Egypt goes all ‘Game of Thrones’ on an innocent seventy year old woman

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Actress Lena Headey in a still from Game Of Thrones

Game of Thrones is set in a make believe medieval world where violence, rape and brutality are common place. In one famous scene the young king’s mother is forced to do a naked walk of shame by the head of the church who has seized power from the crown. In an unbelievable parallel in 2016 an elderly woman has been forced to do a naked walk of shame because of the alleged actions of her son.

A grandmother was stripped naked and paraded around her village in Upper Egypt after rumours spread that her son, a Christian man, had an affair with a married Muslim woman.

Seven homes of Christians were torched by a Muslim mob after the accusations against the son of Soad Thabet, 70, sparked the latest sectarian strife in Egypt.

Nagwa Ragab, the Muslim housewife at the centre of the dispute, has denied being involved with Thabet’s son in the small village of al-Karm in Minya, a poor province around 300 kilometres south of Cairo and home to the largest Christian community in Egypt.

Christians, most of them from the Coptic Orthodox church, make up around 12 per cent of Egypt’s population of 90 million.

Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, who became president through a military coup in 2014, has often avoided referring to such incidents, preferring to stress the importance of harmony between communities.
But the Soad Thabet case has drawn such attention that he felt compelled to address it in a nationally televised speech, saying: “Anyone who wronged, no matter how many they are, must be held accountable. I hope that this Egyptian woman is not too incensed, neither she nor the rest of Egyptian women, for what happened.”

He hopes she is not too incensed?

Walk of Shame from Game of Thrones season finale. (Photo: HBO)

Walk of Shame from Game of Thrones season finale. (Photo: HBO)

Copts have complained that in most cases of sectarian violence, Muslim perpetrators are released with the authorities’ assent after “reconciliation sessions” where all parties agree to a communal cessation of hostilities. These informal sessions take place outside the purview of the law but are backed by religious and state institutions.

Functioning as parallel judiciaries, in a country where the judiciary is accused of being corrupt and highly bureaucratic, such sessions between Christians and Muslims under the supervision of local priests and imams overwhelmingly find in the favour of the perpetrators.

A report published last year by the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights even found some sessions were convened in police stations by the security apparatus, in the hope of defusing further sectarian tensions.

Bishop Macarious, the highest-ranking Coptic cleric in Minya, who went public with the incident on May 25, told Fairfax Media that “sadly, some state institutions condone such oppressive acts”.

There have been over 230 sectarian incidents since Sisi took power, indicating larger failures to address long-standing grievances.

These include not being able to build or renovate churches without permission from the head of state, adequate representation in leadership positions in public life such as in universities where Copts are consistently overlooked and not being the target of sectarian strife.
In the wake of former president Mohamed Morsi’s overthrow, 37 churches were torched as well as several businesses and homes, leaving four Copts dead.

Yet Bishop Macarious was shocked by what happened to Soad Thabet: “I have never seen or heard of such an incident in all my life. I have met Soad several times and all what she wants is for the perpetrators to be held accountable”.

“We want the law to be enforced without reconciliation sessions. This woman has been aggrieved and so has the whole of Egypt,” Bishop Makarios added.

Mariz Tadros, a Sussex University researcher who recently authored a book about gender and religion in Egypt, explained to Fairfax Media: “The highest incidents of sectarian violence have been in Minya. This has been the case prior to and after the [2011] revolution.

“There’s a direct correlation between the high presence of Islamist movements, high levels of laxity by the security apparatus [and] high levels of poverty that contribute to the sectarian assaults”.

This week seven new suspects have been named in Thabet’s case, bringing the total up to thirty-one defendants.

Yet Tadros is sceptical that rule of law will be upheld this case, following a trend of other cases in the highly inflamed province, because “the security apparatus pressures those who have no political clout to succumb to unjust outcomes”.

Bishop Macarious insists that the church will not settle using reconciliation sessions and maintains that Thabet is defiant in her stance.

“She is now outside of al-Minya. She’ s strong in her rare courage to give testimony about what happened to her,” the bishop said.

– Sydney Morning Herald


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