In this article Peter Tadros touches on one of those taboo topics. He acknowledges that it is not a popular view but is there any merit in the idea?
Egypt is once again creating headlines around the world. The outcome of the revolution that occurred on 30 June 2013 was unthinkable. No one in their wildest dreams thought that the so called first ever democratically elected President of Egypt would be ousted on his 1st anniversary from election.
Many of us in Sydney attended a rally in Sydney’s Martin Place on 30 June 2013 in solidarity with Egyptians who were taking to the streets demanding snap elections. They had enough of the undemocratic acts of former President Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood. Many crimes were committed against the Egyptian people during this short period of Muslim Brotherhood rule in Egypt.
The Western world was quick to consider the election of the Muslim Brotherhood candidate former President Morsi as ‘Free’ and ‘Fair’ despite the widespread violations which were far from democratic by any standards.
Scenes of jubilation erupted across Egypt on 3 July after the Egyptian military led by General Sisi addressed the nation on state media announcing a new road map for Egypt and the appointment of interim President Judge Adly Mahmoud Mansour who heads up Egyptian Supreme Constitutional Court. The previous constitution has since been scrapped. During his televised speech General Sisi was flanked by the Sheikh of Al Azhar Ahmad Al Tayeb and His Holiness Pope Tawadros II as well as other leaders in what was supposed to be a ‘show of unity’ amid a national crisis. The target audience was both domestic and international. The protests that came about thanks to the popular ‘Tamarod’ campaign were said to be the largest political protests in world history. Estimates ranged from 14 million up to as high as 33 million. Video footage released by Egyptian army helicopters captured the scenes from across the nation. The military of course was keen to justify that their intervention was a result of popular protests and that if they had failed to intervene then the Egypt would quickly descend into a failed state controlled by armed militia. Many agree that this was no typical military coup but rather an intervention by the military to avoid total chaos on the streets.
Since then raging debates and propaganda have engulfed social media. The Western Media has fallen in love with the main Muslim Brotherhood spokesperson Gehad Al Haddad. To his credit, Gehad is a savvy commentator and activist, fluent in English with a pommy accent and understands how to address an international audience and to feed them the information that attracts their attention.
Below are some examples of Gehad’s tweets from his official twitter account @gelhaddad:
Gehad El-Haddad 20 July 2013 tweet:
Chants now in #AntiCoup #ProDemocracy rallies: “Ppl decided return of Prez” “Oh, lord be witness, they kill our brothers during prayer”
Gehad El-Haddad 20 July 2013 tweet:
“#NCLAC: #EU should clearly condemn/expose crimes by #Military_Coup regime & #HR violations, murders, arbitrary arrests, media crackdown, etc”
The anti-Islamist groups have failed to expose the atrocities committed by the supporters of the deposed President. An example of such crimes was highlighted in a report by The Gatestone Institute published on 25th July 2013 by Raymond Ibrahim:
“New evidence indicates that some of the pro-Morsi protesters reportedly killed by the Egyptian military, after the Muslim Brotherhood president’s ouster, were actually killed by fellow pro-Morsi protesters. They did this, according to the report, to frame the military, incite more Islamist violence and unrest, and garner sympathy from America, which has been extremely critical of the military, especially in the context of the post-Morsi violence.
The Arabic satellite program, Al Dalil, (“The Evidence”) recently showed the evidence, which consisted mostly of video recordings.
One video records events on July 8, during pro-Morsi protests in front of the Republican Guard building in Cairo, where Morsi was being held, and where the bloodshed between the military and Brotherhood began. The video shows a young man with a shaven head and a Salafi-style beard approaching the Republican Guard barrier; he gets shot, collapses to the ground, and dies—as other protesters fly into a rage against the military. As the video plays, it seems clear that the military shot him.
However, watching the video in slow motion and in zoom clearly indicates that someone from behind him, from the pro-Morsi throng, shot him. The whole time he falls, in slow motion, he is still facing the Republican Guard. Yet when the camera zooms in, the bullet wound and blood are visibly at the back of his head; his front, facing the military even after he falls, does not appear to have a scratch. Considering that the military was facing him, it seems apparent that a fellow Morsi-supporter shot him from behind”.
Human Rights Organisations such as Human Rights Watch and government bodies have called for restraint and for a ‘political’ solution to the ongoing sit-ins. They insist that the Egyptian government and security forces should not use force and should deal peacefully with disgruntled Pro Morsi protestors. Less emphasis is placed on the crimes committed by Islamists elsewhere.
In the meantime Egypt’s Coptic Christians have paid the heaviest price. They are naturally perceived as being against the Muslim Brotherhood and this is no secret. Unfortunately, whilst the concerning violent clashes between pro and anti Morsi gain international media coverage the plight of Egypt’s Copts is rarely covered in any great detail. The focus of Human Rights organisations and foreign missions is the status of the pro-Morsi protestors at Rabaa Adawiya square.
Coptic Christians have been killed, injured, kidnapped and tortured all over the country. Phone calls have been streaming into some TV stations warning that the Copts will be cleansed. The main ‘manasa’ or stage at Rabaa stage regularily incites hatred against Egypt’s Copts and direct threats are made. Unfortunately these attacks are also acted on and carried out as we see today in Luxor, Al Minya, Sinai and elsewhere. Direct threats are made against His Holiness Pope Tawadros II and Copts generally. The incitement gives a green light for Islamists to attack Copts throughout the nation. Every day we hear reports of kidnappings and attacks on Copts.
I have previously flirted with the idea a Coptic Political Party. My recommendation has never really been welcomed. The main argument is that a Coptic political party will feed into the explosive sectarian scene and increase tensions further.
According to the CIA fact sheet Egypt’s Coptic Christian number at least 8.5 million out of a total population of 85 million (1). The estimate differs from Coptic Orthodox Church estimates which believe the Copts number at least 15% of the total population or approximately 13 Million (2). Some believe it could be as high as 20%.
Even at the lower CIA estimate of 8 Million, one could think that at least half of this population is eligible to vote inside Egypt. The population of Egypt’s Copts becomes an issue whenever an election nears in Egypt or in times of turmoil. Whenever Tahrir square fills up with liberty seeking Egyptians they are dismissed by Islamists as being mainly Copts.
Whenever elections approach the estimated number of Coptic voters seems to be an issue Copts are seen as a threat by the Islamist group and it is due to their large voting bloc who at any time could decide who wins parliamentary and presidential seats.
I believe a Coptic Political Party needs to be established as a matter of urgency. The party will not be a religious based party as such but rather a political party to ensure that the many grievances of Copts are appropriately addressed openly and with transparency in any future Egyptian Parliament. The party will not contain any religious figures. A Coptic party will send its delegates to all quarters of the world and receive delegates and representatives from foreign missions.
A Coptic Political Party will also take immense pressure off the Coptic Church headquarters. The Church has many issues to deal with and should not be drawn into this dangerous and fluid political game that we are seeing play out in Egypt. This should be left to the Coptic civilian population. The Coptic Church and all Churches in Egypt will always be free to convey their views on any matter that impact the Church, their congregation or the nation at any time however a Coptic Political Party will do it on a permanent day to day basis.
There are over 30 political parties registered in Egypt. Only 2 of them were founded by Copts however they are not parties that solely represent Copts. The bulk of the remaining parties are Islamists in nature, there are many Islamist parties other than the Muslim Brotherhood’s ‘Justice and Freedom Party’ and the Salafist ‘Al Nour’ Party. The non-Islamist parties contain mainly communist and similar secular type parties. The Free Egyptian Party founded by Coptic Businessman Naguib Sawiris is still perceived as a ‘Christian party’ despite not containing any pro-Coptic policies. The party believes in Free Markets and limited government intervention. A Coptic Political party could be fiscally centrist attracting Copts from the both the Coptic farmers and garbage collector to the small business owners and entrepreneurs. For it to succeed it must be a grassroots party not backed by any businessman.
Of interest is the formation of the ‘Nubian Nile Party’. Below is an excerpt from a report that was published in Ahram online dated Thursday 21st February 2013:
“Moussa explained that the new Nubian Nile Party would put Nubian issues at the top of its agenda, along with other pressing national issues.
“We [Egypt’s large Nubian community] have deep roots in Egypt,” he said. “We reject those who question our Egyptian identity and commitment to Egypt.”
Moussa went on to stress that the presence of a Nubian party would prevent other Egyptian political parties from exploiting Nubian issues for their own advantage.”
The idea of a Coptic political party was quickly dismissed in the early hours following the 25th January 2011 revolution. It is time for this option to be seriously discussed. Coptic Christians are suffering greatly and it is time that they mobilised themselves inside Egypt and use their greatest assets to their advantage. One of their greatest assets is their number. We need to get over the notion that Egypt’s moderate Muslims will grant us our rights. No doubt there are many great moderate Muslims who regularly speak out and advocate for Coptic rights however Copts need to take the lead and seriously push for full citizenship rights, a fair constitution, and be a major force in parliament where they can form a bloc with other parties to stand against fascist Islamist ideology. A Coptic Party could choose not to put forward a Presidential candidate due to chances of a Christian being elected as President close to 0%. They could however rally behind other candidates in return for support on other demands that they may have. The Muslim Brotherhood, The Salafists, The Jihadists, The Jamaat Islamiya are not going anywhere especially when they enjoy support from lobby groups in the West.
I look forward to completing my application to become a member of the ‘Coptic Democratic Party’. A Party that all Copts worldwide can back and support and I am sure there will be no limit in qualified think tanks from both inside and outside of Egypt who could make this party a powerful political group that will have a voice and influence. Otherwise Copts will continue to be used and abused by the state, the military and even the anti-Islamist political parties amid the political turmoil which will shows no signs of abating anytime soon.
Peter Tadros has participated in fact-finding missions and presented at many seminars. He features regularly in the media for commentary on Egypt and the plight of Copts, including regular radio interviews, print features, and television appearances. Tadros is one of the founding members of the Australian Coptic Movement Association.