n Africa Conflict Monthly Monitor - What to make of increasing sectarian violence in North Africa - : North Africa - issue in focus

Volume 2013, Issue 05
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An Egyptian delegation sent to Libya by Egyptian Prosecutor General, Tala'at Abdallah, met with Christian Coptic representatives on 20 March 2013 to discuss the fate of Egyptians imprisoned in Libya. The Egyptians are being held on charges of proselytising, due to their attempts to convert Libyans to Christianity. Although Libyan officials maintain that the Egyptians are being held under humane conditions and being treated well by their captors, some human rights activists in Egypt have alleged that Copts are in fact being detained unjustly and tortured by Libyan security forces. The accusations of torture come in the midst of what is perceived as continuing and worsening pressure on Egypt's Coptic community by the global media.

According to many Egyptians, Christians have felt increasingly at risk following the fall of long-time authoritarian leaders such as Muammar Gaddafi and Hosni Mubarak in 2011. Egypt's Arab Spring revolution, which led to the presidency of Mohammed Morsi and a Muslim Brotherhood-dominated parliament, has fostered the rise of Islamist extremist groups known as Salafists, many of whom have violently targeted Egypt's minority groups, including Egypt's Copts. Numbering close to 10 million people, Coptic Christians make up Egypt's largest religious minority, and as much as 10% of the national population. Unfortunately, Egypt's new constitution has legitimised the marginalisation of many of the country's minorities, effectively denying them legal protection in the face of increasing attacks. Cases of ethnically-fuelled abuse are spreading amidst an aura of impunity whereby violent radical groups are seemingly free to attack minorities.

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