An Egyptian Christian has been thrown out of his village after it was alleged that he had attacked a Muslim woman. The Coptic community has also been forced to pay the equivalent of nearly 3,000 US dollars to the woman’s family, though they say the allegations are baseless.
Awad Zaki, 55, a blacksmith from the village of El Dawwar in Beheira Governorate, northern Egypt, was owed money for work he had done for a Muslim man. After sending repeated reminders, on Wednesday evening (17 January) he went in person to the house of Mohammed Sobhi Abu Ahmed to collect the remaining money – equivalent to US$17.
A Coptic villager, Medhat Gamil, told World Watch Monitor that Awad “is a very good and honest man and he is loved by all the people in our village”.
However, Gamil said he saw a quarrel took place between the two men, during which the Copt was pulled into the other man’s house, with the help of his brother.
“They tried to hold him in one of the rooms, accusing him of trying to assault Mohammed’s wife, but Awad managed to escape,” Gamil said.
Sameh Mansour, one of Zaki’s relatives, said the allegations against his uncle “don’t make sense”.
“My uncle Awad is an old man and he could not do that,” he said. “Mohammed Sobhi and his family live in a family house. How could my uncle attack a woman in a family home with her children? This doesn’t make sense… He is a married and very religious man and has worked for years without doing anything immoral.”
Stones and bricks
The Copts say that after Zaki left the house, he was followed home by members of Ahmed’s family, who then attacked him and his family with sticks.
When police arrived, they arrested Zaki, his brother and nephew. Then at the police station, the Copts say their mobile phones were confiscated and they were beaten.
Then they say dozens of Muslim villagers gathered in Zaki’s neighbourhood and attacked the Copts’ homes.
“They threw stones and bricks, breaking the windows of three homes and destroying some of their contents,” according to Gamil. “They destroyed a glass shop and book shop owned by Copts, and injured five Copts, including one woman. Some of them threw petrol bombs on roofs of houses, trying to set them on fire, but the owners put them out.”
Gamil said the police later returned and were able to restore calm, but none of the attackers were arrested.
Instead a customary ‘reconciliation’ session was held last night (18 January) between Coptic and Muslim villagers, in the presence of the mayor of the village, Walid Mahmoud Bassiouni, several MPs, and representatives of senior families in the village.
In the end it was concluded that the Copts were to pay Ahmed the equivalent of just over US$ 2,800 in compensation and Awad Zaki must leave the village.
Copts have long complained about the ‘reconciliation sessions’ they are forced to take part in. In July 2016, Coptic Church authorities said they were tired of so-called ‘conciliation’ meetings because they felt they were often discriminated against.