November 25, 2009
FARSHOOT, EGYPT (ANS) -- Since the early morning of November 21, the Upper Egyptian town of Farshoot has been the scene of ongoing Muslim mob violence against Coptic Christian residents. The violence has also extended to a number of neighboring villages.
According to the Assyrian International News Agency (AINA), the mob ramsacked and burnt Coptic property, while Copts hid indoors fearing to go outside. Reuters Cairo reported a witness said, "Chaos is overwhelming (in the city)."
The violence was prompted by reports of sexual abuse of a girl by 21 year-old Copt Guirgis Baroumi, from Kom Ahmar, on Nov. 18.
AINA said the 12-year-old Muslim girl has been identified as "Yousra." Baroumi is being detained by the police pending an ongoing investigations and forensic results. Many Copts believe that the rape incident is being used by Muslims as a pretext to start violence against them.
The violence is continuing. There are reports that seven Coptic women have been abducted.
Witnesses said nearly 3000 angry Muslims gathered in front of the Farshoot Police Headquarters. They were there, AINA reported, planning to kidnap and kill Baroumi while he was being transported to court.
Bishop Kirollos said it was agreed with Yousra's family to await the court decision, "but they did not wait for that."
AINA said Coptic priest Rev. Benjamin Noshi was driving his car when the mob stopped and assaulted him, fracturing his skull. He is currently in hospital.
By the evening, AINA reported, most Coptic businesses were looted and burnt. "They are destroying the Coptic economy in these areas," said Wagih Yacoub of Middle East Christian Association.
A witness said that some Coptic families were thrown out of their homes, which were occupied by Muslims.
AINA said although security forces were deployed, they are not taking any action to stop the violence. They are stationed to protect the Farshoot police headquarters after the angry mob pelted it with stones before going in and attacking the officers. Chief Investigating Officer Essam Hany was injured along with others.
AINA reported witnesses said that police watched the mob but made no arrests. As a result, when they dispersed them from one street, they just reappeared in the next.
AINA said in an interview with Free Copts, Bishop Kirollos said the attacks were definitely premeditated. Participants included students from Al-Azhar Institute in Farshoot.
Kirollos also pointed out, AINA said, the failing role of the security forces, which disappeared unexplainedly. That despite several demands by the church to put an end to the violations against Christians and their property.
AINA said Kirollos also commented that even if the story of the assault on the Muslim teenager was true, this was an isolated incident. It did not justify the call for an attack on masses of peaceful Christians, who denounced the assault.
He asked, "So why the barbaric attacks by the mobs? And why have the security forces not stopped them?"
AINA said talking to Coptic News Bulletin, the Bishop said that after being informed of the accusations of the rape on Wednesday, he has taken the frightened Copts from the villages of Kom Ahmar and Shedid to safety. "However, Coptic-owned businesses, pharmacies and cars in Farshoot and Ezbet Waziri are completely destroyed," he said.
Rev. Elisha, Pastor of St. Michael's Church in Farshoot described Saturday's violence as "similar to the Tartar Wars. They burnt down shops, pharmacies, broke down doors of homes and terrorized the inhabitants."
Commenting on the alleged rape incident, he said that it is doubtful, besides prosecution did not allow anyone to meet with the accused Copt. "The Farshoot investigating officer told me that the Muslim girl was only sure that her attacker wore a black jacket -- nothing more."
AINA reported one witness said, "We have never been so frightened and humiliated as Christians in all our lives. The mob made wooden crosses and burnt them in the street. Our religion and our Lord were openly insulted."
According to AINA, as no one is going outside, none of the Coptic inhabitants contacted were able to confirm if there were any losses in human lives, or the number of injured.
AINA said Kirollos held an urgent meeting with all Coptic priests in the region, in view of the gravity of the situation. He gave instructions that no Sunday church services would be held on Nov. 22, fearing for the safety of the Christian congregations.
One witness said, "If the international human rights organizations around the world keep quiet about what is happening to the Copts in Egypt, then they are of no use. They just use slogans; nothing more."
Copyright 2009 ASSIST News Service