Egyptian Security forces yesterday prevented a rally of hundreds of Copts and activists from various political groups from reaching the Egyptian Parliament. The rally was staged to condemn the eviction of 8 Coptic families from their homes in El-Ameriya in Alexandria, on January 27.
The protestors were angry at the Parliament Speaker, who ignored last week an urgent request submitted by elected Coptic member of Parliament Dr. Emad Gad, to discuss this issue. The protesters said they wanted to meet with members of parliament, the Muslim Brotherhood and the Salafi parties to inform them of their condemnation of the events in El-Ameriya. Two Copts, Hani Ramsis and John Talaat, were chosen as delegates to the Parliament Speaker to deliver the message “No to reconciliation sittings or to the displacement of the Copts in El-Ameriya.”
John Talaat, former elections candidate for Parliament, said that what is going on is a “farce caused by lack of security and we are here to deliver the message, and we demand a formal questioning of the Minister of Interior regarding this deportation [of the Coptic families from the village].”
Dr. Emad Gad, Coptic member of Parliament, presented on February 7 an urgent request, supported by 22 signatures of liberal members of parliament, to the Parliament Speaker, Dr. Saad el Katatny, who is from the Muslim Brotherhood’s Liberty and Justice Party, to discuss the Eviction of 8 Coptic families and the seizure of their property. The request was ignored. “Katatny just folded the paper I presented and put it on his desk”, said Dr. Gad. “Within a tribe, in the desert, or in a tent, you apply these unofficial reconciliation sittings, but in Egypt we have civil law.” Dr. Gad, who is deputy director of the Al-Ahram Institute of Strategic Studies, said he would escalate the matter further if the Parliament does not respond to this issue. He was due to submit another request to the Speaker today.
Today’s a meeting was held in a room in the Parliament, attended by several members of parliament, mainly liberals and Copts. It also included the three MPs from the Muslim Brotherhood and Salafi parties who were involved in the reconciliation sitting. Egyptians Against Religious Discrimination presented a petition, signed by 13 NGOs, to the Speaker, criticizing the military and security authorities for not protecting the Copts and for giving their blessings to “the shameful reconciliation sittings.”
Sheikh Sherif al-Hawary, who was present at the meeting, pointed out that he intervened after the people of the village contacted him due to the lack of police presence and their inability to enforce the law, and that his primary aim was to prevent the shedding of blood.
Liberals and Copts insisted there has to be an end to collective punishment, forced eviction of Copts and reconciliation sittings, and that the rule of law has to prevail. Some of the attendees joined in the debate and unanimously agreed that the family of Abeskhayroun Soliman should not be evicted. They also discussed a solution to apply the law and provide means for protecting this family in view of the prevailing lack of security
The meeting established a fact-finding commission affiliated to the parliamentary human rights committee, to be made up of all Alexandria members of parliament and two Coptic members.
Dr. Emad Gad, in an interview tonight on CTV Coptic Channel, was optimistic that the parliamentary commission would develop recommendations to stop eviction and put an end to reconciliation sittings and the application of the law. “These recommendation will be presented to parliament and if it passes through parliament I believe this will be a significant achievement, because parliament can oblige the government to apply them.”
Other Coptic observers did not seem to share Dr. Gad’s optimism, but rather anticipated that there will be a chain of parliamentary committees and no results in the end.