Human Rights First
Alexandria Bombing a Product of Dangerous Neglect by the Egyptian Government
January 4, 2011
Washington, DC – Human Rights First condemns the Jan. 1 bombing of Christian worshipers outside a church in Alexandria, Egypt, an attack in which at least 22 people were killed and scores more wounded. The group noted that this heinous attack is only the latest in an escalating series of acts of violence against members of Egypt’s Coptic Christian minority, who comprise some 10% of Egypt’s population of 80 million.
Human Rights First is concerned that the Egyptian government has been insufficiently vigilant in countering disturbing trends towards religious bigotry and anti-Christian prejudice. For example, the authorities have been slow to bring to justice those responsible for earlier attacks on Christians, such as the shooting in Nag Hammadi on Jan. 6, 2010, Orthodox Christmas Eve.
“The government has also been slow to address long running discriminatory practices such as the under-representation of Copts in government and the security services, and the obstacles to building or repairing Christian houses of worship,” said Human Rights First’s Tad Stahnke. “Though some government supporters have publicly engaged in threats and spreading inflammatory rumors against the Christian minority that contribute to the climate in which such appalling acts as the Alexandria church bombing become possible, Egyptian authorities have turned a blind eye to threats from Muslim religious leaders and mobs enraged by sectarian hatred.”
The organization notes that statements from senior government officials, including President Mubarak, blaming the violence against Egyptian Christians on “foreign fingers” suggest a troubling unwillingness to face up to the reality of increasing violence perpetrated by Egyptians against their fellow citizens. Human rights organizations in Egypt are questioning why Egypt’s powerful security services have not done more to safeguard the security of citizens.
”The Egyptian government has indulged extremism and religious intolerance in an apparent effort to siphon off support from its Islamist political opponents in the Muslim Brotherhood, which until the recent rigged parliamentary elections comprised the largest opposition group in the parliament,” noted Stahnke. “The failure of the Egyptian government to advance political reform is contributing to greater instability in Egypt of which escalating anti-Christian violence is one especially alarming indicator. Terrible incidents, like the Alexandria bombing, underline the need for Egypt to progress towards a more representative, more accountable and more legitimate form of government so that it is better able to respond to the needs of its people.”
In 2011, Egypt will hold a presidential election that, if it does not produce a new President, will provide some indication of who will succeed President Hosni Mubarak, who has been in power since 1981. Human Rights First notes that the election and the succession process are an opportunity for Egypt to move forward with long postponed commitments to advance democracy and human rights. The group states that in order to contribute to creating an environment where sectarian hatred is not allowed to fester it is imperative that this opportunity is not missed.