Thursday, 21 April 2011

Egypt: Thousands demonstrate over appointment of Coptic governor in Qena

Thousands have been demonstrating on successive days about the appointment of a Coptic governor in Qena, south of Cairo. Protestors have blocked the main road and rail links between Cairo and Upper Egypt. The cabinet has called on the interior minister to intervene to restore order.

On 15 th April, the military-backed interim government appointed 20 new governors across Egypt to replace those who served under former president Hosni Mubarak. Among the new appointees was a former police general Emad Mikhail, who is a Copt . He replaces another Christian governor, Magdy Ayoub, who was regarded as ineffectual. Protesters have been chanting “We want a Muslim governor .”

The protestors have been led by radical Salafist Muslims who want a return to the ways of the past and have been bitterly opposed to the Coptic church. Qena, like other provinces, has a much higher proportion of Coptic Christians than the national mean of about 10 per cent.

Two Muslims were killed when a row over a speed bump in Minya province developed into a sectarian riot. A curfew has been imposed on the town of Abu Qorqas after a dispute between two families escalated into clashes between Muslims and Christians.

Britain's Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) has issued new travel advice after the disturbances in Qena. “ We advise against all but essential travel to the city of Qena. There have been protests - some violent - in the southern Egyptian city of Qena and its surroundings districts. Reports on 18th and 19th April suggest the protests are sectarian in character. Road and railway lines through the Province have been blocked by protesters. You should check with the local authorities or your tour operator before travelling through the Province of Qena and consider alternative routes when using road or rail networks.”

The FCO also retains its standard advice that there “is a high threat from terrorism in Egypt. Attacks could be indiscriminate, including in public places frequented by expatriates and foreign travellers, such as hotels and restaurants.”

For more news and expert analysis about Egypt, please see Egypt Politics & Security.

© 2011 Menas Associates

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