WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy (TIMEP) solemnly marks the three-year anniversary of Egypt’s Maspero massacre, in which more than two dozen demonstrators were brutally killed and at least 200 injured by the Egyptian military while peacefully protesting the government’s response to the destruction of a Christian church.
On October 9, 2011, thousands of mostly Christian protesters gathered in front of the state television building in Cairo to protest the government’s failure to adequately respond to the destruction of a Coptic Christian church by a mob in Aswan. According to witnesses, as protests continued into the evening, soldiers fired live ammunition at demonstrators and drove two armored military vehicles recklessly through the crowds, crushing at least ten people with the heavy vehicles.
Since the violent events of that day, only three soldiers have been convicted by a military court of involuntary manslaughter, despite the existence of videos that seem to show intentional, targeted attacks by the military against protesters. The three soldiers received sentences of between two and three years in prison. By contrast, 31 protesters were arrested and two have been sentenced to three years in prison for allegedly using violence against soldiers.
The lack of meaningful accountability for the Maspero attacks underscores the problem that protesters had attempted to highlight, which is that violence and discrimination against Copts often go unacknowledged and unpunished. As the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom has noted, sectarian attacks and incitement to violence against Christians are common in Egypt, “often without consequence or accountability,” and the failure of police to protect Copts or prosecute their attackers help only to “foster a climate of impunity.”
TIMEP calls upon the government of Egypt to initiate a full and impartial investigation into the events that took place three years ago, and to hold accountable all officials responsible for ordering or perpetrating the excessive use of force against civilians. The government must also uphold its constitutional obligation to protect the safety of its citizens and residents by meaningfully responding to violence against religious minorities and prosecuting crimes against them. It is equally important that the right to peacefully protest, guaranteed by Egypt’s constitution and under international law, be protected. In this regard, TIMEP renews its call for the repeal of Egypt’s controversial protest law and for the release and pardon of all those sentenced under it.
To learn more about the events that took place leading up to and following the Maspero massacre, please see TIMEP’s interactive timeline of events.
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The Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy (TIMEP) is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization dedicated to raising awareness of democratic transitions in the Middle East through analysis, advocacy, and action.