Kristne Koptere lever stadig i Ægypten – endnu

Discrimination Against Copts:

A recent report entitled “Discrimination at Work in the Middle East and North Africa” by the International Labor Organization (ILO), said that “One of the most resilient forms of discrimination is the targeting of Copts in Egypt, who are denied equal access to education and equal opportunities in recruitment and promotion. Very few are appointed to key positions in the Government or are candidates for parliament. Enrolment of Copts in police academies and military schools is restricted, and very few are teachers and professors.”(1)

Quite unfortunately, rather than taking action to correct the situation, Egypt’s government has reacted defensively, categorically denying the existence of a problem that is otherwise apparent to all. Egypt’s minister of labour took upon herself to refute all the charges while attending personally the 96th session of ILO, held in Geneva as of May 30, 2007. She did not refrain from reverting to preposterous and irrelevant arguments such as that the Sawiris family figures on Forbes’ list of billionaires, etc.
According to news reports (Al-Ahram, June 24), Egypt’s Foreign Affairs Minister has even demanded (and apparently also received) a letter of apology from the ILO Director for “using unreliable sources, leading to the inclusion of erroneous and non-objective information regarding discrimination against Egypt’s Copts.”
It is not unusual for Egyptian officials to excel in denying the obvious and indulge in bullying international organizations that dare to point to Egypt where its policies and practices are clearly substandard in comparison with the accepted, and universal, Human Rights conventions.
On the other hand, it is not difficult at all to prove that the Egyptian government was “not telling the truth” to the ILO. We simply need to examine a number of reports published between June and August 2007 regarding the promotion and transfer of personnel in various public positions. Herebelow are some indicative examples (based, unless otherwise mentioned, upon reports by the government-owned daily Al-Ahram):
1- A list (published June 7) of recipients of science and technology prizes awarded by the state included 52 staff members of universities and public research centres. Only one Copt shared a prize with another colleague, at a dismal ratio that is consistent from year to year. Assuming that Copts are not less, or more, clever, than others and that the process of prize awarding is not “biased,” one could only conclude that the rare presence of Copts only reflects their rarity among the staff.
2- A list (June 14) of transfers, issued by the head the Administrative Prosecution (responsible for government employee discipline) included 86 members. Only one amongst the group was a Copt.
3- A presidential decree (June 18) named five new university presidents; all Muslims. A search of the official website of the Ministry of Higher Education shows that there are 17 public (state-owned) universities, composed of at least 257 faculties. There is not a single Copt among the 274 presidents and faculty deans of these institutions. This survey obviously does not include the publicly-financed Al-Azhar University, with over 400,000 students in 70 faculties, which is only open to Muslims, even though it offers secular studies in engineering, medicine, and commerce.
4- A list (June 21), of 63 newly appointed judges to the Court of Cassation, included only one Copt.
5- President Mubarak approved (July 18) the promotion of 1,334 members at various levels of the Administrative Prosecution – the “largest ever in the history of the organization.” There were between nine and 13 Copts among the 520 names published, at a ratio ranging between 1.7% and 2.5% at the most, with an arithmetic average of 2.1% as the most likely level.
6- A list (according to Watani, July 26) showed 425 graduate students nominated to be sent abroad at the government’s expense for higher studies. It only included one Copt.
7- The Minister of Interior approved (July 29) the promotion and transfer of 230 senior police officers. Only one Copt (at most two) was included, at a ratio below 1%. This ratio confirms the well-known ceiling imposed at the acceptance level to the police academy (as well as all the other military academies).
8- The Minister of Regional Development approved (August 8) transfers and promotions of 150 high officials in various governorates, cities, and towns. The partial list published did not include a single Copt. The ministry is challenged to correct our claim that the entire list is “free of any Copts.”
9- A list (August 10) of appointments and transfers of the judiciary, approved by the Supreme Judiciary Council, includes 1,447 judges and prosecutors at various levels. A review of the published names indicates that 24 are Copts, plus as many as 22 more whose names could not be clearly discerned. The ratio of Copts may hence range between 1.7% and 3.2%, with an average of about 2.4% as the most likely level.
10- The official website of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs was examined (during the third week of August). It appears that among 164 heads of diplomatic or consular missions abroad, there are only three Copts (in Greece, Philippine and Myanmar). Furthermore, to our knowledge, there has never been, over the past half a century, a Coptic ambassador in any of the major world capitals or at any international organization. (By way of comparison, the US permanent representative at the UN is Mr. Khalil Zalmayzadeh; a Sunni Muslim born in Afghanistan who had immigrated in his teens).
The above examples are statistically-representative samples that confirm beyond doubt that Copts (who – depending on the source – number between 10 to 15% of the total population) are consistently being kept within the limits of 2% in all public posts.
In this brief analysis we have used only easily verifiable data and restricted ourselves to one domain (public posts) without trying to examine the broader questions of discrimination in the areas of political participation, freedom of belief (including the construction of worship houses), family status laws or various societal and cultural discriminatory “practices,” implemented and/or endorsed by the government.
It is, hence, not at all an exaggeration to conclude that discrimination against Copts in Egypt is not only systematically applied; it may have become a pillar of the prevailing political system. But unlike South Africa’s defunct Apartheid regime (1948 – 1996) which never hid its ugly face, Egypt’s is a case of ultimate ingenuity in hypocrisy: Routinely practiced, while being adamantly denied!


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