FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
August 16, 2013 | By USCIRF
USCIRF is deeply concerned by the violence against protestors and the targeting of churches in Egypt. The government's excessive use of force when breaking up protests, the high number of deaths, the return to a state of emergency, and the targeting of Christians by extremists are all profoundly troubling. USCIRF recognizes the grave issues at stake related to democracy, rule of law, and human rights in Egypt, and the Commission is particularly concerned about the immediate threats to religious minority communities.
"The level of violence against Coptic Christians, their property and businesses is unprecedented in modern Egypt, both in its scope and the number of churches and structures attacked,” said USCIRF Chairman Robert George. "This could portend even worse violence ahead if the situation is not brought under control. Assaulting religious minorities is not a legitimate form of protest against government action.”
Continued Chairman George, "Copts in particular, as well as other religious minorities, are among the most vulnerable to extremist reprisal violence. Thus far, churches have been attacked. But next could be indiscriminate violent acts targeting individuals and groups of Christians. USCIRF calls on the Egyptian government to immediately ensure the protection of places of worship and urges justice and accountability for perpetrators, both inside and outside of government. Impunity should not be allowed to prevail during such turbulent times.”
The Egyptian government confirmed that on August 14 more than 600 people were killed and thousands more injured after Egyptian security services dispersed a sit-in staged by former President Morsi's supporters. NGOs report that more than 50 Coptic Christian churches have been attacked across Egypt after the protest sites were cleared.
In USCIRF's 2013 Annual Report, the Commission recommended that Egypt be designated as a "country of particular concern” for particularly severe violations of religious freedom and that U.S. military aid be withheld until the Egyptian government has demonstrated it is implementing policies to protect freedom of religion and related human rights in Egypt. For more information, see the Annual Report's Egypt chapter, available here .
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