Below is a video showing the burning of Baha'i homes in the village of Showranyiah in the province of Sohag in Upper Egypt (You can hear at the end of the video someone shouting for the person taking the video "el hokooma gaya" (The government [police] is coming):
The following is an account of the events surrounding the violence perpetrated against the Baha'is of Egypt and the burning of their homes in a southern village located in the province of Sohag. This information was related by a reliable source in Egypt:
This crisis began with a television program, named al-Haqiqah [The Truth], aired on Egypt's Dream-2 channel last Saturday, 28 March, from 7:30-8:30 PM, in which the extremist journalist, Gamal Abdel-Rahim, ferociously attacked the Baha'is, calling for their killing and for the killing of Dr. Basma Moussa who was also a participant in the same program. Another participant in this program was Mr. Ahmad El-Sayyid, an Egyptian Baha'i from the southern village of Showranyiah who indicated that there were many Baha'is living in his province of Sohag. The program was hosted by the well-known TV personality, Mr. Wael El-Ebrashy.
Shortly after the airing of this program on Saturday night, a mob went to the homes of the Baha'is in the village of Showraniyah, which is an island in the middle of the Nile consisting of two sub-villages named Nagh el-Kabir and Nagh el-Sa'aydah, in the southern province of Sohag. The mob began by shouting insults at the Baha'is, who were in their homes at the time, and chanted "No God but Allah" and "Baha'is are enemies of Allah," and began throwing bricks and rocks at these five homes.
Some of these Baha'is were able to contact the police and reported the attack. The police then interfered, dispersed the crowd, and took all the Baha'is to the police station and held them in protective custody until the police was able to negotiate with the mob and reach some sort of a truce. Subsequently, they released the Baha'is to return to their homes the next morning (Sunday) and provided police guards around the homes until Monday morning when the guards were pulled.
On Tuesday morning, 31 March, the journalist Gamal Abdel-Rahim wrote an inflammatory article, published in the government-owned al-Gomhoriyah [The Republic] newspaper, also posted on his blog, in which he stirred the emotions of the ignorant masses by slandering the Baha'is and calling for their killing. He also praised the villagers for their attacks on the Baha'is. That same day, when night fell, a mob attacked the homes of the Baha'is in Showraniyah (see video above), threw homemade Molotov cocktail bottles and fire bombs at the homes burning a total of 6 homes (according to the Egyptian media two homes did not belong to the Baha'is). They vandalized the homes and looted their property, some of which were electric appliances and other expensive items. Meanwhile, the Baha'i families and their children were desperate for a place to hide, some of whom were in the recesses of their homes and some were able to escape the fire and hide in alley corners in the dark.
In order to spread the fire, the mob cut-off the water supply to the homes and blocked access to the village so that fire trucks would be delayed in their response. Because the village is an island, fire trucks have to access the village by a ferry.
At last, the police interfered and arrested six villagers from the mob, and took the Baha'i families into protective custody again. They were able, then, to smuggle these families with their children and babies out of the village in the early dawn, Wednesday morning--only with their clothes on their backs--via the ferry and took them to several undisclosed distant locations in Egypt.
Today, 2 April 2009, six Egyptian Human Rights Organizations as well as Dr. Basma Moussa, the Egyptian Baha'i who was the target of death threats caused by Gamal Abdel-Rahim's calls for her murder, as well as several members of the Baha'i families from Sohag went to the offices of the State Council in Cairo. They met with Egypt's Attorney-General and filed formal complaints against Gamal Abdel-Rahim and the mob in the village of Showraniyah.
The Attorney-General referred Dr. Moussa's case to the Giza Attorney-General and referred the Baha'i villagers case to the Assyout (southern province) Attorney-General because it was felt that the Sohag office of the attorney might be biased against them. During that visit in Cairo, large crowds were present--many of whom were supportive--as well as riot police and security forces. Also present were several representatives from various media agencies, including al-Gazirah channel which has recorded interviews with those present. The media was not permitted to enter the building of the State Council [Maghlis al-Dawlah].
Several leading Egyptian newspapers have already reported on these events, some of which are linked to here (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6). International news agencies have also picked up the story (AP-1, AP-2 & AFP, Reuters, Deutsche Presse-Agentur).
P.S. All pictures in this post are from today's visit to the State Council.
Mohawar Channel, 48 Hours Program:
Today, six Egyptian human rights organizations, led by the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR) have issued a joint statement that expressed their disgust with these heinous acts against this innocent religious minority of Egypt, and have described their strategy in handling the situation. They are requesting the arrest and prosecution of the perpetrators of these acts as well as State-sponsored protective measures for the Baha'is. This is a very serious and strong statement (a must read), the statement was initially released today in Arabic, and was later translated to English. It is quoted below with permission:
Joint Press Release
2 April, 2009
Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights
Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies
Hisham Mubarak Law Center
El-Nadim Center for Rehabilitation of Victims of Violence
Arabic Network for Human Rights Information
Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression
Rights Groups Urge Prosecutions for Assault on Baha'i Egyptians
Six Egyptian human rights organizations today urged the Public Prosecutor to initiate an immediate investigation into assaults committed against Baha'i Egyptians over the past several days in the southern governorate of Sohag. In a complaint filed this morning, the groups called for the investigation to include those responsible for the direct incitement to the assaults and asked that the matter be referred urgently to criminal trial.
"The heinous and unprecedented attacks on Baha'i Egyptians are a crime against all Egyptians,“ the rights organizations said. “We shall never allow the perpetrators of these crimes to benefit from the same climate of impunity that has marred the government's response to sectarian violence against Egyptians Copts over the last four decades.”
Preliminary inquiries carried out by the rights groups found that the attacks began on Saturday evening, 28 March, in the village of al-Shuraniya, located in the Maragha district of Sohag, when dozens of village residents gathered outside of the homes of Baha'i citizens in the village and began chanting, “There is no god but God, Baha'is are the enemies of God.” Those assembled then began pelting the houses with rocks, breaking windows and attempting to break in. Although police forces arrived in the village after being called by the victims of the attack, the police simply dispersed the assembled parties without arresting anyone involved in the crime. Similar, though less intense, attacks occurred on 29 and 30 March.
On 31 March at approximately 7 pm, the attacks escalated when some residents of the village—known by the victims—threw improvised firebombs and Molotov cocktails at the homes of the five Baha'i families living in the village, leading to the partial destruction of the houses. The victims said that the assailants broke or disabled the water connections to their homes to prevent them from putting out the fires. According to the victims, the assailants also broke into the houses, vandalizing property inside and stealing some electrical appliances and livestock. There were no human injuries or losses. The attacks prompted some of the Baha'i families to flee their homes and hide in the fields until the following morning. The police arrived during the attacks and again dispersed the assailants; there was no information that any of the assailants had been arrested.
The next morning, 1 April, the police ordered the remaining Baha'is in the village to leave immediately and did not allow them to return to their homes to collect clothing, medicine, schoolbooks, money, or other necessities. Information gathered indicates that all Baha'is have left the village as of the evening of 1 April.
The assaults on the Baha'is in al-Shuraniya began after an episode of the program “al-Haqiqa,” aired on Dream 2 on 28 March, which discussed the situation of Baha'is in Egypt. The program featured a Baha'i from al-Shuraniya and Baha'i activist and dentistry professor Dr. Basma Gamal Musa. Also participating in the program was Gamal Abd al-Rahim, a journalist at the state-owned al-Gumhouriya newspaper and a member of the board of the Press Syndicate, who, during the program, said referring to Dr. Basma, “This one should be killed.” On 31 March, only hours before the homes of the Baha'is were torched in al-Shuraniya, al-Gomhouriya published an article by Gamal Abd al-Rahim in which he praised the residents of al-Shuraniya for stoning the homes of Baha'is in the village in the preceding days. He considered these crimes to be evidence of al-Shuraniya residents’ “protectiveness of their religion and beliefs.”
The six rights organizations demanded that the Public Prosecutor question Gamal Abd al-Rahim regarding his incitement to violence against Baha'is in both the television program and his published article, pursuant to Articles 171 and 172 of the Penal Code, which address public incitement to felonies and misdemeanors. Consistent with the organizations’ principled opposition to the imprisonment for publication offences, the groups' complaint excluded Article 98(f) of the Penal Code, which stipulates mandatory imprisonment for “anyone who exploits religion to promote extremist ideas with the intent of inciting civil strife and damaging national unity,” and Article 176 of the Penal Code, which also stipulates mandatory imprisonment for anyone who “incites to discrimination against a group of people on the basis of race, origin, language, religion, or belief when such incitement disrupts public peace.”
Moreover, the rights organizations called on the board of Egypt's national Press Syndicate to take immediate action against Gamal Abd al-Rahim, particularly since he occupies a seat on the board, regarding his violation of the Syndicate’s Code of Ethics, which states that journalists have an obligation “to refrain in their writings from joining racist or bigoted advocacy or advocacy that involves contempt or disdain of religions, aspersions cast on the faith of others, or incitement to discrimination against or contempt for any group of society.”
For further information, please call +20 10 628 8928.
All rights reserved © Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights