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Egyptian Revolution: Role of the Copts

As the Media captured pictures of the Egyptian youth revolting in the streets of Egypt’s major cities on the morning of January 25th this year,

we were glued to our TV and internet screens to glean the latest information from these somewhat limited and repetitive images and tried to understand what forces were at play. As the revolution progressed and held on for the removal of Mubarak, highly romanticized versions of the scene began to take shape in the American media including misplaced accolades upon Facebook founder and CEO, Mark Zuckerberg. It isn’t that Facebook’s role wasn’t significant, but the heroes were on the ground. Who exactly were these brave and tenacious people who took to the streets en masse, most fittingly, on the day of the official Egyptian National Police Day -- an annual holiday first instituted by Mubarak’s predecessors and dutifully continued by him – usurping it with the Lotus Revolution?

The lack of investigative reporting into the origin of the Egyptian street protests leads to our further misreading of current events in the aftermath of the revolution. We glamorize with seductive headlines as on the recent Vanity Fair homepage, "Turning his camera on Egypt’s 18-day miracle, Jonas Fredwall Karlsson captures face-to-face the thrilling, tech-savvy tide that drew all eyes to Tahrir Square."

Things really began with a street clash a few months earlier in a very significant backlash by the Copts who, for the first time in recent history, confronted with force the regime’s police who violently attacked workers at a church construction site in Omrania, just north of Cairo. The actions here were not caught on camera and were not sparked by Facebook organizers, but having reached the point of no return regarding abusive police brutality, Coptic protestors cried out for freedom of religion and demanded equal treatment under the law in order to build their place of worship. On this day, they demanded as well that Mubarak step down. Police retaliated by attacking protesters, killing three and injuring many.

The Copts paid dearly for this when, on January 1st, a car bomb was planted in front of the Coptic Saints Church of Alexandria and rigged for three explosions timed just ten minutes apart in order to maximize the killing of innocent worshippers departing from their New Year’s service. Mubarak’s police would never allow the raised voices of the "infidels" demanding fair and equal treatment under the law to go unpunished.

As a friend and ally of the United States, Mubarak straddled a very fine line in order to maintain his financial sustenance provided by the American government. His expertise was in keeping Islamic fundamentalism at bay while sanitizing the surface for Western view – not executing but imprisoning Jihadist enemies of state who flourished and wrote manifestos to further their cause. As the image maker, Mubarak ordered his police to "round up the usual suspects" for the heinous crimes his regime had been involved in, and he manufactured cover-ups.

From the unprovoked massacre of Copts by Muslims in El Kosh in 1999 to the killing spree by a member of Mubarak’s police force who opened fire on innocent passengers riding public transit bound for Cairo earlier this year, Mubarak orchestrated appearances. When the international community asked to see justice, Mubarak had someone arrested, preferably a Muslim. If Westerners wanted to see a trial, he gave us a trial continuously postponed. If American observers wanted to see Copt’s afforded the country’s police protection, indeed the police would appear and then disappear at a critical moment. He gave us obfuscations issued by the Interior Ministry and offered us Al-Qaeda to blame.

On the eve of National Police Day, January 24, 2011, as reported by Egyptian Al-Ahram news, the Interior Minister stood up and greeted the members of the police force at the Egyptian Police Academy in Cairo, after which President Mubarak, head of all law enforcement in Egypt, took the floor and congratulated his police on their fine work in arresting the killers in the deadly car-bombing attack of the Coptic church during New Year’s service -- only one suspect had been arrested. Furthermore, as Mubarak waffled on what to do with Muslims being held by regime authorities for the killing of seven Copts leaving church service on Christmas Eve one year earlier on January 7, 2010, Copts viewed his hesitancy to act as yet one more stake driven into the heart of the Coptic community.

Repeated attacks upon Copts (their homes, churches, and businesses) and the sleazy dealings of the Mubarak regime which made this violence possible scarred Coptic memory and penetrated fear into the hearts and minds of both young and old. Then suddenly, as if overnight, something new took place; the Copts fought back during the attacks of November 2010. By January 25th, 2011, it wasn’t just the Copts; it was all like-minded Egyptian youths. Standing for justice and drawing the line spread like wild fire and in a matter of weeks brought about the dramatic overturn of the Egyptian regime.

The Western media has largely ignored the story of the Christian minority (numbering 18 million in Egypt alone) and the high price of sacrifice and bloodshed the courageous Copts have been made to pay. Their brewing discontent and recent confrontations set the tone for the larger rebellion against the Egyptian religious-state and developed the groundwork for the Lotus Revolution.

The Mubarak regime, aware of Facebook’s swelling numbers, expected to utilize their usual brutality to silence the freedom fighters in Cairo’s Tahrir Square and elsewhere. This "stable," democratic government evidenced now by citizens freely protesting in the streets would have no problem getting things under control. To his surprise Mubarak found a do-or-die confrontation, tenacious demands by Christian and Muslim alike determined to expunge a dictatorial ruler along with his family and his infected regime and to replace it with a real secular government. When he couldn’t back them down with his own hires, the fake pro-Mubarak protestors brandishing clubs, this "democratic" leader backed away and finally took backstage.

It has now been more than two months since Mubarak’s overthrow and progress toward democracy has not taken place; in fact the opposite has happened. Mubarak’s delay in leaving office, knowing he had support from the West, caused a very serious turn of events within the street rebellion, which he may or may not have orchestrated. The dangerous and banned Muslim Brotherhood infiltrated the ranks of protesters and drowned out the voices of freedom as they joined in the demand to overthrow Mubarak.

Now Islamic fundamentalism has made serious inroads into the shaping and the rewriting of the new Egyptian constitution. As a result, the situation for Copts in Egypt has worsened – more vulnerable and dangerous than ever. Mubarak remains alive and safe, occupying the presidential palace in Sharam El Shek, Egypt. If the palace is state-owned, why is an ousted president living in it? If the palace is Mubarak’s personal property, where did he get the funds to build it?

As the 30-year keeper of Egypt’s pseudo-democracy, Mubarak relinquished power by first nominating his own Secret Service director, Omar Suleiman, as Vice President, (no strings attached there) and finally by a fake military coup now in control with major players directly connected to Mubarak’s interests, power and will.

Now the question remains, will Mubarak and his regime, after thirty years of complacency in blocking aggression against Egyptians in general and Copts in particular, be investigated for genocidal crimes of torture and murder of Egyptian Copts and others similar to that which took place in Iraq against Saddam Hussein? I guess we need to wait and see. Let’s not hold our breath.

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