Mondays papers: Rebuilding churches and reconciliation, referendum on Saturday

The main headline in Egyptian flagship daily Al-Ahram concerns the army rebuilding the Church of Two Martyrs (Shahedein) in Atfeeh, Helwan, south of Cairo, which was burnt down this month by a Muslim mob furious about an alleged love affair between a Muslim woman and Coptic man.

A large photograph shows army soldiers carrying cement bags with the caption "Armed forces rebuilding the church of Sol." Egypt’s Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), which has been ruling Egypt since former President Hosni Mubarak was ousted on 11 February, has decided to build the church from its own budget.

The case triggered fear within the Coptic Christian minority and spurred hundreds to conduct a sit-in in front of the Egyptian Television building demanding that the church be rebuilt and calling for Egypt's new military rulers to run an investigation into the violence against Copts in Atfeeh.

It also sparked clashes between Muslims and Copts in the poor working class district of Moqattam. Thirteen people were killed in the worst sectarian clashes since the January 25 uprising started.

State-run Al-Gomhorriya says a "reconciliation statement" between Muslims and Copts in the village of Sol, consisting of eight points, was read publicly by prominent Salafi Sheikh Mohamed Hassan. A rejection of political blackmailing, a rejection of international pressures, and the return of Copts were the main points in the statement, but no apology has been made for setting fire to the church and forcing Coptic families to leave their homes.

Privately-owned Al-Dostour writes that the sit-in ended after a meeting on Sunday between Deputy Prime Minister Yehia al-Gamal and the young Coptic activists who staged the sit-in.

The paper quote activist Rami Kamel as saying, “The prime minister promised to rebuild the Maghagha and Al-Adawy (both in the Upper Egyptian government of Minya) churches,” and that al-Gamal also promised to rebuild the Virgin Mary and Bishop Ibram churches in Ezbet al-Nakhl in Cairo.

As for the upcoming constitutional amendments referendum, privately-owned Al-Shorouk quotes a judicial source as saying that the Supreme Council for the Armed Forces is sticking to the 19 March date, having dismissed calls to postpone it.

According to state-run Al-Akhbar, the military warned against impeding the referendum, saying anyone attempting to do so will be punished under the newly-created law against "thuggery." It warned against marches, rallies and sit-ins on the day of the referendum, so as to provide the right climate for it to be held in a democratic manner.

The proposed changes will limit a president's rule to two terms of four years. They will ease restrictions on presidential candidates and stipulate that once elected, the next president will call on parliament to draft a new constitution.

The Muslim Brotherhood and the former ruling National Democratic Party (NDP) support the amendments, while almost all other political factions have rejected them and called for a new constitution.

Opposition leader Mohamed ElBaradei said Egypt needs a constitutional assembly to write up a new democratic constitution. "If we adopt these amendments, it would mean holding legislative polls within two months, and 80 percent of Egyptians, or the silent majority, won't have the chance to participate in a real parliamentary election," he said.

In other news, Al-Ahram covers investigations into those responsible for the bloodshed of 2 February, when Mubarak loyalists on camels and horses attacked people in Tahrir Square, killing at least 19 anti-Mubarak protesters and injuring scores.

The incident was seen as a crucial moment in the 18-day uprising against the former president, with unprecedented global condemnation of the regime.

Al-Ahram, writing that the government has established a "national fact-finding committee," seems convinced that Abdel Nasser al-Gabry, a member of Mubarak's NDP, was responsible for the violence.

The paper also reports that the persecution office has issued an arrest warrant against another NDP member, Youssef Khattab, who is in hiding.

In other news, the liberal daily Al-Wafd features a story on Aboud El Zomor's first night outside prison in three decades. On Friday Egypt's military rulers ordered the release of Aboud and his cousin, Tarek El Zomor, who were jailed over the 1981 assassination of president Anwar Sadat.

Aboud, at the time a senior military intelligence officer, was due to be released in 2006, while Tarek was meant to be released in 2003, but both were kept behind bars. Former Interior Minister Habib al-Adly used discretionary powers at his disposal under the Emergency Law to overrule several judicial release orders.

The two were among 69 political prisoners freed on the orders of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, which took power in Egypt after president Hosni Mubarak was forced to step down by the popular uprising that began on 25 January.

The paper reports that El Zomor expressed deep anger over the alleged wealth of Mubarak, arguing that those billions would be enough to solve all of Egypt's problems and pay off its heavy debts.

Last month, British newspaper The Guardian reported that his wealth could be as high as US$70 billion. However, a legal representative for Mubarak denied media reports that he amassed enormous wealth in office.

Al-Wafd also quotes El Zomor as saying that he may establish a political party that he would lead as a presidential candidate. He slammed the infamous State Security Investigations Service (SSIS) which he described as "rotten" and "corrupt," revealing that it tried to make a deal with him for his release, under the condition that he attack the Muslim Brotherhood.

Egypt's papers:

Al-Ahram: Daily, state-run, largest distribution in Egypt

Al-Akhbar: Daily, state-run, second to Al-Ahram in institutional size

Al-Gomhorriya: Daily, state-run

Rose al-Youssef: Daily, state-run, close to the National Democratic Party's Policies Secretariat

Al-Dostour: Daily, privately owned

Al-Shorouk: Daily, privately owned

Al-Wafd: Daily, published by the liberal Wafd Party

Al-Arabi: Weekly, published by the Arab Nasserist party

Youm7: Weekly, privately owned

Sawt al-Umma: Weekly, privately owned

Related Articles

Back to top button