By Heba Afify
CAIRO: Twelve human rights organizations accused the government of “mismanaging” the sectarian strife in Egypt, describing the regime as “primarily responsible” for the News Year’s Eve attack on the Church of the Two Saints in Alexandria.
“The mismanagement of sectarian tensions and violence by the state creates a fertile ground and [an attractive] environment for these incidents to take place,” read a joint statement issued by the human rights groups on Tuesday.
The statement referred to the Omraneya clashes in November — during which Coptic Christians and security forces clashed over a dispute concerning the construction of Coptic community center and allegedly turning it into a church — as an example of the state using “excessive force” against religious minorities.
The statement also referred to the explosion that took place in front of El-Zeitoun Church in 2009.
“As usual, the government launched a large number of arrests [following the 2009 church attack] and issued many [invalid] statements without securing the churches or attempting to solve the roots of [sectarian strife] in Egypt,” Gamal Eid, the executive director of the Arab Network for Human Rights Information, told Daily News Egypt.
The statement added that the recent Alexandria attack “is [further] evidence of the Egyptian government’s incorrect claims that it has uprooted terrorism and dried out its strongholds through its brutal security policies — which focused on enforcing the Emergency Law — as well as random and long-term detentions.”
“It is time for state officials to stop denying that there is a real sectarian crisis in Egypt and [to stop] insisting on handling sectarian incidents using a heavy-handed security solution,” the statement added.
The rights groups urged the government to adopt different policies in dealing with sectarian tension by basing them on “principles of equality and indiscrimination among citizens.”
The Ministry of Interior said that a suicide bomber blew himself up outside the Church of the Two Saints in Alexandria about 30 minutes after midnight, killing 23 people and wounding over 90.
“[Members of the Forum for Independent Egyptian Human Rights Organizations] are calling on the Public Prosecutor to quickly bring the perpetrators to justice, and that investigations into the crime include the negligence by security forces to preempt and prevent the crime,” read the groups’ joint statement.
The statement also condemned the use of violence by security forces in dealing with peaceful demonstrations that were held in Cairo and Alexandria over the church bombing.
“Any [Egyptian] citizen who tries to express his solidarity with the Christians is either beaten or arrested,” Eid said.
The rights groups called on the government to develop education and media to enforce the principles of “religious tolerance, equal citizenry and co-existence.”
“The [Forum for Independent Egyptian Human Rights Organizations] believes that civic groups, the media, Muslim and Christian scholars and clerics, local government leaders, and all other stakeholders also bear some responsibility in confronting the threats of terrorism and sectarianism,” the statement added.