egyptian army, had announced that the army was calling for “honest citizens” to go to the streets to help protect security forces from the Christian protestors.
Witnesses who were at the Coptic hospital to donate blood for the victims told L’indro that thugs surrounded the hospital and started attacking the families of the victims late at night.
Initially, the state-run TV reported that 3 soldiers had been killed by Copts during the riots, without mentioning any civilian deaths. However, the SCAF never made an announcement to confirm or deny this report. Many activists began to challenge this claim.
Doctor Aida Seif El-Dawla explained to L’indro, “even the state-run media was unable to fabricate any photograph of Copts carrying weapons as they have done in the past.” She explained that usually if any member of the army died, the state-run news would air extensive coverage including details about him and his family in order to gain the sympathy of the public. In this case there was none of that.
Not only the national media, but other sources including Al-Jazira issued reports accusing “the Coptic youth” of instigating the violence. However, reports on the ground show otherwise. According to Seif El-Dawla, the founder of Al-Nadim Center for the rehabilitation of victims of torture, “it is very clear that the army is responsible. They are the ones that carry arms, and they are responsible for this massacre. The army took advantage of widespread prejudice toward the Copts to defend their behavior.”
The Coptic problem is one of the most vulnerable issues that has the potential to divide Egyptians, especially with the recent increase in Islamic fundamentalism.
Al-Nadim was among the independent human rights organizations in attendance at the Prosecutor General’s autopsy of the victims. Doctor Magda Adly, manager of the Al-Nadim Center, attended 7 out of 17 of the autopsies that took place at the Coptic Hospital in central Cairo. Four other bodies were buried earlier in the day without autopsies, and another five were reported to be in other hospitals. Two of the seven, Adly reports, died by bullets, while the other five had been crushed by military vehicles with multiple fractions throughout their bodies. This confirms what can be seen in videos posted on YouTube of the APCs rushing protestors. The decision to perform the autopsies came 20 hours after the deaths, a procedure which is normally done as soon as possible to optimize the results. The former director of the forensic medical unit was fired back in March due to similar delays in investigating the deaths of protestors from the January 25 revolution.
“Field Marshal Tantawi should face trial like Mubarak,” Zachariah Adly believes. “Demonstrators have torched a police station and stormed the Israeli embassy, and no one killed them like what happened with us.”

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