Villagers reject Baha’i neighbours

Villagers in Awalad Yehia (Upper Egypt) are refusing to accept members of the Baha’i faith as their neighbours, Gulf News reports.

The Baha’is in question were made homeless by torrential rain and the government is seeking to rehouse them. "Resettling the Bahais in our village will be on our bodies," one angry Muslim is quoted as saying.

Sectarian conflicts in Egypt are increasing, in both frequency and geographical scope, according to a recent report (in Arabic) by the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights. As in most Arab countries, the Egyptian government responds to sectarian conflicts when they happen, rather than trying to anticipate and prevent them.

An article in Al-Masry Al-Youm newspaper said:

The [EIPR] report lays partial responsibility at the feet of Egypt’s security agencies. Police often respond to sectarian clashes with short-sighted and often brutal tactics that don’t address the sources of the conflict. 

According to the EIPR, the government arbitrarily arrests people on both sides, not necessarily related to the incident, and literally holds them hostage until both parties involved in the conflict agree to sign reconciliation. 

“The failure of the state to stand for the rights of the victims is to us an integral element of the recurrence of sectarian incidents," [Hossam Bahgat, director of EIPR] said. “All the solutions the state comes up with are aiming at quieting the violence momentarily."

Posted by Brian Whitaker, 27 August 2009.