Islamists have taken over a southern Egyptian city, vandalizing its Christian institutions and terrorizing its Coptic population, Christian Science Monitor newspaper said.
The newspaper added that immediately after Mohammed Morsi was forced to step down, attackers plundered Christian institutions, stealing ancient churches icons and electrical equipment and burning the buildings after they had finished.
Moreover, many Christians have also had their homes and small businesses attacked, set on fire and looted. One Christian who fired shots in the air from his roof meant to scare off gang members was reportedly dragged off and murdered.
In response, 40 families have fled the city since the violence started. Many of those who have remained have been forced to bribe Muslims to protect them from the violence. Coptic women, often the targets of Muslim verbal harassment, have stayed inside to avoid uncomfortable situations, though many men, fearing for their own safety, have joined them.
There is no precedent in recent history of this type of aggression towards Copts, Ishak Ibrahim, a researcher at the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, civil liberties group, told Bloomberg Businessweek.
“There is a faction that is against the state and its law enforcers and it’s taking revenge from the weaker groups, namely the Copts,” said Ibrahim. “Probably at no point in modern Egypt was there a similar wave when it comes to the number, scope and patterns of attacks.”
“There are no words that can describe the state of panic,” said Ibrahim. “You sit expecting that at any minute dozens of armed people could attack your home, possibly even kill you or drive you out.”
For all the violence, Christians have refused to respond violently.
“Even if we had firearms, we would be reluctant to use them,” said Yoannis. “We cannot take a life. Firing in the air may be our limit.”