In South Egypt, Islamists Take Over a Town

Here in Maadi, Cairo, life goes on as normal amid the political instability. This town in Minya is not so fortunate. From the AP:

A town of some 120,000 — including 20,000 Christians — Dalga has been outside government control since hard-line supporters of the Islamist Mohammed Morsi drove out police and occupied their station on July 3, the day Egypt’s military chief removed the president in a popularly supported coup. It was part of a wave of attacks in the southern Minya province that targeted Christians, their homes and businesses.

Since then, the radicals have imposed their grip on Dalga, twice driving off attempts by the army to send in armored personnel carriers by showering them with gunfire.

Local Christians are particularly suffering, at least those who have not fled:

Among the homes torched was that of Father Angelos, an 80-year-old Orthodox priest who lives close to the monastery. Yoannis’ home was spared a similar fate by his Muslim neighbors. A 60-year-old Christian who fired from his roof to ward off a mob was dragged down and killed, the activists said.

“Even if we had firearms, we would be reluctant to use them,” said Yoannis. “We cannot take a life. Firing in the air may be our limit.”

Those who remain pay armed Muslim neighbors to protect them. Yoannis said his brother paid with a cow and a water buffalo. Most Christian businesses have been closed for weeks.

Armed men can be seen in the streets, and nearly every day Islamists hold rallies at a stage outside the police station, demanding Morsi’s reinstatement.

Most Christians remain indoors as much as possible, particularly during the rallies. They say they are routinely insulted on the streets by Muslims, including children. Christian women stay home at all times, fearing harassment by the Islamists, according to multiple Christians who spoke to the AP. Most requested that their names not be published for fear of reprisals.

“The Copts in Dalga live in utter humiliation,” said local rights activist Ezzat Ibrahim. “They live in horror and cannot lead normal lives.”

The Islamic concept of jizia requires non-Muslims to pay a tax in exchange for their protection. Many Muslims argue today this principle is no longer applicable, as Christians join in the army and jointly defend their nation.

But here the Copts have no share nor desire to defend their village with these Islamists against the army. Therefore, it appears, the concept of jizia is demanded from them.

Here is an example of their protector, the man guarding the monastery-church:

At intervals, the 33-year-old father of three would stop talking, move carefully to the edge of a wall and stick his head out to check if someone was coming.

His big worry was the bearded Muslim at the gate, Saber Sarhan Askar.

Skinny with hawk-like hazelnut eyes, Askar is said by Dalga’s Christians to have taken part in the torching and looting of the monastery. Outside the monastery that day, Askar was telling priests he was there to protect it. But the orders he yelled to other priests left no doubt who was in charge.

“Bring us tea!” he barked at one priest. “I need something cold to drink!” he screamed at another soon after.

To my knowledge, this is the only incident of pro-Morsi supporters gaining a foothold in a local area. Elsewhere, they are on the run. Still, the security apparatus has tasked itself with a heavy burden.

How much blood will be shed recovering this village? If the state of the nation and economy does not improve over the next several months, might their be similar mutinies elsewhere? The state, in general, was weak before the revolution, and is weaker now.

Dalga is the only current example, and is likely to remain so. But the question is open. What will the future hold?

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