When reflecting on the events and circumstances which surrounded the massacre of "El-Kosheh", in the middle of 1989 (link below), one could summarize the prevailing situation in the following points:
– In any society homicides occur, the killing of the two Coptic men could easily have been just an ordinary homicide case.
–The Egyptian law enforcement authorities due to its discrimination against the Copts, played a key role in manipulating the investigations to arrive at their plans of implicating Copts as the murderers.
– The arrest of over one thousand Copts living in that town was in itself a sign of prejudice from the local police. No one has ever heard that for the murder of two men, over a thousand people would be arrested. Actually, the number of people arrested a few years before, in connection with Sadat’s assassination, was far less than those arrested in El-Kosheh.
– The brutal way of torturing the people who were in custody could never have been justified by the reason for their arrest.
– The rumor which circulated in that small town was that the killers were Muslims, and that the police were doing their utmost to cover up this fact.
The Egyptian government and the police were extremely irritated and embarrassed by the testimonies of those tortured in jail; reports made by the international media and the Egyptian human rights organizations increased the government’s anger, making it worse for the people of El-Kosheh.
The first two days of the year 2000, saw the brutal murders of 21 Copts at the hands of the Muslims. For the second time in less than two years, the name of El-Kosheh made headlines again around the world.
The Egyptian government tried to fool the world, this time by changing the name of that town to "Al Salam", which means Peace in Arabic. A modern way of trying to camouflage facts of reality, and to erase from memory a town’s name which became a symbol of Muslim aggression against the helpless Copts.
Information coming out of Egypt got supportive reactions from the western media and political leaders. Copts in the Diasporas, especially in the United States and Canada, protested loudly.
All this led to the humiliating implication of Egypt as one of foremost countries to discriminate against its religious minority. For the last fifty years, exactly since the military coup led by Nasser and his company, Egypt took a new political and religious direction.
Copts and Muslims who used to live side by side somehow, or other peacefully, have changed resulting in numerous and widespread conflicts in most of the areas inhabited mainly by Copts, caused mainly by the Government’s methods of handling issues.
The Egyptian government always acted after events have taken place, and when the facts became known to the international community.
The government until today still intimidates the Copts, inside and outside of Egypt, to prevent them from reporting such information to the outside world. When out side identity criticized, the government considers it as "interference in Egyptian internal affairs"!!! As mentioned earlier, El-Kosheh is a small town in Upper Egypt, nearly 450 Km (320miles) south of Cairo; it lies between "Sohag" and another city called "Nag-al Hammadi". At the time of that tragic event, it had nearly 25,000 inhabitants, 75% of which were Copts.
The town has agricultural land, and was the trade center for several towns around it. The tensions between the Copts and Muslims were always present due to religious and social backgrounds. Sometimes this relationship was good, at other times awkward. One of the main elements which contributed to the tensions and helped in bringing about those brutal events, was as previously mentioned, the rise of "political" Islam. Sadat proposed the integration of the "Sharia" law into the Egyptian constitution.
The Copts saw in the application of Islamic law to Christians and the consequences it may have on them, as a direct threat.Another problem was the tendency of some Islamist groups, opposed to Sadat, to vent their anger out on Coptic targets. In addition to the prevailing political situation and the hate generated by the Egyptian leaders against Copts, was the feeling of injustice that the Copts felt, after the killing of the two Copts and the way in which the law enforcement authorities handled the situation. It was, therefore, not difficult to see how an ordinary fight between two people, could drive that peaceful town into witnessing what is known to be one of the worse massacres against Copts for decades. In fact, prior to December 31st, 1999 the atmosphere was ready to explode, due to various issues mentioned above, but moreover, due to Muslims circulating rumors of certain fictitious acts claimed to be made by Copts, such as the Copts poisoning the drink water, or destroying an Islamic institute, or killing of Muslims. No one at that time knew where certain information generated from.
All those factors led to the massacre which only took a couple of hours to kill, slit throats, and burn twenty-one Copts, destroying their homes, stores in El-Kosheh, as well as the nearest towns. On December 30th, 1999 and for four continuous days running into the new Millennium, the Arab Muslims were attacking Copts, destroying their homes and businesses.
This happened only sixteen months from the first attack which took place in mid August 1998, and which now knows as "El-Kosheh 1", the question arises as to the reasons behind all that? Do we put all the blame on the first aggressor "Faiz Awaad Hossen" and his brothers, who attacked "Rashed Famy"? Or on those who killed, burnt and profaned the dead bodies? Or was it the Egyptian government and its systems which were unable to protect some of its citizen against barbaric people? To be continued…