October 12, 2011
Sunday night’s bloodshed is further evidence that, even if the army was the agent of violence, anti-Copt sentiment is widespread. The Sunday march was preceded by a smaller demonstration last week when Copts protested an attack on a church in Edfu, almost 500 miles south of the Egyptian capital, and demanded that the Muslim gangs responsible for the destruction of the church be brought to justice. The army and security forces beat Copt protesters when they marched last week, too, as this video shows. Perhaps what’s most noteworthy in this clip is that after the first few blows the officer in charge, in a red beret, seems to be trying to stop his troops from striking further. At one point the officer even hits one of the soldiers. This suggests that while Egypt’s ruling body, the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, is intent on keeping the streets quiet and free of Copt activists, it is unlikely they ordered the army to kill civilians. Rather, it seems that individual soldiers acted on their own.
“There’s this idea that Egypt’s army is a professional force,” says Samuel Tadros, a research fellow at the Hudson Institute’s Center for Religious Freedom, and a senior partner at the Cairo-based Egyptian Union of Liberal Youth. “This is a mistake.”
The Copts’ future is grim — but so is the rest of Egypt’s.