Coptic Priests and Women Assaulted
The Egyptian State Security forces attacked and demolished on 26/04/09 at 7.30 am the services building belonging to the Coptic Orthodox Diocese of Masrah Matrouh, assaulting the Coptic priests and Coptic women and men. More than 1000 Copts have surrounded the remains of the demolished building, ready for martyrdom, said a church member.
Officials at the Marsah Matrouh Local Council denied any knowledge of issuing an order for demolition.
In a phone call with the Middle East Christian Association, a member of the Coptic Orthodox Church in Marsah Matrouh confirmed the news that the State Security forces attacked and demolished the services building of the Coptic Orthodox Church there.
"They have also assaulted the Coptic priest, Father Matta Zakaria, who tried to defend the demolition of the services building, as well as those present in the building", added the Church member.
Thirteen Security lorries with a 700-man force of the State Security went into the one storey services building, attacked a homeless Coptic family who was sheltering there, and whose head was assigned to guard the building. They tied up the screaming women to chairs after beating them, until the full demolition of the building was undertaken. The family men, including the guard who were outside the building were beaten, tied and then loaded unto the State Security lorries.
The matter deteriorated further when the Christians knew of the news, and flocked to the place, in order to prevent the demolition work. They clashed with the Government forces; the forces have beaten them with sticks, and the people retaliated in self-defense.
One of the younger family relatives who were living in the services building was run over by a State Security vehicle as he tried to stop them from demolishing the building. He advised the MECA activist on the phone that although the vehicle runs over his legs and that he can hardly move, he was not going to seek medical treatment until the matter comes to an end.
"I will stay here without going to a doctor until I DIE. I want to see to the end the outcome of these robbers’ matter."
The family women were assaulted when they tried to prevent the forces that broke into their flat while they were asleep, from demolishing the place. One of the daughters who was also assaulted confirmed that the forces have beaten them savagely and tied them to chairs and would not listen to their pleads for calling an ambulance for their elderly mother who was left unconscious on the floor. "I told them my mother needs an ambulance but they told me just to cover her up and leave her where she is. What does this mean? How can I leave my mother in this state?" questioned the daughter.
The father, who guards the building said in bewilderment: "I was assaulted by the Government itself. 13 Lorries coming out for a couple of people? 13 lorries with 700 officers beside other cars from the army and State Security. They put the State Security forces on to us so that we get no help, reach no lawyers, we were alone except for God Almighty." He went on:"God ordered justice on earth and people to love each other. Where is this love and where is this peace? Where are the people who love each other, these are just words. Where is the Democracy which is being talked about? Where is the
Democracy and where is Justice?" "If obtaining licenses for the building is not good enough for them, what then? They don’t want us here, this is what it means", he added sadly.
When asked why the Government demolished the services building, the Church member commented: "After a few days of purchasing the building, the Government had the suspicion, just a suspicion, that this building might become a church. Although this building is still in an unfinished state, just because it had no balconies, they got the suspicion that it might become a church!"
"Following their suspicion, and as a trick, they arrived before 8.00 am to demolish the building, knowing quite well that today is Sunday and all the people and the priests would be at Church. However, they found the family of a poor man living there, and guarding the building. When the man’s daughters opposed the forces and screamed, they were assaulted and thrown to the ground", he added.
Although the services building has all the necessary documents and licenses, the demolishers said that the fence on the roof is a ‘bit high’, so rather than contacting the church to lower the roof fence by a couple of bricks or even demolishing the entire fence, instead the Government took the draconian action of demolishing the whole building including the construction columns, commented the church member.
"We are far from the airport, and there are houses nearer to the airport and higher and no one approached them. There are 2-storey and 3-storey buildings, while the services building were just 1-storey high". He said.
The Marsah Matrouh Dioceses bought this building to help the poor who cannot pay for treatment and medical charges.
"This building is in a very poor area, all people living there are poor, out of work, and have an income of below zero; they cannot afford to feed themselves, so the Coptic Church supports them financially. The Church arranged for this building to be a day-clinic for the poor, as they are unable to pay for their own
treatment and medicine." said the Church member.
MECA has learnt that in the evening Muslims were congregating in a Mosque and around 500 Copts in the demolished Church Services’ Building.
Since the Local Council authorities in Marsa Matrouh deny all knowledge of a demolition order being issued by them, and since they also informed that the demolition forces usually go out at 10 am and never at 7.30 am, so had what happened then? All these questions beg for an answer.
Assuming that the Local Council really did not issue a demolition order, does this mean that an officer from the State Security could single- handedly make a demolition decision; take out a 700 men force, in 13 lorries and 6 bulldozers without any orders from above????