Fear ripped through Egypt’s Coptic Christian community once more, on April 9, 2017, as two deadly bombings targeted churches in Tanta and Alexandria on Palm Sunday. As of this writing, over 100 people have been injured and the death toll has risen to forty-nine, in what The New York Times has called “one of the deadliest day of violence against Christians in Egypt in decades.”
President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi responded to the bombings, which ISIS has claimed responsibility for, by declaring a three-month state of emergency.
After a bomb exploded in the Coptic cathedral complex in Cairo on December 11, 2016, killing twenty-five people, independent journalist and writer Wael Eskandar warned against the institution of such an emergency state. His article resonates even louder today:
This harrowing attack must not be examined in isolation merely as a breach in security. It is not only a result of careful planning by extremists, and a colossal failure by the Egyptian security apparatus. It is the result of long term policies.
Throughout Egypt’s recent history, there exists an entire culture of promoting the inferior Copt. Whether it’s through sectarian incidents whose perpetrators are mostly unpunished, through state policies or prevalent rhetoric, Copts are asked to isolate themselves and resign themselves to being the weaker party. The direct attacks on Copts are viewed by some as an attack on national unity rather than directed against Copts, which entrenches us further into a narrative of denial.
Copts don’t enjoy equal rights despite the ever appealing rhetoric Sisi exported to the west that he is there to protect minorities.
The Egyptian state has provided Daesh with all the ammunition it needs to target Egypt: angry youth. Egypt’s oppressive climate and cutting down on freedoms has encouraged radicalization to be a more prevalent option instead of peaceful opposition. Together with the incompetence of security forces and the growing contempt for the Egyptian state, it may prove very difficult to protect various sites from suicide bombers.
Explosions like these are terrifying, not just because they kill innocent people but because they embolden extremists and serve as a pretext for the security state to infringe on even more innocent people’s rights.
Some media outlets have called for the reinstatement of the emergency law and harsher punishment for terrorists. But one has to wonder what effect that would have in a country whose security apparatus is already acting with impunity, threatening, arresting, torturing and killing victims who have no recourse.
What effect will such measures have when people are tried in military courts notorious for lack of fair trials, or even civilian courts which help imprison indiscriminately? How would stricter laws be beneficial when laws are enforced selectively to serve political agendas rather than justice? The answer is not harsher security, yet it’s the only answer we are always given.
Read the full story on OpenDemocracy here.