The Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy (TIMEP) is pleased to announce its partnership with Eshhad, a project newly incubated within TIMEP that aggregates and collates alleged religious persecution and sectarian attacks in Egypt. Although Egypt’s Christians have been the predominant target of sectarian hostility, the country’s Bahá’í, Jewish, Shi’a, and Non-Religious citizens have also been subject to similar incidents of discrimination. Eshhad features the development and maintenance of a database that collects publicly available information and a map that geo-references the recorded incidents. In addition to the Eshhad Database and Eshhad Map, Eshhad will provide a variety of resources, including minority group background profiles and analytical commentary. Sectarianism is a complex issue, and with increasing political and social changes the need to track the problem is of growing importance. Although currently focused on minorities in Egypt, future phases of the project may include other countries in the Middle East and North Africa.
Since August 2013, Eshhad has documented close to 300 sectarian incidents—events that have victimized homes, houses of worship, stores, schools, and individuals in Egypt. Eshhad serves as a platform that provides researchers, policymakers, and journalists with data that is crucial to addressing issues of security, rule of law, and basic freedoms of religion and thought. The project provides a backdrop to understanding Egypt’s simultaneous pursuit of freedom and security within the greater context of democratic transition.
Eshhad is critical to TIMEP’s mission in supporting voices in the Middle East that call for the essential components of a democratic system. TIMEP strongly believes that freedom and security are not mutually exclusive but are best pursued simultaneously. Documenting incidents of alleged sectarian violence aimed at Egypt’s religious minorities serves both of these purposes, first by exposing infringements on the right to religious freedom as guaranteed by Articles 53 and 64 of the 2014 Egyptian Constitution, and by highlighting security concerns for religious minorities. While not every incident documented by Eshhad is driven or motivated solely by sectarian intent, each incident contributes to a context in which religiously motivated violence and persecution thrives.
Although sectarian conflict and violence are not new phenomena in Egypt, it has become increasingly difficult to accurately document them. Eshhad is a product of what appears to be unprecedented levels of violence following both the January 25 Revolution and the ouster of former President Muhammad Morsi. The project was launched with the aim of filling an information gap and providing a clearer picture of religious discrimination and violence in Egypt.
Eshhad joins the ranks of other TIMEP projects such as Egypt Security Watch and the Legislation Tracker, which follow a similarly systematic approach of documentation, tracking, and trend analysis, addressing the need for both qualitative and quantitative understanding of the region’s ongoing events. Founded by Amira Mikhail and Mai El-Sadany in August 2013, Eshhad will continue under Mikhail as principal investigator with the help of El-Sadany and the remainder of the TIMEP team.
For more information on Eshhad’s history and vision, please refer to the Project Introduction. For further information on the database, map, and research methodology, please visit Eshhad’s website at http://eshhad.timep.org/.
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.