Coptic Christian Woman and 6-Year-Old Son Murdered

Coptic Christian Woman and 6-Year-Old Son Murdered

On April 03, 2021, a Coptic Christian woman and her 6-year-old son were murdered by a tok-tok driver. The victim, Maryam Sa’ad, also had a 4-year-old daughter who escaped. The crime occurred in Minya Governorate and the name of the murderer is Abu Muhammad al-Harami.

Egyptian state-run media has warned society not to conclude that this incident is because of Maryam’s Coptic Christian identity, and that it was a robbery attempt which escalated into murder. However, the Egyptian authorities have an established record of silencing Christians and forcing them to not speak about the religious freedom components of their experiences.

It is worth noting that this incident occurred nearly a month after another Christian was murdered in the streets. In that incident, a Minya policeman stabbed and murdered Adel Lofti, who visited him to collect money loaned to him through Lofti’s organization.

Regarding these two crimes, a Christian human rights activist shared, “The real motive in the two crimes is the vulnerability of the victim, and the reassurance of not being punished, or at the most an understatement. Vulnerability may be the result of a difference in religion, the fact that the victim is a woman, poverty, or a combination of them. In this type of crime, religious discourse on the rights of Copts and women or courtesy meetings and denial of the reality alone cannot be the solution.”

In both cases, the motive of the perpetrator is unclear and will likely remain clouded. Independent investigations are not possible in the context of Egypt, whose constitution enshrines Islam as the basis for its legal system. However, the shared vulnerability of the victims is a clear indicator that something serious is amiss within Egypt.

Christian women and children in Egypt are particularly vulnerable. Media regularly stigmatizes women who do not wear a veil, making inflammatory comments such as “(a woman is) better than the one who is not veiled 100 thousand times” and that there is a “devil”  in unveiled women. Since Christian women dress differently, they are easily identifiable in society.

As one Christian journalist woman published, “To be a woman in a country where most of her people see women as a disgrace, and at best look at her from a sexual point of view, it is a heavy burden, but even worse when you are a Christian woman. It is hell! To be a Coptic woman, you are under many grievances by society and church alike. Coptic women in Egypt face two dilemmas: gender as a female and religion as Christians.”

Egypt’s human rights record has greatly worsened over recent years. Whereas during the early 2010s terrorists such as ISIS were the main perpetrators of Christian persecution, today the main perpetrator is the government. Dissent is silenced, human rights activism is suppressed, and truth about violations is clouded.

Claire Evans, ICC’s Regional Manager for the Middle East, said, “We are very concerned with these recent murders and the early attempts made by the authorities to control the narrative of how this case is discussed. We must remember the vulnerability of the victims. A woman, a mother, and a Christian. A 6-year-old. We are grateful that her 4-year-old daughter escaped, but we must remember that these are scars for life. In Egyptian society, this is representative of one of the most vulnerable components. This needs to be acknowledged by the authorities rather than suppressed if there is going to be any hope for positive social change that views Christian women and children as equal members.”