By Martin Roth
The hero of my novel “The Coptic Martyr of Cairo” is a professor whose outlook on life is changed when he hears the testimony of a young Egyptian Christian who was wounded during a deadly protest in Cairo.
He paused and looked around the group, before resuming. “I assume you did some reading on modern Egyptian history before coming out here, so you’ll know that the demonstrators actually succeeded in getting rid of President Mubarak. But that left the military in control, at least until elections could be held, and the military in this country is not necessarily a friend of the church. Anyway, late in 2011 a large group of Christians held a demonstration to protest against the burning of a church and of some homes and some businesses that were owned by Christians. Marco was one of the organizers. Well, the military turned up, ostensibly to ensure that things didn’t get out of control. But instead of maintaining order, which is what they were there for, some of the soldiers started opening fire on the young demonstrators. And then they began driving military vehicles straight at them as well. Marco was lucky. He only got shot in the leg. He’ll be limping for the rest of his life.”
He paused, and turned to watch as several cars suddenly arrived and stopped, right in front of them. The occupants hurried into the church.
“But about two dozen of the young people were killed,” Rafa continued. “Some from the bullets, others mangled quite dreadfully by the armored vehicles. And hundreds were injured. And while all this was occurring, an Egyptian state television program was broadcasting an appeal for people to rush to the defense of honorable soldiers who were being attacked by mobs of armed Christians. Some news reports said falsely that Christians had killed at least three soldiers. One television channel interviewed a soldier who called the Christians ‘sons of dogs.’ And quite a few news outlets reported the lie that America was planning to send troops to assist the Christians. Marco told me that it was at this point that he knew the future of Egypt was grim. Mubarak had been a greedy and unscrupulous dictator who had driven the Egyptian economy into the ground. But at least he had maintained a certain degree of control. Christians faced huge discrimination, and there were often incidents against them, but generally they could rely on the authorities to protect them. Not any longer. With Mubarak gone even the soldiers were showing their true feelings.”
Now an Egyptian court has sentenced two of the Christian protestors to three years in prison, on a charge of stealing a machine gun from a soldier during the incident.
The Coptic Solidarity website notes that none of the military leaders of the units responsible for the more than two dozen deaths has been brought to trial.
Egypt’s Daily News newspaper comments acerbically:
The Maspero Massacre took place after a predominantly Christian peaceful march from Shubra to Maspero, the state-run Egyptian Radio and Television Union. No top-ranking military officials were held responsible for the massacre, and, to date, only three soldiers have been convicted. The families of the dead feel that they have still not seen justice.