Egypt: Copts face discrimination & violence in aftermath of coup

Copts are Egyptian Christians descended from ancient Egyptians who have lived in the Nile Valley for more than 3000 years and were originally called Bajiptos, which was then deviated to Gypt or Copt.

Until the Arabs came into Egypt in the middle of the seventh century AD, Copts were speaking the Coptic language, which is derived from Alheirogrovih, the ancient Egyptian language. But the Arab rulers made Arabic the official language in government offices, forcing Christians to use it.

During the reign of Hakim Fatimid Caliph, anyone speaking the Coptic language out loud could be punished with cutting off his tongue. However Copts still use that ancient language in secret with their families to preserve their cultural identity and heritage, and is used in prayers and in religious rituals and taught to children in churches.

The Copts number about 15 million. 17 % of the total population. A million and a half at least are living in the USA, Europe, Australia and many more in the rest of the world.

Copts in Egypt complain that there are not enough churches for them to practicse religious rites, prayers, marriages, funerals and teaching religious lessons, despite that there are some 2, 800 churches. The number of mosques is more than 110 000 according to official statistics of the State. In Cairo alone there are 3000 mosques but the number of churches is only about 200.

Copts have lived alongside their Muslim brothers in harmony and cohesion throughout fourteen centuries, except for a few periods during which they were subjected to harassment just like the rest of the Egyptians; a result of the oppression of rulers or the occurrence of crises /catastrophes in the country.

After the revolution of January 25th 2011, otherwise known as the Arab Spring, the situation has changed and  Copts have become the scapegoat for everything that's happening in the country.

For example, January 28th 2011 more than 300 persons have been killed and hundreds wounded, and more than 68 churches and houses of worship have been demolished and burned. 48 churches were damaged last Wednesday following the removal of ousted President Morsi's supporters from protest camps.

Many Copts have been forced to leave their homes and lands, leaving them in a state of forced displacement

Dozens of girls under the age of 18 years old have been kidnapped and married to Muslim men, and forcibly converted. In addition, some Christian children have been killed, such as Jafy, a 10 year old single-daughter. She was killed as she left church last week, without any reason apart from her Christian religion.

In most cases, the perpetrators were not arrested and the Islamic government has only condemned deeds supposedly committed by thugs and outlaws. Even these were released following arrest, due to the fear of demonstrations or violent reactions from extremists or as a result of Copts being forced to reconcile with their attackers under the pretext of avoiding sectarian strife. 

The Muslim Brotherhood committed fatal errors during the rule of the ousted President Mohamed Morsi, which caused major rifts between them and the civilian and liberal forces, and caused growing public outrage, which ultimately ended the President's rule on June 30th, 2013, leaving the Brotherhood to an unknown fate.

The former regime permitted elements of Hamas, Al-Qaeda and jihadist groups to enter and live in the province of Sinai, on the borders with Israel, where they killed 16 soldiers in Ramadan 2012, kidbnapped seven officers, and bombed a Church in Rafah city.

A big problem was the passing of the new constitution by the Brotherhood, despite its rejection by religious minorities and national movements, parties, and the civil service. This caused a rift between the Muslim Brotherhood and the rest of civil and political forces.

The attempt to fill the majority of positions in state institutions with Brotherhood members or supporters was also problematic. More than 30, 000 personnel affiliated with the Brotherhood were assigned to various state agencies, figures indicated by the former presidential adviser Khaled Alameddine, a member of the supreme body of the Salafi Al Nour Party. This led to a crisis of confidence between the two parties, and eventually pushed the Salafis towards issuing releases supporting the demands of the demonstrators in Egypt's squares.

President Morsi accused the security institutions and the Interior Ministry of being unable to protect the headquarters of the Brotherhood and not protecting the Egyptian people, which led to the exit of dozens of police officers, who went on to participate in the demonstrations, supporting the requests of the Tamarod movement.

The reign of the Muslim Brotherhood also saw deteriorating economic conditions and declining rates of employment and investment. The rate of unemployment among young people is now said to be reaching 23%. Another issue was the smuggling of diesel and gasoline to Gaza, which led to a severe crisis in the fuel and power cuts in Egypy on a daily basis - this went on until the departure of Morsi.

Finally, all of these autocratic actions led to 33 million Egyptians taking to the streets againt Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood on June 30th. Egypt remains torn between opposing groups and the situation for minorities is growing steadily worse.

The solution :

Copts believe that the peaceful struggle is the best solution and are already guided by this principle, There have been no violent reactions from Copts in response to these events.

We provide legal awareness and enlighten the community on the rights of minorities.

We address the international community through legal channels to explain the issue of Copts in particular, and the issues of minorities in general.

 Photo: Damage caused to a Coptic church in Minya

Credit: The Organisation of Justice and Development for Human Rights

No Associated files

Date: 20/08/2013




Racism/Discrimination/Hate speech
Religion/Religious minorities

Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License

Press Contact Information

Name: Mamdouh Nakhla

Telephone: 01005382995

This website has been produced with the financial assistance of the European Union.
The contents of this website are the sole responsibility of Minority Rights Group International and can under no circumstances be regarded as reflecting the position of the European Union