Egypt: Christian villagers housebound by Muslims over a property dispute

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Coptic Christians

Egyptian Christians under attack by Muslims, remain in hiding as situation became tense.

According to the International Christian Concern (ICC) Christians in an Egyptian village Al-Qula have come under attack by their Muslim neighbours since Sunday September 27. The dispute erupted over some property, the row first began in 2012.

The Coptic Christians Makanouti family came under attack on 20 September, Sunday when a Muslim family in the same village followed by intensification of a property disagreement between the two families. The dispute became violent despite the Christian family had attained a court order declaring that the property should be returned to them. After the clashes were reported to the police, the police went to Al-Qula two times trying to gain custody of the disputed land but they were attacked.

In keeping with, Naguib Hamadi Maknouti, son of the Christian property-owner said that when the police came second time to take custoy of the land “many thousands of armed Bedouins…met them. They used stones, rocks and exchanged gunfire. The police used tear gas… but were unable to control the situation.”

After the police left Al-Qula, a mob of agitated Muslims launched an attacked at the the Mar Girgis church and bound the Christians and their property. “There were injuries among the police men and a Muslim young man named Mahmoud Rawaq Issa, 27 years old, was killed.”

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The deceased Issa’s family who was from the rival family are refusing to accept commiseration, but are seeking revenge on the Makanouti famly. The agitated Muslim family has forced the Christian family to remain housebound.

“We are hiding in our homes. We are afraid to go out because we have received many death threats from the family of the man who was killed. They want to take revenge on us because they consider us as the main reason he was killed. The situation is extremely dangerous for us now and there isn’t any protection for us,” Maknouti said.

“We ask our Muslim neighbours to bring food for us from the stores. We have received many threats from Bedouins demanding us to leave our homes and lands and get out of the village, otherwise they kill us. We cannot do that, we don’t have any another place to move to.

Our children also cannot go to their schools, we are afraid that they would be kidnapped or killed by Bedouins if they went out to the street. We live in fear and terror and there isn’t any protection for us. Where is the police? Where is the government? How long will we be trapped in our homes?” Mousa Zarif, nephew of the Christian landowner Maknouti.

“It’s the time of reaping the tomato harvest. We have about 13 acres of cultivated tomato plants. Their harvest is estimated at more than one million EGP £84,000, but we cannot go to reap the harvest. The Lahoty family have prevented any workers from working in any piece of our land. They threatened them with death if anyone were to come work for us. So our loss from this could be very big,” Zarif said.

Nonetheless, not only one Christian family was housebound in their house but also two other Christian families in the same area were also attacked by the Bedouins, who have took possession of their land. Notwithstanding, there are looming threats to the lives of Christians in the village, the government has thus far not helped the affected Christian villagers.