New Raid On Iranian Christians, 14 Arrested

International Christian Concern (ICC) (01) feature

New Raid On Iranian Christians, 14 Arrested, One Christian Released

11/13/2015 Washington, D.C. (International Christian Concern) – International Christian Concern (ICC) has learned that Iranian authorities have continued to demonstrate their disregard for basic religious freedom as they arrested 14 Iranian Christians after a raid on a house church gathering on November 1. The detentions took place in Varamin and Tehran, many of the members had been previously part of the Emmanuel Protestant Church in Tehran, which was closed in 2012.

The raid took place during the Sunday service, Ramin Rad, co-founder of Voice of Christians of Iran, told ICC. Thirteen of those in attendance were taken into custody by agents of Iran’s Intelligence Service and their current location is unknown. Another member of the church was arrested a few hours later at their home in Tehran.

The names of those arrested at the house church meeting are: Zari Shah Khasti (Poorkaveh), Simmin, Bahram, Amin, Leyla, Zahra, Mehdi and Farzaneh, Shayan, Sara, Nazanin, Elnaz and Mohammad Shah Khasti, according to Christian Solidarity Worldwide.

The human rights situation in Iran has continued to be abysmal, with Christian converts and other religious minorities often being the prime targets of the violations. The growth of house churches in Iran has led to increased repression by the regime against evangelicals and house churches.

Police officials often raid homes that are hosting church meetings or Bible studies and arrest multiple members on suspicion of acting against the regime. Since 2010 police officials arbitrarily arrested more than 500 Christians throughout Iran. As of February 2015, approximately 90 Christians were imprisoned, detained or pending trial for their religious beliefs and activities.

In addition, Maryam Naghash Zargaran, who has been in prison for more than 30 months, was forced to return to Evin prison on October 31.This brought an abrupt end to a medical leave that was allowing her to seek treatment for complications from a previous heart surgery and the ill effects of her time in prison. She was charged with converting to Christianity and being an active member of a church, among other charges. She was sentenced to four years in prison.

Also in Iran, Suroush Saraie, who was arrested in 2014 and taken to prison in Shiraz, Iran was released on November 10. Saraie was sentenced to serve two and a half years, but at present has been released and will not be required to serve the remaining 14 months of his prison sentence.

All of these situations come against the backdrop of a planned trip by President Hassan Rouhani to Italy which will include a meeting with the Pope. Iran’s human rights and religious freedom record have not improved under President Rouhani, but rather, Iran continues to regularly imprison and harass those who choose to follow Christianity.

ICC’s Regional Manager for the Middle East, Todd Daniels, said, “We are grateful to hear the news of the release of Suroush Saraie and are glad he has reunited with his family, even while still bearing the scars of this time in prison. Over and over again, Iran has demonstrated that they do not uphold the fundamental aspect of religious freedom to be able to meet together with others who share your beliefs. For too long, the Iranian regime has treated such meetings as a threat to national security. The judicial system should uphold the commitments made by the Iranian government both in its constitution and in International Agreements to provide religious freedom for its citizens and should end the prosecution and unjust imprisonment of Christians for nothing more than practicing their religious beliefs. We urge the Iranian officials to immediately release these fourteen individuals who were gathered simply to worship and pray according to their faith. We also urge for the full release of Pastor Benham Irani, Saeed Abedini, Maryam Naghash Zargaran and the dozens more who are imprisoned unjustly.


For interviews with Todd Daniels, Regional Manager for the Middle East, contact Olivia Miller, Communications Coordinator: press@persecution.org
# # #
You are free to disseminate this news story. We request that you reference International Christian Concern (ICC) and include our web address, www.persecution.org. ICC is a Washington D.C.-based human rights organization that exists to help persecuted Christians worldwide. ICC provides Awareness, Advocacy, and Assistance to the worldwide persecuted Church. For additional information or for an interview, contact ICC at 800-422-5441.

International Christian Concern
2020 Pennsylvania Ave. NW #241, Washington, D.C. 20006
www.persecution.org | E-mail: icc@persecution.org

Media Contact:
Olivia Miller, Communications Coordinator
press@persecution.org
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

At Least 7 Christians Injured in Attack on Christians in Upper Egypt

International Christian Concern (ICC) (01) feature

An estimated 200 men attacked two Christian homes, injuring seven in the latest incident of violence against Christians in the villages of Samalout, Minya, Egypt.

10/08/2015 Washington, D.C. (International Christian Concern)
International Christian Concern (ICC) has learned that at least seven individuals and two homes were attacked in the latest round of violence against Christians in Upper Egypt. What, in a normal setting, would have been a conflict between school children, escalated to an attack by a large crowd of Muslims on Christians who are frustrated again with the lack of protection from security officials.

According to ICC’s sources, Ahmed Maher Mekhimer, a Muslim student in grade 8 used to bully a Christian student called Amgad Emad Zikry. Then last week, Amgad’s cousin, Youssef Talaat Ayad, stood up for his cousin and this was what sparked a wave of violence that swept Kom El Raheb village in Samalout, Minya.

On Monday October 5after the school day finished around 4:00 p.m., a group of men from the El Feema family attacked the home of Talaat Ayad, Youssef’s father. The group was comprised of as many as 200, Father Istaphanos Shehata said in a radio interview. These were details that Father Sarophim, a priest of the Virgin Mary Church in Abo Sidhom, confirmed in an interview with ICC.

The attacked started with Talaat’s Stationary and Grocery store, located on the first floor of the family home. They looted the store and caused major destruction. Talaat’s hand was broken by the men at the store.

The mob then tried to break into the house but they could not get through the iron gate, so they approached from the back and climbed a short wall into the house. They then attacked Youssef and old brother, Ishak, age 18, leaving them wounded with several bruises. Talat’s wife, Sameeha, was also injured with a cut to the head. She was later taken to the hospital where she would need five stitches to close the wounds.

The crowd then left and headed to the home of Amgad. Amgad was not there, but his mother and two others were injured, including his cousin Emad, who had a fractured skull and leg as a result of the attacks.

“After the victims arrived at the hospital the police and someone from the District Attorney’s office came to take their statements as a standard procedure,” Father Sarophim, told ICC.

“But no arrest warrant was issued, even though the criminals are known to everybody,” Fr. Sarophim said. “As usual the police dealt with the situation with apathy.”

The families were preparing to leave the village when, after numerous requests from the Bishopric of Samalout, the security forces sent a small group of officers to maintain the calm in the village.

This is at least the third incident of attacks on Christians in villages in Samalout in the past month.

Todd Daniels, Regional Manager for the Middle East said, “Again we are learning of violence against the Christian community in Upper Egypt and again we are hearing of the absence of protection from the security forces or punishment for those responsible. Officials in Egypt must urgently take necessary steps to ensure that all Egyptians – including Christians – have their basic rights protected. The government of President Al-Sisi needs to demonstrate genuine leadership that goes beyond mere words in protecting the Christian citizens of Egypt.”


For interviews, contact Olivia Miller, Communications Coordinator: press@persecution.org

You are free to disseminate this news story. We request that you reference International Christian Concern (ICC) and include our web address, www.persecution.org. ICC is a Washington D.C.-based human rights organization that exists to help persecuted Christians worldwide. ICC provides Awareness, Advocacy, and Assistance to the worldwide persecuted Church. For additional information or for an interview, contact ICC at 800-422-5441.

International Christian Concern
2020 Pennsylvania Ave. NW #241, Washington, D.C. 20006
www.persecution.org | E-mail: icc@persecution.org

Media Contact:
Olivia Miller, Communications Coordinator
press@persecution.org
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Displaced Christians in Chiapas Demand Justice from Mexico’s Federal Government

International Christian Concern (ICC) (01) feature

10/08/2015 Washington, D.C. (International Christian Concern)
International Christian Concern (ICC) has learned that on October 1, representatives from a displaced Christian community from Chiapas, along with the Coordination of Christian Organizations (CCO), and leaders from Impulso 18, a Mexican religious freedom organization, met with federal officials of the Religious Affairs department in Mexico City to demand that the ongoing displacement of Protestant Christians in Chiapas be resolved immediately.

For years, Christians in Chiapas have suffered severe discrimination, persecution, and displacement at the hands of local government officials and religious leaders, with little to no assistance from the state or federal governments. According to ICC estimates, dozens of minority religious communities, comprised primarily of Protestant Christians, have been forcibly displaced in central and southern Mexico over the last decade. In many instances, basic utilities have been cut off, children of Protestant Christians have been barred from school, and heavy fines have been imposed on those who refuse to participate in religious festivals. Fed up with what they perceive as a lack of action from the state governments, several displaced groups have banded together and are taking their cases to the federal government.

During the October 1 meeting, representatives of the Los Llanos Christian community and the CCO met with Elizabeth Mandujano, the Federal Religious Affairs Director, requesting that the federal government intervene in their case. During the meeting with the religious affairs director, the Los Llanos group, who since 2012 have been expelled from their community, and the CCO, requested that the federal government investigate their case and several other cases of persecution in the region that have been deliberately ignored by the government of Chiapas. The government of Chiapas claims that any preexisting cases of forced displacement have already been resolved. However, Luis Herrera, director of the Coordination of Christian Organizations, stated, “Although the federal Mexican government is making progress to investigate and resolve these cases of persecution and displacement, we fear that the State government of Chiapas will continue to insist that these cases of persecution and displacement have been resolved.” The CCO estimates that there are at least 70 unresolved cases in the State of Chiapas, in addition to ongoing threats towards other communities.Representatives of the Los Llanos group and the CCO pointed out that the state government of Chiapas has failed to meet numerous self-imposed deadlines for restitutions to the victims, many of whom continue to live in homeless shelters, or prosecute any perpetrators for the forced displacement of Christians in Chiapas on religious grounds.

During a Senate confirmation hearing in Washington D.C. on July 15, Assistant Secretary Roberta Jacobson promised to address reports of widespread religious intolerance across Mexico if appointed as the next U.S ambassador. Three Senators, including Republican presidential candidate Marco Rubio also wrote to Acting Ambassador Alejandro Estivill, asking that he investigate reports of forced displacement and religious persecution in Chiapas.

Isaac Six, ICC’s Advocacy Director, said “For far too many years, the plight of religious minority communities in Mexico has either gone unnoticed or been willfully ignored. It’s hard to imagine, but in the same country where so many Americans enjoy relaxed vacations on beautiful beaches, there are hundreds of men, women, and children living in homeless shelters simply because they were forced to choose between giving up their faith and giving up their homes. How has this gone on for decades without provoking any kind of serious reaction by the media or the Mexican government? We’re grateful to Senator Rubio and other leaders in Congress for finally raising this issue, and we call on the federal government of Mexico to act swiftly to resolve the open cases of displaced Protestant Christians and to immediately begin enforcing the rule of law in villages where Christians are routinely threatened with violence and evictions.”


For interviews, contact Olivia Miller, Communications Coordinator: press@persecution.org

You are free to disseminate this news story. We request that you reference International Christian Concern (ICC) and include our web address, www.persecution.org. ICC is a Washington D.C.-based human rights organization that exists to help persecuted Christians worldwide. ICC provides Awareness, Advocacy, and Assistance to the worldwide persecuted Church. For additional information or for an interview, contact ICC at 800-422-5441.

International Christian Concern
2020 Pennsylvania Ave. NW #241, Washington, D.C. 20006
www.persecution.org | E-mail: icc@persecution.org

Media Contact:
Olivia Miller, Communications Coordinator
press@persecution.org
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Three Assyrian Christian Hostages Executed by ISIS in Syria

International Christian Concern (ICC) (01) feature

New video released on Wednesday, September 8, shows ISIS militants executing three Assyrian Christian men, believed to be among more than 250 captives taken hostage by ISIS in February, 2015

10/08/2015 Washington, D.C. (International Christian Concern) –
International Christian Concern (ICC) has learned that a new video released by the Islamic jihadist group ISIS (also known as the Islamic State or ISIL) shows the execution of three Assyrian Christian men, believed to be among the more than 250 Christians held by the jihadist group since February 2015.

The men executed in the video have been identified as Dr. Abdel-Maseeh Aniyah of Tal Jazirah (Al-Hasakah), Ashur Rustam Abraham of Tal Jazirah, and Bassam Issa Michael from Tal Shamiram (Al-Jazirah), Leith Fadel, Editor-in-Chief of Al Mas Dar News reported.

In a style that has become familiar for execution videos released by ISIS, the three men are dressed in orange jumpsuits and forced to kneel in front of militants wearing camouflage and black masks. The men were killed by a pistol shot to the head from behind.

The executions are said to have been carried out in the Hassakeh region of Syria on the morning of September 23, the same day that Muslims commemorated the “Feast of the Sacrifice” (Eid al-Adha), but “It is not known why ISIS waited two weeks to release the video,” said the Assyrian International News Agency (AINA).

In the latest video, ISIS calls for a ransom payment of $50,000 USD for the release of the Assyrian Christians still being held. “Assyrian human rights organizations, along with a few religious leaders have been begging them since the kidnapping occurred to release them,” Nahren Anweya, an Assyrian American Christian Activist told ICC. “They have been asking for ransoms as high as $100,000 per hostage,” Anweya said, something that church leaders had also confirmed in April.

“These men were from the original group of hostages taken from Khabour,” Anweya told ICC. The exact number of hostages taken in the February 23 raid on Assyrian villages in the Khabour region of Syria remains unclear. Initial reports were that at least 90 were taken and the number has climbed to more than 250.

In the video, ISIS threatens to execute 280 hostages if the ransom amount is not paid. According to AINA, the number of hostages still held is 202, accounting for 48 who have been released and the killing of these three. A release sent to ICC by the Assyrian Monitor for Human Rights (AMHR) stated that there were 185 still being held as hostages.

“What draws our attention to this crime is that it is the first of its kind against the Assyrians and Christians in Syria,” Jamil Diarbakerly, head of AMHR, told ICC. While ISIS in Syria has posted numerous videos showing executions of “apostates” or “spies”, this is the first video of Christians being executed.

These executions just again demonstrate the magnitude of the atrocities going on in Syria. Islamic extremist groups such as ISIS and al-Qaeda affiliate, Jabhat al-Nusra, are targeting religious and ethnic minorities as they attempt to solidify their control. Forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad have also been responsible for tens of thousands of the more than 250,000 deaths since the conflict started in 2011.

Also participating in the fighting are members of the U.S. led Global Coalition, along with Kurdish fighters, and now the entrance of Russian forces have made for a complicated situation and an increase in violence as there are battles to control territory. “Russian military intervention in Syria has to do with what is happening,” Diabakerly said, in the aftermath of these executions.

“The only solution to protect these ancient communities would be to place them in an internationally protected safe haven on their ancestral lands of the Nineveh plains [in Iraq],” Anweya said, while at the same time pressing for special forces to intervene to release the other hostages.

Todd Daniels, Regional Manager for the Middle East said, “Our hearts break at the latest news of the execution of Christians in Syria. These three men have lost their lives and dozens more may soon follow while global leaders wonder what to do next. The very future of a Christian community in these lands is at stake. A genocide is taking place and the world is watching these communities be erased from the map. How many more lives must be lost before the world will act to end this suffering?”


For interviews, contact Olivia Miller, Communications Coordinator: press@persecution.org

You are free to disseminate this news story. We request that you reference International Christian Concern (ICC) and include our web address, www.persecution.org. ICC is a Washington D.C.-based human rights organization that exists to help persecuted Christians worldwide. ICC provides Awareness, Advocacy, and Assistance to the worldwide persecuted Church. For additional information or for an interview, contact ICC at 800-422-5441.

International Christian Concern
2020 Pennsylvania Ave. NW #241, Washington, D.C. 20006
www.persecution.org | E-mail: icc@persecution.org

Media Contact:
Olivia Miller, Communications Coordinator
press@persecution.org
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Mosul Churches Used as ISIS Slaughter Houses During Muslim Holiday

International Christian Concern (ICC) (01) feature

Todd Daniels, Regional Manager for the Middle East

10/02/2015 Washington, D.C. (International Christian Concern) –
Historic Christian churches in Mosul, Iraq were turned into slaughterhouses for ISIS jihadists during the Islamic Festival of Sacrifice. This comes as just the latest atrocity as ISIS attempts to erase any presence of Christianity in a city that has nearly 2,000 years of Christian history.

“Nearly eight churches, including St. Ephrem Syriac Orthodox Church” were used for slaughtering animals, Jamil Diarbakerli, Head of the Assyrian Monitor for Human Rights (AMHR) told International Christian Concern (ICC).

“This incident comes as the new link in the series of violations of the Daash [ISIS] terrorist organization of churches and religious temples in the city of Mosul which is controlled by them since the June 10, 2014,” AMHR said in a press release.

Once home to tens of thousands of Christians, now not a single Christian is believed to remain in Mosul. Nearly all Christians fled Mosul when the city fell to ISIS on June 10. An ultimatum was given to the remaining Christians that they must convert to Islam, pay a tax or leave the city by noon on July 19 or they would face death.

Since then, ISIS has occupied or destroyed all of the remaining churches and Christian properties or else converted them into mosques.

According to eyewitnesses who are still in Mosul, ISIS is going to great lengths to remove any remnants of the city’s Christian past.

“The cross is ISIS’s main enemy; that is why today no traces of crosses can be seen in Mosul,”A.S., a journalist writing anonymously told Ankawa News.

“The dwellings were ravaged with great fury – and the vestiges of this hatred for Christianity can be seen here to this day… As for churches and monasteries, whole teams are involved in the job of dynamiting or partially demolishing their buildings,” A.S. continued.

In June 2015, ISIS announced that the St. Ephrem Church would be converted into the “mosque of the mujahideen,” a place for its extremist fighters to pray and worship.

“This was my church from childhood,” Rita, a Christian from Mosul now living in Northern Iraq told ICC. “In Christmas and Easter the church was full of people. This church is the biggest one in Mosul; there would be thousands of people,” she remembered fondly.

The Christian community from Mosul, and from the Christian villages of the Nineveh Plains, are wondering if they will ever be able to go back.

Unless something dramatic changes they don’t see it as something likely in the near future.

“The first condition is that there must be international protection for anybody returning. The second is that the Christians must be allowed to create their own semi-independent administrative entity,” Nawzat Shamdeen wrote in a Niqash special report on Iraq’s Christians.

The final condition, as Patriarch Louis Sako outlined in a March 2015 speech to the United Nations Security Council, would be assistance to help them rebuild their lives in the lands that have been conquered.

Other thinkers have laid out a similar strategy for Christians to be “rescued, restored, and returned” to their homelands.

Until that happens, Christians will remain at a loss trying to decide whether to wait things out or to look towards the West and join the flood of migrants toward Europe and the United States.

While they wait, the news coming from their homelands is increasingly gruesome as ISIS is trying to solidify their hold on territory in Iraq and Syria, slaughtering not only sheep but those who challenge their control.


For interviews, contact Olivia Miller, Communications Coordinator: press@persecution.org

You are free to disseminate this news story. We request that you reference International Christian Concern (ICC) and include our web address, www.persecution.org. ICC is a Washington D.C.-based human rights organization that exists to help persecuted Christians worldwide. ICC provides Awareness, Advocacy, and Assistance to the worldwide persecuted Church. For additional information or for an interview, contact ICC at 800-422-5441.

International Christian Concern
2020 Pennsylvania Ave. NW #241, Washington, D.C. 20006
www.persecution.org | E-mail: icc@persecution.org

Source: "Mosul Churches Used as ISIS Slaughter Houses During Muslim Holiday"

Democracy Derailed – Religious Freedom Denied to Chhattisgarh’s Christians

International Christian Concern (ICC) (01) feature

By ICC’s India Correspondent
09/29/2015 Washington, D.C. (International Christian Concern) –
When I was thirteen, sitting on a carpet, listening attentively to my pastor at church, I remember a particular sermon that the pastor gave on Christian persecution. I remember the pastor saying, “Days are not far where you (Christians) will be hounded for the sake of your faith and there won’t be freedom to worship!” I believed his message as a word from the Lord, but not for my generation. I couldn’t believe that Christians would be persecuted like this in my lifetime. That was true until I was confronted with the persecution faced by the Christian community of Chhattisgarh.

This was my second visit to the Baster district of Chhattisgarh and this visit was more shocking than the first. I came across numerous religious freedom abuses, ranging from physical assaults to social boycotts, against Christians in the district. Recently, there has been a fresh outburst of violence against Christians by radical Hindu organizations that have made the lives of local Christians miserable and almost impossible.

After traveling for an hour and a half on the back of a motorbike, I reached a village called Karmeri, located approximately 20 kms from Jagdalpur, the district capital. That is when I saw something at the entrance of the village that I have never seen before. A signboard, painted saffron that carried the details of the local Hindu militant organization and the list of their leaders. The saffron color is a symbol of Hindu nationalism and is used by Hindu militant organizations that seek to achieve a Hindu state in India through means of violence and threats. This openness the radicals showed by posting this signboard clearly showed that they had no fear of local authorities stopping their operations.

When I entered the village, I met with many disheartened Christians. Bingu Baghel, 50-years-old and one of the first from the village to become a Christian, said, “We are living in a panic situation. We are harassed. We do not know what will happen and when. We don’t do any harm to anybody, but we are constantly threatened by Hindu militant groups in the village.”

“Neither the police nor the administration takes notice of our cry,” Baghel went on to say. This was the situation faced by the more than 30 Christians who call Karmeri home.

As I continued talking with the Christians of Karmeri, they all told me stories of intense persecution, each taking turns one after the other. One Christian said, “We are not allowed to take our cattle out for grazing. We are also not allowed to shop at the local grocery shop. We even can’t harvest our own crops because we worship Jesus.”

The Christians of Karmeri were, unfortunately, not alone in their suffering. Christians from five neighboring villages have also been made outcasts by the Hindu radicals, which all started at an event organized by the VHP and Bajrangdal on June 25. At this event, the Hindu radicals convinced these villages to pass a resolution under Chhattisgarh Panchayat Act that has essentially made Christianity illegal.

In late 2014, over 50 villages in the Bastar district passed similar resolutions which ban all “non-Hindu religious propaganda, prayers and speeches in the villages.” In Karmeri, I discovered that these resolutions, despite being unconstitutional, have spread to new villages in the Bastar district.

Rev. Bhupendra Khora, a Christian leader from Bastar district, told International Christian Concern (ICC) about what it is like to be a Christian in Bastar district. He said, “We are overwhelmed with this crisis situation. At times, nobody dares to visit the victims when there is an assault on the Christians. The victimized Christians are so vulnerable that they don’t dare to report it anywhere. Mostly, they silently suffer.”

After traveling to Karmeri and the surrounding villages, I reflected on the truth of that sermon my pastor gave all those years ago about Christian persecution and the current state of India. Since the Bharathiya Janatha Party (BJP) rise to power in 2014, Christian persecution in India has become a regular occurrence and Hindu militant groups have been allowed to infringe upon Christians’ religious freedom with little to no government action. This must change. If India is truly to remain the world’s largest democracy, the government must start securing the fundamental rights of all of its citizens, including the Christians of Bastar district.


 
For interviews, contact Olivia Miller, Communications Coordinator: press@persecution.org

You are free to disseminate this news story. We request that you reference International Christian Concern (ICC) and include our web address, www.persecution.org. ICC is a Washington D.C.-based human rights organization that exists to help persecuted Christians worldwide. ICC provides Awareness, Advocacy, and Assistance to the worldwide persecuted Church. For additional information or for an interview, contact ICC at 800-422-5441.

International Christian Concern
2020 Pennsylvania Ave. NW #241, Washington, D.C. 20006
www.persecution.org | E-mail: icc@persecution.org

Source: www.persecution.org

Coptic Christian Community Still in Hiding as Violence Continues Over Land Confiscated by Muslim Family

International Christian Concern (ICC) (01) feature

By ICC’s Egypt Representative

10/01/2015 Washington, D.C. (International Christian Concern) – The situation remains dangerous for Coptic Christians in the Nahda area in the Amreya District of Alexandria, Egypt. Christians have received many death threats and are hiding in their homes after a violent incident on Sunday, September 20.

Violence erupted as police tried to enforce a court ruling to return a plot of land to its Christian owner after it had been taken over by the Lahoty family in 2012, as International Christian Concern (ICC) previously reported. A Muslim man related to the tribe of Lahoty was killed during the violent clashes between the police and the Bedouins in Al-Oula village on Sunday.

Violent Resistance of Security Forces, Court Ruling

The story goes back to 2012, when the Lahoty family who belong to the Muslim Brotherhood seized the opportunity of the beginning of Muslim Brotherhood rule under Mohammed Morsi and took over a ten acre plot of land adjacent to Mar Girgis Church in Al-Oula village. The land is owned by the Makanouti family who lives in Al-Kasara village, which is six kilometers from Al-Oula village, and owns about 180 acres in different places in the Nahda area.

The Makanouti family first tried to recover their land through resorting to reconciliation sessions but to no avail. “We went to a moderate Salafi Sheikh named Sharif El-Halwary in Amreya who helps to solve disputes among the Amreya residents,” Naguib Hamadi Makanouti, the son of the landowner told ICC. “We asked him to intervene and return our usurped land. He investigated the case and made sure that this land belongs to us, but he was unable to return it to us. Finally, after the failure of all the peaceful ways to return our usurped land, we went to the court,” Naguib recounted.

In September 2013, the Makanouti family obtained ruling number 2723 from the Alexandria Court of First Instance to restore their land. In April 2014, the police of Amreya headed Al-Oula village to execute the court order and restore the disputed land to the Makanoti family, but faced opposition then as well.

“As soon as the police entered the village, the Lahoty family used the loudspeakers of El-Tawhid mosque in Al-Oula village to rally the Muslims to defend them against the police,” Naguib told ICC. “Immediately a large crowd of Muslims including children, women demonstrated in our land and attacked the police. They were pelting them with stones and rocks. The police then couldn’t control the situation and had to temporarily withdraw,” Naguib said.

On Sunday, September 20, 2015, the police headed to Al-Oula village for the second time to regain the land for the Makanouti family. “Many thousands of armed Bedouins ambushed the police among the tall corn plants next to our land and attacked the police. They used stones, rocks and exchanged gunfire with them. The police used tear gas to disperse them but the police were unable to control the situation because the number of the demonstrators was extremely large. There were injures among the police men and a Muslim young man named Mahmoud Rawag Issa, 27 years old and a relative of the Lahoty family, was killed during these clashes. So the police had to withdraw,” Naguib said.

After the police left, a crowd of Muslims attacked the Mar Girgis church. They surrounded it and hurled stones and rocks at it. They then attacked four homes owned by Coptic Christians in Al-Oula village. Multiple people were injured, including two who were hospitalized in critical condition. They also caused damage to some Christian properties.

How Long Will We Be Trapped in Our Homes?

The family of Mahmoud has refused to accept condolences and their women refused to wear black clothes, common for a family in mourning. Instead, they want to take revenge on the Makanouti family.

“We are hiding in our homes,” Naguib told ICC. “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,” Nagiub said.

Despite the gravity of the situation for the Makatouni family, there isn’t any protection from the government for them. They are receiving ongoing death threats and are still hiding in their homes.

“We ask our Muslim neighbors to bring food for us from the stores,” Mousa Zarif, a nephew of the landowner told ICC. “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,” said Mousa. “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 asked.

The economic impact on the Maknouti family could be devastating as harvest approaches.

“It’s the time of reaping the tomato harvest,” Mousa told ICC. “We have about 13 acres of cultivated tomato plants. Their harvest is estimated at more than one million EGP [$127,000], 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,” Mousa said.

Other Christians Have Lost Land As Well

The confiscation of Christian land was not limited to only the Makanouti family. At least two other families in the Nahda area also had their land taken over by Bedouins.

Samir Dmitry owns an 80 acre plot of land adjacent to the land of Makanouti family. It too was taken over by the Lahoty family in the beginning of Muslim Brotherhood rule in 2012. He has been unable to regain control of it although he also has a court ruling to restore it.

Another building owned by a Christian man named Emad Halim in El-Hamam, Nahda was taken over by Bedouins.

“I purchased a 750 meter piece of land in El-Hamam, Nahda area from a Bedouin person related to Lahoty family for 85 thousand EGP,” Emad told ICC. “In 2011, I built on it, fenced it and left the building closed as I live in another area called Al-Hawees, 6 kilometer from this building. On May 25, 2014, the person who I purchased the land from… broke into my building, demolished its fence, broke its door and seized it, and I’m unable to restore it from him till now.”

Mousa, on behalf of his family and the community in the Nahda area, urged the president and government to intervene and solve their case. “We beg President Abdel Fatah El-Sisi to intervene and solve our case. The situation is extremely bad and it is growing worse over time. We urge the government and the military to protect us and solve our case. We ask all Christians to pray for us, to pray for our case, to pray for our protection, and peace in Egypt,” Mousa said.

Mar Girgis Coptic Orthodox Church in Al-Oula village fasted and prayed for three days from Monday to Wednesday regarding to the current bad events in the area.

Father Boktor Nashed, the priest of Mar Girgis church told ICC “We ask all the people to pray for the protection of all the Christians in the area, the peace to prevail over our area, and to lift the anguish and hardship from us.”


For interviews, contact Olivia Miller, Communications Coordinator:
press@persecution.org

You are free to disseminate this news story. We request that you reference International Christian Concern (ICC) and include our web address, www.persecution.org. ICC is a Washington D.C.-based human rights organization that exists to help persecuted Christians worldwide. ICC provides Awareness, Advocacy, and Assistance to the worldwide persecuted Church. For additional information or for an interview, contact ICC at 800-422-5441.

International Christian Concern
2020 Pennsylvania Ave. NW #241, Washington, D.C. 20006
www.persecution.org | E-mail: icc@persecution.org