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Tuesday, October 4, 2011     FOR YOUR EYES ONLY

Christian exodus: Report says thousands
have left Egypt since Mubarak's ouster

CAIRO — Tens of thousands of Christians have fled Egypt since the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak.


The Egyptian Union of Human Rights Organizations said that nearly 100,000 Christians have emigrated since March. In a report sent to Egypt's military regime, the human rights association said Christians were fleeing a growing threat from powerful Islamist elements and could disappear as a community within a decade.

"Copts are not emigrating abroad voluntarily," EUHRO director Naguib Gabriel said. "They are coerced into that by threats and intimidation by hard line Salafists, and the lack of protection they are getting from the Egyptian regime."

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The report marked the first time that Christian emigration has been quantified since the ouster of Mubarak in February 2011, Middle East Newsline reported. Within weeks of Mubarak's fall, Islamists, described as followers of Al Qaida, began attacking Christian communities and churches.

Many of Egypt's Copts were said to have resettled in the United States in 2011. Copts have also chosen new homes in Australia, Austria, Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy and the Netherlands.

"Copts who are leaving their homeland are not motivated by their need for work, as they are from the professional and business class, but from fear of the hardline Salafists," Gabriel said.

The report warned that Coptic emigration would hurt Egypt's economy. Copts were said to play a major role in finance and light industry.

Over the last six months, Salafists aligned with the Muslim Brotherhood have attacked Coptic communities throughout Egypt. In one incident, Salafists prevented the new Christian governor of the Qena province from taking office. The military regime that replaced Mubarak did not intervene.

"Salafist clerics, who gained political influence after the Jan. 25 revolution, have become emboldened," Gabriel said.

Salafists have already called on Copts to pay the traditional tax reserved for non-Muslims. They have also warned that Christians would not be allowed to enjoy the rights of citizenship, including employment in senior government posts.

"If emigration of Christians, who constitute nearly 16 percent of the Egyptian population, continues at the present rate, it may reach 250,000 by the end of 2011," Gabriel said. "And within 10 years a third of the Coptic population of Egypt would be gone."

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