On August 18, 2009 in Washington DC, Egyptian Christian Copts and their supporters protested on Pennsylvania Avenue and 17th Street near the White House as President Barack Obama met with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. Protesters included Egyptian Coptic leaders representing the Coptic American organizations around the country. Responsible for Equality And Liberty’s Jeffrey Imm and other human rights supporters also joined this protest. The August 18 protest near the White House followed an August 17, 2009 press conference by Coptic leaders at the National Press Club in Washington, DC.
During the protest, Coptic leaders called for President Obama to demand that Egyptian President Mubarak recognize the human rights and dignity of Egyptian Coptic Christians who are oppressed in Egyptian. Speakers pointed out the ongoing oppression of Egyptian Copts, who are treated as second-class citizens, how Egyptian Copts are pressured into accepting “Islam by force,” and how Egyptian Coptic girls are kidnapped and raped. Coptic leaders called upon Americans to contact President Obama and to contact their Congressional representatives and demand support for the human rights and freedom of religion of Christians Copts oppressed in Egypt.
Due to construction in front of the White House, the Coptic protesters gathered nearby at 17th and Pennsylvania Avenue marching in the nearby area and standing on street corners to protest the continuing oppression of the Copts, which has mostly been ignored by the American news media.
Protesters included people of all ages chanting and marching together for the human rights for the Copts, including a number of girls, boys, and small children who bravely held signs and stood responsible for Copts inalienable human rights.
Protesters chanted for freedom, equality, and justice for the Christians in Egypt, stating that “Christian blood is not cheap,” demanding an end to kidnapping and raping of Christian girls, and calling for equality for Christians in Egypt as citizens.
The Coptic protesters passed out the following flier:
“An Urgent Message to President Obama:
“Under President Mubarak The Copts, The First Egyptians, Are Treated As Last and Least”
“20 Attacks on Copts took place since Mr. Obama’s June 4th speech in Cairo”
“Mr. Mubarak is on a visit to the USA. At the top of his agenda is promoting peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians. We wholeheartedly support his noble mission. However, we wish to remind him that charity starts at home: The Coptic minority in his country badly needs equality, justice, and peace.”
“The Copts are the indigenous inhabitants of Egypt. Their roots entrench as far back as the country’s recorded history. Their number, according to church sources, is approximately 12 millions; about 15% of Egypt’s population. However, discrimination against them is systemic and systematic.”
– “They are deliberately excluded and marginalized. There is one Copt among the 444 elected paramilitary representatives. They are kept below a 2% cap in posts of all State organisms (judiciary, military, police, local governance, diplomatic missions, universities, etc.). Many posts are off-limits altogether.”
– “Freedom of belief is strictly a one-way street, favoring Islam. A presidential decree is required to build any church and more than 100 applications to build new churches await President Mubarak’s decision. Coptic children are indoctrinated in Islam in the Arabic language curricula, obligatory in all schools. State-owned media promote Islam and often disparage Christianity and Judaism as ‘falsified’ religions. Young Coptic girls legally under-age, are lured to leave their families, convert to Islam and marry Muslim men. Muslims, who dare embrace Christianity, are denied recognition by the State (for ‘apostasy from the final and most complete belief’) and treated cruelly by the authorities.”
– “Under Mr. Mubarak’s watch, there have been over 200 documented major attacks on the Copts that resulted in loss of lives, injuries, and destruction of churches and property. Complacent authorities often blame the victims and blackmail them to drop their complaints. Attacks have increased in frequency and severity, as perpetrators enjoy impunity and are never punished: in fact, since President Obama’s June 4th groundbreaking speech in Cairo, at least twenty major attacks took place – including burning one church and the closure of four prayer houses.”
“The list of greivances is long. The bottom line is that one fifth of the Copts have fled Egypt to seek a normal life elsewhere. The remainder must be content with a second-class status. Islam being the the official state religion, and Shari’a (Islamic law) the primary source of legislation, no wonder that citizenship is viewed through a narrow Islamic prism.”
“The Annual Report of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom of May 2009, states: ‘Serious problems of discrimination, intolerance, and other human rights violations against members of religious minorities (…) remain widespread in Egypt. The government has not taken sufficient steps to halt the repression of and discrimination against religious believers, including indigenous Coptic Orthodox Christians, or, in many cases, to punish those responsible for violence or other severe violations of religious freedom.’ The Commission also recommends that ‘the U.S. government urge the Egyptian government to remove de facto responsibility for religious affairs from the state security services (…)’.”
“The Copts are not seeking special privileges or compensations for centuries of discrimination and persecution. They only demand internationally established human rights guarantees to live in their homeland as full-fledged citizens.”
“President Mubarak has, personally, a legal, political, and historical responsibility to act upon these flagrant wrongs.”
“We urge President Obama to raise this important issue with Mr. Mubarak.”