CAIRO: The Maspero Youth Union announced that it will organize a protest Thursday in front of the Journalists’ Syndicate, to condemn what they called violations against the Coptic residents of Sharbat village in the district of Amreyya in Alexandria.
The sectarian clashes reportedly erupted on Friday Jan. 27 when Mahmoud Te’ma, a barber, claimed that 34-year-old tailor Morad Gerges snapped pictures of Muslim girls in the fitting room of his workshop.
However, according to Ramy Kamel, a Coptic activist, Te’ma tried to extort money from Gerges, but when he refused Te’ma spread the rumor. Te’ma was later arrested, he said.
"A number of Muslim residents attacked Gerges’ home and when they didn’t find him, they abused his family," he said, claiming that the attack was led by Salafi leaders in the village.
Daily News Egypt could not independently verify this claim.
Kamel claimed that the homes of 11 other Coptic families were also attacked, forcing them to flee to nearby villages where they have been in hiding since.
Protesters will be demanding the arrest of the perpetrators and compensation for their burnt homes and shops estimated at around LE 5 million.
They also want to express their refusal of collective punishment meted out to Coptic residents without distinction.
"We learned that some residents of the village are calling for a mass protest dubbed ‘Friday for the displacement of Copts’," the Maspero Cotpic Union said on its official Facebook page, pointing out that there have been attempts over the past few days to displace 54 Christian families from surrounding villages.
The Union added in its statement that threatening to displace unarmed citizens because of to their race or religion is not only a domestic crime but a humanitarian catastrophe that requires rapid intervention from the relevant authorities.
Kamel, who claims he had thoroughly investigated the events of Sharbat village, said that during the clashes security forces and army personnel watched as repetitive attacks on Copts and their property took place, but did nothing to stop them.
He says that three reconciliation meetings were held between Muslims and Copts in the village so far.
"In the first session the attackers openly demanded the forced displacement of Coptic residents; while in the second, they refused to approve any compensation for the victims, insisting on their eviction," Kamel said, adding that assaults on Copts continued immediately after the last session.
If the protests don’t trigger real action, activists will take further steps to escalate the situation.
"We will no longer address the Egyptian government or society. We will reach a higher level by addressing the international community because human rights charters regard forcible eviction as an international crime where the state involved is considered guilty," he said.
The family of a Coptic student who allegedly published photos deemed blasphemous to Islam on his Facebook page was displaced from their home in Assiut, while a number of families were also forced to leave their homes following attacks on churches in Atfih and Imbaba, Kamel said.