One Year After Sectarian Attacks on Baha’is in Shuraniya: No Accountability for Inciters or Assailants; No Justice for Displaced Baha’i Families
One year after the criminal attacks on Egyptian Baha’is in the village of Shuraniya in Sohag, the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR) expressed its disappointment at the Public Prosecutor’s failure to bring the assailants and those who incited the attacks to justice. For one full year, state authorities have yet to bring justice to the victims of the attacks or enable Baha’is forcibly removed from their homes to return.
“State officials consistently deny the prevalence of a climate of impunity that prevents the prosecution of perpetrators of sectarian violence, but the Shuraniya attacks expose that lie,” said Hossam Bahgat, the EIPR’s Executive Director. “What has the Public Prosecutor’s Office done to uphold the victims’ rights? What happened to the prosecutor’s investigations that were opened last April and still have led to nothing? When will those who burned down the homes of innocent Baha’is be brought to account?”
The four-day period from 28 to 31 March 2009 saw unprecedented violence against Egyptian Baha’is living in Shuraniya, located in the Maraagha district of Sohag. Five homes owned by Baha’i families were torched after assailants threw stones at them, broke in and looted some of their contents. The attackers threw Molotov cocktails at the houses as they chanted religious slogans. Although the police arrived during the attacks, they took no action to arrest the assailants and merely dispersed the crowd. As a result of the attacks, five Baha’i families were also made to leave the village, and the security authorities have not yet enabled them to return to their homes.
Six Egyptian human rights organizations, including the EIPR, filed a complaint with the Public Prosecutor’s Office on 2 April 2009, asking for an immediate investigation to identify those responsible for these criminal attacks. While the Public Prosecutor did open an investigation, over the past year it has failed to fulfill its responsibility of finding the criminals, bringing them to justice and compensating the victims.
Adel Ramadan, the EIPR’s Legal Officer, said, “Not bringing those responsible for sectarian violence to justice sends a very dangerous message to citizens. It gives a green light to engage in further crimes.” Ramadan added, “The failure to address violence against Copts in the early 1970s has led to the grave situation we face today. Will we allow a repetition of the same failed pattern with regard to Baha’is? Who will be next?”
The attacks on Baha’is began after the broadcast of an episode of “al-Haqiqa”, a political talk show, on the private channel Dream 2 on Saturday, 28 March 2009. The program examined the situation of Baha’is in Egypt and featured a Baha’i from Shuraniya, as well as Baha’i activist and university professor Dr. Basma Moussa. Gamal Abdel-Rahim, a journalist with the state-owned al-Gomhouriya and a member of the Journalists’ Syndicate board, also took part. During the program, Abdel-Rahim pointed to Dr. Moussa and said, “This one should be killed.” On 31 March, only hours before the torching of the Baha’i homes, Abdel-Rahim published an article in al-Gomhouriya praising the residents of Shuraniya for stoning the homes of Baha’is in the village in the preceding days. He considered these crimes to be evidence of Shuraniya residents’ “protectiveness of their religion and faith.” Although the Public Prosecutor opened an investigation of Abd al-Rahim on charges of incitement to murder, it has yet to announce any results or indictment.