A brave voice
It was brave of Georgette Qillini to challenge the worn-out practices of the National Democratic Party (NDP) during the debate on Nagaa Hammadi. Despite attempts by the NDP majority to shut her up, Qillini held her ground, proving to us all that there are women in public work who are still willing to stand up and be counted.
The flawed practices of the NDP often turn the parliamentary process into an exercise in dictatorship of the majority. But deputy Qillini didn’t kowtow to these practices. Herself a member of the NDP, she refused to lie to herself and the people. Having visited Nagaa Hammadi with a rights group after the massacre, Qillini concluded that what took place there was a sectarian crime of the first order. It is a crime that has been covered up by the security service and by the governor. Even the bishop joined in the charade at the end, out of fear or perhaps concern for his own people.
A horrible tragedy has thus turned into a word game. Were the Nagaa Hammadi murders a run- of-the-mill crime, or was it a sectarian crime? The aim of the word game was to rule out the possibility of sectarianism. In the end, we were all told that the crime had no sectarian motivation.
Those who claim that the crime had no sectarian motivation are yet to explain why six Copts were shot and killed as they left church during a major holiday. We are yet to be told of the real motivation of the crime. And there must be a hidden motivation, for the shooters turned out to be well-known thugs and hired hands rather than religious fanatics. This is what Qillini said inside and outside parliament. Meanwhile, the state was looking for loopholes to avert international outrage. And it was saved by the bell, the Haitian earthquake happening right on time.
The NDP bloc in the People’s Assembly tried to silence Qillini, and come the next elections it is doubtful if she would be on their candidate lists. Had she not been a member of the NDP parliamentary bloc, who knows what would have happened. Perhaps she would have been stopped outside and prevented from attending the parliamentary meeting. Muslim Brotherhood deputies have been harassed in the past.
The NDP wants us to go into denial about Nagaa Hammadi, but this would only make things worse. Instead of ending the sedition, we would let it foster. A curious reaction was that we gave to Italy when its foreign minister criticised our treatment of Copts. The Egyptian Foreign Ministry, getting defensive about Nagaa Hammadi, harangued the Italians for their alleged mistreatment of illegal immigrants landing on their shores. How do you compare the two cases?
Unless we face these problems bluntly and nip them in the bud they will remain, haunting us. It is no use for parliament to deny sectarian tensions. And it is no use for the media to go along. It is no use filling pages with sentimental remarks about aunt Matilda and sweet little Nazek and how we used to play together when we were children.
In the past few days, I read a quite a few magazines and newspapers and I was shocked at the extent of this absurd denial. Talk is cheap. It is our custom, unfortunately, to talk a lot more than we act. We keep citing the report Gamal Al-Oteifi wrote 20 years ago about sectarian troubles. In his report, Al-Oteifi specifically said we had to do something about the equal treatment of places of worship. We’re yet to do that. But we go on talking and talking.