Anti-Coptic violence prompts Egyptian minister to resign

Hazem el- Beblawi, deputy prime minister and finance minister, tried to quit in protest of army crackdown in Cairo that left 25 dead.

By OREN KESSLER
October 12, 2011 06:51
2 minute read.
COPTS ATTEND a mass funeral in Cairo

COPTS ATTEND a mass funeral in Cairo R 311 . (photo credit: Mohamed Abd El-Ghany/Reuters)

A top Egyptian minister tried to to resign Tuesday in protest against an army crackdown two days earlier in Cairo that left at least 25 people dead, most of them Coptic Christians.

Sunday’s incident was Egypt’s bloodiest since president Hosni Mubarak was forced out of office in February.

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An aide said Hazem el- Beblawi, who serves as both deputy prime minister and finance minister, had quit after three months in office, but Beblawi later said the ruling military council had prevented his request.

“I did not withdraw my resignation. The higher [military] council rejected it... and I am now in a difficult situation... I am confused,” he told Reuters.

Al Jazeera television reported later Tuesday that Egypt’s entire cabinet had resigned, but authorities quickly dismissed those claims as baseless.

Samuel Tadros, a research fellow at the Hudson Institute, said Egypt’s Christians almost unanimously view their security as having deteriorated since Mubarak’s resignation.

“The lesson Copts have learned is perhaps the same one Jewish communities learned in the Middle Ages – it’s much better to have tyrants persecuting you than to deal with the mob,” Tadros, a Coptic Egyptian, told The Jerusalem Post by phone from Washington.

“In the case of a tyrant or king persecuting you, there are methods of dealing with him... with the mob there is not. That’s the lesson minorities have known for some time.”

Tadros said many Copts are thinking of emigrating from Egypt.

“Every Copt today is asking the question, ‘Do we have a future in this country or not?’” he said.

The exact circumstances of Sunday’s incident remain unclear. Authorities have arrested 28 people on suspicion of attacking soldiers and burning military vehicles, state media reported, but most Egyptians appear to believe the army quelled a peaceful demonstration with disproportionate and inexplicable violence.

“There was utter shock that the military took part in this attack,” he said. “This made the Copts feel their worst nightmare has been realized – that they’ve been left alone. This time, however, it wasn’t just the mob attacking them, but their own army.”

Khairi Abaza, an Egyptian analyst who is a senior fellow at the Washington-based Foundation for Defense of Democracies said the bloodshed should not be seen merely as a sectarian incident, but a manifestation of Egypt’s accumulated frustration with a popular revolution that has thus far failed to produce representative government, security or an improved economy.

“All political factions in Egypt are frustrated. Liberals are frustrated, socialists and communists are frustrated and even Islamists are frustrated – they’re afraid secular [parties] will create a system in which they are oppressed. The way the army has been ruling – with absolutely no power sharing with anyone else – has made everyone nervous,” he said.


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