Hearing :: From Arab Spring to Coptic Winter: Sectarian Violence and the Struggle for Democratic Transition in Egypt


Commission on Security & Cooperation in Europe:  U.S. Helsinki Commission

From Arab Spring to Coptic Winter:  Sectarian Violence and the Struggle for 
Democratic Transition in Egypt

Michael Posner,
Assistant Secretary for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor,
Department of State

Dina Guirguis,
Egyptian American Rule of Law Association,

Samuel Tadros,
Research Fellow,
Center for Religious Freedom,  Hudson Institute

Michele Dunne,
Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East, Atlantic Council

The Hearing Was Held From 2:00 p.m. To 4:00 p.m. in 210 Cannon House Office 
Building, Washington, D.C., Representative Chris Smith (R-NJ), CSCE, Moderating 

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Transcript by
Federal News Service
Washington, D.C. 
REPRESENTATIVE CHRIS SMITH (R-NJ):  The commission will come to order.  And I 
apologize for the lateness in convening the hearing.  And I would ask our 
witnesses and our audience to have some forbearance.  

There are a series of votes on the floor of the House that will have members 
coming in and out.  But I want to assure our distinguished Assistant Secretary 
Michael Posner that all of us and those who are not here will read your 
testimony very carefully and are very grateful that you’re here to give 
testimony to us today.  

I want to welcome all of you to our second Helsinki Commission hearing on the 
volatile and dangerous situation facing Coptic Christians in Egypt following 
the Arab Spring.  And our hearing is entitled “From Arab Spring to Coptic 
Winter:  Sectarian Violence and the Struggle for Democratic Transition in 
Europe.”  The world watched with hope and anticipation, and for some of us, 
with trepidation as events unfolded in Tahrir Square earlier this year.  

This spring we saw Christians standing guard over Muslims during Friday prayers 
in the middle of the square.  We saw Muslims standing guard over Christians as 
they celebrated Mass in Tahrir.  

Sadly, much has changed since then.  While many of those who came together to 
forge the revolution want to continue that solidarity as they support Egypt’s 
political transition, there are many others – far too many others who do not.  

The transition period has been increasing in violence against Coptic 
Christians.  The current Egyptian government controlled by the Supreme Alliance 
Council of the armed forces has not adequately responded to this violence, has 
not protected vulnerable Coptic Christians and as we have seen on video, to our 
horror, has even committed acts of violence against Coptic protestors.  

On Sunday, October 9th, 27 people were killed and more than 300 injured in 
Maspero when Egyptian military attacked a peaceful group of Coptic Christians 
protesting the burning of a church in Aswan and demanding the removal of the 
governor of Aswan who had justified the mob’s destruction of the church. 

In this massacre in Maspero, witnesses saw the army firing on Coptic 
demonstrators with live ammunition and plow through the crowd with armored 
vehicles.  Soldiers raided and stopped the live broadcast of two independent 
news channels that had been covering the clashes.  

At the same time, state-run television and radio reported that the Coptic 
demonstrators had attacked the military and called for honorable citizens to 
defend the army against attack, inciting violence against the Coptic minority.  

Amid widespread domestic and international outrage over the events, the White 
House issued a statement on October 10th saying that, quote, “The president is 
deeply concerned about the violence in Egypt and that has led to a tragic loss 
of life.  Now is the time for restraint on all sides so that Egyptians can move 
forward together to forge a strong and united Egypt.”  

With all due respect, the president seems to have completely missed the point.  
This is not a situation of equal power and equal responsibility for violence.  
This was not a lawless gang clash on the street or a mob marauding the streets 
in the absence of a government. The Coptic community was protesting the fact 
that the Egyptian government in Aswan failed to protect Coptic property and 
allowed a mob to burn down the Coptic place of worship.  

When Copts called on the military government to treat the Copts as equal 
citizens and protect their rights, the government itself turned on them with a 
massacre.  The time has come to ask is this government going to be better than 
the Mubarak thug regime.  This same government is investigating itself for the 
incident and its assault on human rights continues.  

In fact, the military has arrested at least 28 people, mostly Copts, in 
connection with the clashes including prominent blogger Alaa Abd El Fattah.  
These individuals are being hauled before military prosecutors.  

To date, despite multiple videos and eyewitnesses’ accounts showing the 
military’s use of lethal violence against peaceful protestors, the Egyptian 
military has yet to take responsibility for its actions or otherwise 
demonstrate that it will protect all Egyptians, including the Coptic minority 
that make up more than 10 percent of its population.  

According to the press reports of last week, a member of a government-backed 
fact-finding committee said that the Egyptian army did not use live ammunition 
to disperse protestors during the October 9th incident.  

Yet, Hafez Abu Sayed Seada, a senior figure in the government-sponsored 
National Council for Human Rights, which set up the committee, also said that 
an independent investigation was needed to establish the full facts and that 
some state institutions, including the army, did not cooperate fully with the 

Rights activists including the Arab Network for Human Rights Information and 
Human Rights Watch have criticized the report for a lack of detail.  
Tragically, the massacre at Maspero is not an isolated incident but rather a 
continuation of the endemic discrimination against and the marginalization of 
Coptic Christians in Egypt.  

According to the 2010 State Department international religious freedom report 
for Egypt, and I quote, “The status of respect for religious freedom by the 
government remained poor, unchanged from the previous year.”

Christians and members of the Baha’i faith, which the government does not 
recognize, face personal and collective distinction, especially in government 
employment and their ability to build, renovate or repair places of worship.  

The government failed to prosecute perpetrators of violence against the Coptic 
Christians, according to the State Department report, and failed again to 
redress laws, particularly laws relating to church construction and renovation 
and government practices, especially government hiring that discriminates 
against Christians, especially allowing their discriminatory effects and their 
modeling effect on society to become further entrenched.  

The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom has noted that, and I 
quote, “In response to sectarian violence, Egyptian authorities typically 
conduct reconciliation sessions between Muslims and Christians as a means of 
resolving disputes.  In some cases, authorities compel victims to abandon their 
claims to legal remedy.  The failure to prosecute perpetrators fosters a 
climate of impunity,” close quote.  

A report by the Egyptian Initiative for Human Rights covering the period from 
January ’08 to January 2010 documented 53 incidents of sectarian violence, 
about two incidents per month that took place in 17 of Egypt’s 29 governorates. 
 Most of the attacks were by Muslims on Christians and Christian churches or 
property.  Egypt will not reach, I would submit, its democratic goals through 
the oppression of its minority peoples.  

Democracy does not come with an iron fist.  Rather, democracy springs from the 
belief that all people are created equal and have the right to participate in 
their own governance.  A legitimate government is of the people, by the people 
and for the people, including minorities.  A legitimate government submits to 
the rule of law.  

The Egyptians demonstrated their belief in the Tahrir Square but seem to be 
losing their way, spinning backwards into tyrannical abuses of power.  If there 
is any hope for a democratic and peaceful Egypt, the Copts must be allowed to 
contribute actively to Egyptian society and to the transformation of their 
country without fearing for their lives.  

I’d like to now introduce our very distinguished first witness, a man I’ve 
known for many years when he used to work for the committee for legal scholars 
– the lawyers rights committee – as well as for other human rights 
organizations in the past – Human Rights First.  And I’ll introduce him and I 
understand there is another vote.  It’s on.  

And I will have to report to the floor.  So we’ll be in brief recess and then 
Mr. Posner – Secretary Posner, we’ll ask you to present your testimony.  And I 
know some of the members will be back then.  But so maybe on that point I’ll 
just – we’ll be in recess for just a few minutes.  Sorry about that.  The 
commission will resume its hearing.  I’d like to yield to Commissioner Joe 
Pitts from Pennsylvania.  

REPRESENTATIVE JOSEPH PITTS (R-PA):  Thank you, Mr. Chairman.  And thank you 
for holding this important hearing.  It is important that we continue to stand 
by the people of Egypt as they seek a stable and transparent democracy where 
all Egyptian citizens are treated equally.  Recent trends in Egypt in terms of 
attacks against minorities are deeply disturbing.  

Reports indicate that on October 16, teenager Ayman Labib was in his Arabic 
class when the teacher told him to get rid of the cross tattooed on his wrist. 
When Ayman said it was a tattoo, the teacher asked the other students, quote, 
“What are we going to do about this,” end quote.  And he incited the students 
in the class to attack Ayman.  

Ayman tried to flee but ultimately the students, with the support of their 
teachers, murdered this young man.  Egyptian news media controlled by the 
military government, has tried to deny the sectarian foundation reasons of this 
brutal murder.  After the new antidiscrimination law put into place after 
October 9 when Egyptian security forces ran over Copts with bulldozers, will 
those teachers and adults and students be brought to justice for this brutal 

The October 9 attacks by the military against peaceful protestors do not bode 
well for the protection of fundamental rights for all Egyptians.  The Egyptian 
military must bring the perpetrators of these violent acts to justice through a 
transparent investigation which punishes those truly responsible for those 
heinous acts.  

I still have hope for a peaceful Egypt but that will only happen if those who 
care about the protection of all people are in power.  I look forward, Mr. 
Chairman, to hearing from our guests.  I look forward to hearing from 
administration officials about specific actions they have taken to uphold and 
protect the rights of minorities in Egypt.  With that, I yield back.

REP. SMITH:  Thank you very much, Commissioner Pitts.  I’d like to now 
introduce Michael Posner, who has served as assistant secretary of state for 
the bureau of democracy, human rights and labor since September of 2009.  

Prior to joining the State Department, Mr. Posner was the executive director 
and the president of Human Rights First, where he established himself as a 
leader in the defense of many critical human rights issues.  He holds a J.D. 
from the University of California at Berkeley and his full résumé will be made 
a part of the record without objection.  But I welcome Secretary Posner to our 
commission.  Please proceed.

MICHAEL POSNER:  Thank you, Mr. Chairman, for holding this hearing, for 
inviting me to testify.  We’ve worked together for many years and I’m always 
appreciative and admiring of your passion, your commitment, your determination, 
your unflagging energy to the cause of human rights.  So I appreciate your 
doing this today and I welcome, Congressman Pitts, your participation as well.  

As you know, this is a time of substantial transition in Egypt as Egyptians 
strive to move their country towards democracy.  It’s not an easy process and 
it’s not going to happen overnight.  Egypt is only starting on the path from 
parliamentary elections that will begin in a couple of weeks to the process of 
drafting a new constitution and ?nally to presidential elections. 

As part of this process, it’s vital that there be a place in the new Egypt for 
all citizens, all religious minorities, of which the Coptic Christian community 
is the largest. While the focus of this hearing and my testimony is on the 
situation of the Copts, I want to point out there are other religious 
minorities that also suffer official discrimination, groups like the Baha’i, 
groups in the Muslim community -  Shia, Ahmadiya, Quranist – as well as 
Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormons.

The Government continues to refuse to recognize conversions of Muslims to 
Christianity or other religions which constitutes a prohibition in practice.  I 
want to set this testimony in a broader context.  Last week, Secretary Clinton 
gave an important policy address in which, Congressman Pitts, she echoed 
something that you just said.  She said:  We support the aspirations of 
citizens to live in societies that guarantee freedom, including freedom of 
expression, assembly and religion.  We strongly believe in systems that allow 
citizens a say in how they’re governed and that they will – that they will be 
provided with economic opportunities.

These are the demands we heard in Tahrir Square where Copts and Muslims joined 
hands to protest and to pray.  We’ve heard similar demands echoing throughout 
the Middle East and elsewhere.  Secretary Clinton also spoke out consistently 
and has about the importance of religious freedom and religious tolerance both 
of which are fundamental human rights.  Religious freedom is guaranteed by 
international human rights law.  

I have a longer written statement which I ask be made part of the record.  But 
I just want to make three broad points about the Copts in Egypt.  The first is 
that they face discrimination for many years.  They face personal and 
collective discrimination especially in government employment, the ability to 
build, renovate and repair places of worship.  

Although they represent about 10 percent of the population, they play an 
important role in Egypt’s economy.  They’ve suffered widespread discrimination 
and remain underrepresented in prominent positions in Egyptian politics and 
society.  The headlines tell a disturbing story.  I was actually in Egypt in 
January 2010 when there was the horrendous attack on the Nag Hammadi Church in 
Upper Egypt.  

Gunmen shot and killed seven people and worshippers who were leaving midnight 
mass.  Yesterday actually the government official news agency announced that 
two of the suspects in that murder who had previously been acquitted are about 
to be retried on December 19th, which is a positive sign.  But the attacks and 
the violence has gone on.  

About a year after the Nag Hammadi attack, on January 1st of this year, a bomb 
exploded at the Coptic Orthodox Church of the Two Saints of Alexandria, killing 
23 people and wounding a hundred.  There are today no suspects in custody.  The 
second point is that the violent attacks that are historically there have 
actually in some ways increased numerically since February 11th, since the 
change of government.  

We’ve received reports of at least 67 people killed in religious clashes, most 
of them Coptic Christians.  This brings the total number of reported deaths 
this year to more than 90.  There have been at least six reported major attacks 
of violence against the Copts.  I list them all in my testimony but I just want 
to mention two.  

On September 30th, in the Merinab village in Aswan, an estimated crowd of 3,000 
Muslims looted and burned the St George Coptic Orthodox Church in addition to 
some Copt-owned homes and businesses.  The status of investigation in that case 
is unclear.  

And on October 9th, as you both have mentioned, in Cairo violence erupted in 
front of the Egyptian television building known as the Maspero as a 
demonstration by Copts protesting the government’s failure to investigate the 
burning of the church in Merinab.  At least 25 people were killed, more than 
300 injured.  

In these and other cases, we have made clear our deep concern about the 
violence against the Coptic community and the need for accountability.  On 
October 11th, Secretary Clinton called for an immediate, credible, transparent 
investigation of all those who were responsible for the Maspero violence with 
full due process of law.  

The White House issued a similar statement urging Egyptians to move forward to 
forge a strong and united Egypt, reaffirming our belief in religious 
minorities.  In raising our concerns, we are aware that the government of Egypt 
is doing some things and I want to point them out.  They have in fact initiated 
two investigations in response to the Maspero violence.  

The first is an Egyptian armed forces review of the conduct of the military 
police.  As you’ve indicated, the military police according to eyewitnesses and 
video evidence ran over and shot at demonstrators. Separately, military 
prosecutors are investigating about 30 demonstrators, including one prominent 
blogger, who were detained during the violence.  They’re accused of inciting 
violence and attacking security forces.  

During the height of the clashes – and this is something I want to emphasize as 
well – one of the state TV anchors called on honorable Egyptians to defend the 
army against attacks by violent demonstrators.  Twenty-one prominent Egyptian 
human rights organizations have criticized the official media for what they 
call their inflammatory role in actually provoking greater violence.  

The Coptic community is as concerned as we are about the severity and frequency 
of these attacks.  While they recognize, as we do, that these attacks are not 
necessarily not the product of government provocation, they’re greatly 
concerned, as we are, about the need to hold perpetrators accountable.  

I want to make clear that most of the clashes have involved both Copts and 
Muslims and members of both communities have been perpetrators as well as 
victims.  It’s also important to note that many Muslims have stood up to defend 
members of the Coptic community against extremist violence.  

I want to finish with two other things that the government’s now doing which is 
important for us to emphasize and reinforce.  One, the government has pledged 
to adopt a unified places of worship law which would guarantee all faiths the 
ability to construct and maintain places of worship.  This is a debate that’s 
gone on for years.  The government – the Cabinet sent a draft law to the 
military council in October.  

We urge strongly and we have been in discussion with the government the prompt 
adoption of this provision would send a very strong signal of the government’s 
commitment to protect religious freedom.  And finally, we welcome steps the 
government has taken to reduce discrimination in their penal code.  

On October 15th, the SCAF issued a decree amending the penal code to prohibit 
discrimination on the basis of religion, gender, language, faith or race.  This 
provision reinforces and will give life to Article 7 of the March 31st 
constitutional declaration on the same subject.  We urge the government to 
enforce these provisions and to make nondiscrimination the order of the day.  

Like Egyptian Muslims, Egyptian Copts are concerned about their country’s 
future.  In addition to security from sectarian violence and equal treatment 
under the law, they want equal representation in parliament, a proportional 
voice on the committee that will draft the new constitution.  The vast majority 
of Egyptians support religious freedom and we support their efforts.  

As Secretary Clinton said last week, and I’m quoting here, “If over time the 
most powerful political force in Egypt remains a room full of unelected 
officials, they will have planted the seeds for future unrest and Egypt will 
have missed an historic opportunity.”  

Mr. Chairman, the door for real democratic change is only beginning to open in 
Egypt.  We hope Egyptians will walk through it together towards a more peaceful 
and prosperous future.  Thank you.

REP. SMITH:  Secretary Posner, thank you very much for your testimony.  And I’d 
like to begin with a few questions.  The first would be whether or not you 
believe and whether or not the department believes that the Supreme Council of 
the Armed Forces deliberately provoked a confrontation with the Coptic 
Christian demonstrators on October 9th.  

Will they be able to credibly investigate themselves regarding that incident as 
they have claimed that they will?  And then what steps do you believe that the 
government will take – proactive steps to ensure that those kinds of events 
don’t happen again?

MR. POSNER:  Thank you, Mr. Chairman.  We have – we see no evidence of 
deliberate provocation.  What is of concern and what I highlighted in the 
testimony is, one, that there be a real investigation and accountability for 
the actions of both the military police and the security forces.  That’s the 
first and best protection against future acts of violence.  

There needs to be a clear demonstration that those responsible will be held 
accountable and that the government is fully committed to investigating these 
acts.  The second – the piece that I talked about last I think also helps set a 
climate of tolerance and of official recognition of the importance of 

The unified law allowing churches and mosques on the same status and all 
religions to build religious facilities, to repair them and the like, that’s an 
important demonstration by the government that it is operating on the theory 
that all religions need to be treated the same, as well as the provisions in 
the penal code dealing with discrimination.  

So I think those two things together – strong investigation, prosecution, 
accountability and affirmative steps by the government by word and deed that 
suggests in fact the new Egypt is one where there is no official discrimination 
and the government respects the ability of every religion to practice freely.

REP. SMITH:  If I could, with regards to the investigation, has the government 
sought the help of ourselves or any other international law enforcement asset, 
whether it be the FBI, Scotland Yard, any other Arab armed forces network to 
ensure that it’s aggressive, credible and comprehensive?  

You and I both remember that one of those – what helped in Northern Ireland 
tremendously was when international investigators were invited to be – to work 
in a cooperate way with the RUC to ensure that acts of violence by the 
paramilitaries were investigated properly.  

It takes the – I would suggest – the tinge out of whether or not it’s a real 
investigation or not or whether or not there’s an effort to suppress evidence.  
Has anything like that happened?  Have they reached out to us or any other 

MR. POSNER:  I’m not aware of any request for our help.  I will say one of the 
things we are very mindful of and sensitive to is that both in the political 
process and in the reform process these are steps that need to be led and 
directed by the Egyptian people themselves.  We stand ready and the government 
knows that to provide assistance as it’s useful and necessary.  

I know there have been some discussions in a broader sense.  I’ve been part of 
some of those discussions with the Ministry of Interior about ways in which 
there can be, you know, enhanced police reform and training.  We stand ready to 
be helpful.  But we are also mindful of the importance that these reforms need 
to be initiated by and directed by the government of Egypt.

REP. SMITH:  Is it something you think we should reach out to them purely on a 
technical assistance basis?  I mean, some of the very advanced protocols that 
our law enforcement people employ certainly would ensure a more comprehensive 
investigation.  Is it something you might take back and look and see whether or 
not that might be useful?

MR. POSNER:  I’m glad to take that back.  I had a good conversation with 
Ambassador Patterson on Thursday.  She is adept, as good as our diplomatic 
corps ever produced.  She knows the scene there very well now and is in 
constant conversation both with the government and wit the SCAF.  

And I have every confidence that if there’s a way in which we can be helpful, 
we will make the government aware of that.  And we certainly – it’s not lost on 
the government of Egypt how important their next actions are with regard to 
this attack.  It’s gotten a huge amount of attention both here and in Egypt.  
And they know well.  This hearing is another example of the extent to which the 
accountability issue needs to be addressed.

REP. SMITH:  Secretary Posner, as you know, immediately prior to the revolution 
there was a huge cut in economic assistance for human rights and democracy 
building.  And laying blame nowhere, whether it be on Congress or the 
administration, it was rather significant.  Could you tell us how much U.S. 
economic assistance today is directed towards promoting human rights?

MR. POSNER:  Well, as you know, Mr. Chairman, for FY ’10 we undertook to shift 
some of the economic support funds to democracy and governance.  

And some combination of our office, the Middle East partnership – MEPI – and 
USAID are now funding a range of activities, support both for strengthening 
democratic process, training of political parties, voter education, et cetera 
but also work with independent labor unions, journalists on some of these 
issues we’re discussing today.  

The number I think is in the vicinity of $50 million for FY ’10.  And I think 
we’re – again, this is part of what the discussion has been internally in our 
government and with members of Congress.  I think it’s important that we now 
recognize and we do that there are a range of places we can and should be 
helpful in sustaining and encouraging the democratic process to go forward.

REP. SMITH:  Just two final questions.  How does a Coptic Christian raise a 
concern with the government and work to protect their own civil liberties?  Who 
do they go to?

MR. POSNER:  Well, I think, you know, one of the – hopefully one of the 
signposts for the future will be the election over the next several months of a 
new – of a new parliament which will include members of a new political order 
who are going to be more open and responsive to the needs of all Egyptians, 
including the Coptic community.  

We are certainly encouraging Egyptians of all faiths to participate actively in 
these elections which start on November 28th.  And I would think that would be 
the best starting place for people in the Coptic community and all Egyptians to 
begin to use their democratic muscles and raise concerns of their own 

REP. SMITH:  But what happens – I was one of those who was skeptical and I 
wasn’t alone in that, you know, as people were getting teary-eyed over whether 
or not this meant real reform or a further consolidation by groups like the 
Muslim Brotherhood.  

And I would appreciate your thoughts on the Muslim Brotherhood, if you would, 
whether or not perhaps we may as a government have underestimated their 
savviness and appearing to be more moderate but now are consolidating more 

And frankly, you know, in terms of election muscle, I mean, minorities by 
definition are profoundly disadvantaged which is why, at least our country and 
many countries, have very strong rules protecting minorities.  

And I know, you know, there are places that – so many of us are known as 
Democrats or Republicans, we run for election, if we’re gerrymandered into a 
certain area, you know, you could provide the greatest service imaginable and 
still not get elected and still not potentially have your voice heard.  

And I think when you’re about 10 percent of the population and there is this 
governmental or very profound bias against Coptic Christians, and as you 
mentioned there are other ethnic or religious minorities as well, unless you 
have strong protections, you know, their disadvantage becomes perhaps even 
persecution, which I think is what’s happening now.  

Dina Guirguis will testify later.  And when you answer that, if you could just 
respond to this comment because she said, or will say, one only needs to give a 
cursory look at SCAF’s history since its assumption of power.  Over 12,000 
civilians have been tried in military tribunals that do not meet minimum 
standards of due process.  

Female protestors have been subjected to degrading virginity tests.  The 
notorious emergency law has been extended and numerous laws restricting freedom 
of assembly and even criminalizing criticism of the military have been opaquely 
passed and enforced in draconian fashion.  

And then she goes on, local rights groups have already decried these abuses 
even more, including SCAF’s pre-election conduct which observers accurately 
note portends to substantial fraud in the upcoming elections where Islamists 
are expected to win a substantial parliamentary presence.  That paints an 
extremely ominous present and certainly a more ominous future.  What’s your 
take on that?

MR. POSNER:  You know, I would say having worked in the human rights field for 
30-some years that I’m an eternal optimist. So take this comment with that in 
mind.  I believe we are at the beginning of a transition in Egypt.  Some might 
call it a transition to a transition.  I don’t think we can expect to see 
instantaneously the kind of a democratic foundation laid that we would all hope 
and expect to see over time.  

Secretary Clinton in her speech last week spoke about this and I think some of 
the elements you’ve raised are exactly the things we need to be pressing on.  
We do believe that there ought to be and needs to be a lifting of the state of 

We do believe that there needs to be an opening up of the process for, you 
know, there to be a real lively debate where multiple parties are allowed to 
function freely, where there’s a free press, where state television takes on a 
more balanced approach, where religious freedom flourishes.  Those things are 
going to happen over time if there’s a sustained push by Egyptian people 
supported by governments like ours to do that.  

We don’t believe – we don’t – what we want to see is that parties that are 
committed to rejecting violence, that abide by the rule of law, that respect 
freedoms of speech, religion, association, that respect the rights of women are 
allowed to participate.  

Our view is if that happens over time we’re going to get a result that we like 
that’s going to lead to a real democratic transition.  We’ve got to hold our 
nerve.  We’ve got to stay involved and engaged.  But I think we all understand 
that there are a range of challenges that we face in the coming weeks and 
months that we need to be attentive to and we need to be at the same time 
patient and resolute.

REP. SMITH:  Is there concern that we might be underestimating the Muslim 

MR. POSNER: I think we are certainly as we watch what is happening it’s clear 
that the Muslim Brothers are well organized as a political party and that they 
will compete actively and aggressively in the election.  Again, the decision 
about who to vote for is for the people of Egypt.  

Our role and our goal needs to be to promote a long-term democratic transition 
that’s based on the notion of strengthening of a political process that’s going 
to lead to a democratic, freely elected government, a constitution that 
supports that and the democratic infrastructure that yields the kind of result 
that we’re going to be – that Egyptian people are going to feel proud of and 
that’s going to make them a good and stable ally.

REP. SMITH:  I do have one final question.  And that would be a few months ago 
Michele Clark, who used to be number two at ODIHR and you and I did have a 
conversation about this, as you’ll recall, testified and said, it’s no longer a 
matter of allegation that young Coptic teenage girls are abducted.  She said 
the number was in the thousands.  

And when they turn 18, after the kidnapping, they are given to an Islamic man, 
a Muslim man who then makes her his wife.  Women are often subjected to a great 
deal of exploitation, compounding the original kidnapping itself.  

And she even talked about the very awful term that this is an Islamization of 
the womb, Islamicizing the womb, that whatever children she bears will be 
Muslim, which is an absolutely outrageous human rights abuse from every way 
that it’s looked at – the kidnapping, the trafficking, the forced conversion 
and then the subsequent forced conversions of any children born to her in that 
so-called marriage.  

Have you been able to look into that as a bureau?  I know the ambassador – 
Congressman Wolf took the information from that hearing and had a meeting in 
his office and asked her to, you know, aggressively look into it.  Michele said 
– Clark said that, you know, we should no longer use the word allegation, that 
it’s beyond that.  She did the investigations herself.  

And matter of fact, she said, these reports – this is her quote from July 22nd 
here in this room at a commission hearing:  “These reports are not allegations 
nor should they be disputed.  Coptic women disappear.  

Coptic women are forcibly converted or converted under false pretenses.  And 
Coptic women are forcibly married to Muslim men.”  What is your – what has your 
investigation or look into this discovered?

MR. POSNER:  We are – I know that you’ve raised this and we had a previous 
conversation about it.  And I have made inquiries about the particular cases.  
We have – let me say broadly we obviously are greatly concerned about the 
Egyptian government’s failure to allow conversion of Muslims to Christianity 
and the various measures, coercive or discriminatory measures against those who 
seek to express their religious faith.  

The particular cases that she raised, we have not been able to substantiate the 
facts, although I’d be willing or people in our office would be willing to meet 
with her.  

But we are concerned about the broader phenomenon of the kind of coercive or 
discriminatory measures against people who are either trying to convert from 
Islam to Christianity, which the government doesn’t recognize, or the kinds of 
coercive things that she raises.  Again, the particular cases I can’t speak to.

REP. SMITH:  If you could –

MR. POSNER:  But if –

REP. SMITH:  Oh, I’m sorry, Mr. Secretary.  If you could, how robustly have we 
tried to substantiate – have foreign service officers or human rights officers 
gone into the field?  Have they done extensive interviews to determine whether 
or not this is a barbaric phenomenon that’s ongoing?

MR. POSNER:  We have made inquiries through the embassy.  And what I can do and 
I will do and I promise to do is go back.  I’d actually like to get a hold of 
her testimony and maybe have people in our office talk to her and then we can 
look at the specific cases that she raises.  And we’d be glad to look at it in 
more detail.

REP. SMITH:  So just to be clear, have any of our human right investigators 
gone out and done first-person reporting on this?

MR. POSNER:  Well, I think you and others have said this is a phenomenon and 
the cases that have come to our attention we have gone to look to see can we 
verify the facts.  We haven’t been able to do that.  But that doesn’t mean it’s 
not happening.  

So what I would suggest is let’s – let me take a look at the testimony that she 
gave to you.  If there are particular cases and facts, we welcome getting them. 
  And then we will – I will endeavor to make sure that either people in my 
office or people in the embassy follow up and they get to the bottom of what’s 
happening in those cases.

REP. SMITH:  If you could, because her testimony was very, very incisive and 
outrageous, what she uncovered.  I mean, she even went through how it’s often 
done, the befriending of Coptic girls by Muslim girls, that it’s a process and 
that it’s just – as well as straight-up, flat-out abductions and all leading to 
the same consequence.

MR. POSNER:  Right.  The thing that would be most helpful to us is if there are 
particular cases with facts, et cetera, that we can then pursue rather than the 
general pattern.

REP. SMITH:  Sure.  But if we could also be looking to see on our own, you 
know, not just following up on one of her leads because it would seem to me 
that, you know, it’s like any other kind of abuse.  Unless we’re really 
aggressively looking for it, it is so easy to conceal this.  

And so I’d like to – before I yield to Commissioner Pitts, you know, Fred 
Grandy, a former distinguished member of the House of Representatives, is here. 
 He’s executive vice president of the Center for Security Policy.  I want to 
welcome our former colleague for joining us today.  Thank you – thank him for 
his work on Egypt.  I’d like to yield to Mr. Pitts.

REP. PITTS:  Thank you, Mr. Chairman.  Secretary Posner, thank you for your 
testimony.  Do you have or could you provide a list of the actions such as 
meetings with advocacy groups, public statements, conversations with Egyptian 
officials, activities at the UN that this administration including the State 
Department has taken since January to support the rights of minorities in 
Egypt?  And if this list is not available today, could you provide us as list 
in writing?

MR. POSNER:  Sure.  You know, there are – you just mentioned five or six 
categories of things and we’ve done – we’ve taken actions in all of those 
areas.  I can certainly – I’m not sure I can present a comprehensive list but I 
can certainly send you what we can put together a representative list of the 
kinds of discussions we’ve had with the government, the kinds of support and 
discussions we’ve had with civil society.  

I routinely when I’m in Egypt meet with civil society groups.  It’s most of 
what I do, meet with the government as well but we also meet with groups here.  
So I’d be glad to provide some representative or illustrative examples of what 
we’re doing.  We take these issues extremely seriously.  

This is an extremely important area to Secretary Clinton, to me personally.  
And we’re very aware of the precarious state of the Coptic community.  These 
attacks are very serious and we want to do whatever we can to put – you know, 
to make sure that this kind of violence doesn’t continue and this kind of 

REP. PITTS:  Thank you.  What actions has the State Department taken since the 
October 9 incident when the military directly attacked and killed Egyptian 
citizens?  To press the Egyptian government for a transparent investigation and 
to press the Egyptian government to prosecute those who were actually 
responsible for the murders of citizens?

MR. POSNER:  As I mentioned briefly in my oral comments, I think there’s a bit 
more detail in the statement I submitted.  Both the president and Secretary 
Clinton have issued public statements about the attack.  Ambassador Patterson 
has been engaged almost on a daily basis since October 9th in urging and 
reiterating the importance of there being a strong investigation and 
prosecution of those who are involved.  We are very mindful of the potential 
for there to be an escalation of violence.  

This was a tragic incident where people were killed, many more injured.  And so 
we have been very, very mindful of it.  I’ve talked several times to Ambassador 
Patterson about it and she is completely aware of all the details.  There have 
been discussions with the military, discussions with security forces, ministry 
of interior and the like.  We will continue to press.  

As I said in the testimony, there are two investigations underway.  
Investigation doesn’t equal results.  And so our focus now is making sure that 
the people who were involved in these violent acts are brought to justice, that 
there are prosecutions and convictions and that the government is clear in its 
public statement and its action that this kind of violence cannot be 

REP. PITTS:  We all know that if there are no prosecutions of these violent 
acts against the minority groups – the Coptic Christians – then violence is 
going to continue.  Do you know of any successful prosecutions against violent 
acts against Coptic Christians?

MR. POSNER:  Yeah.  And, you know, again I would come back first of all to the 
tragic attacks in Nag Hammadi in January of 2010. I was in Egypt literally two 
weeks after those people were gunned down.  I met with the ministry – the head 
of state security.  I met with people in the government to make just the point 
you’re making.  

There has to be a serious investigation that leads to prosecutions.  One of the 
principal perpetrators was prosecuted and convicted.  Two were acquitted, and 
as I mentioned in my testimony, yesterday the government – the court reopened 
the case against those two and they will be put on trial before a military 
court on December 19th.  So that’s one example.  

There are several others.  But we’re not satisfied that enough has been done.  
And certainly in the case of the October 9th violence, it’s critical that there 
be a full investigation and prosecution.

REP. PITTS:  Thank you.  What role should the United States play in promoting 
human rights and religious freedom specifically?  The chairman asked about how 
much economic assistance was directed towards promoting human rights.  What 
kind of things should we be doing specifically to promote these principles?

MR. POSNER:  Well, I think in a broad sense all of the building blocks of 
democracy are information and we ought to do what we can to reinforce that 
development.  There is a lively civil society in Egypt.  But many of the 
organizations are not yet able to register.  We’ve raised concerns about that.  
We need to be supportive of an independent media.  

We need to support bloggers and activists who continue to raise concerns that 
are among the issues we’re discussing today.  So there are a range of things 
that I think we’ve begun to do and we need to stay the course.  We need to make 
sure that there is a move away from a government that relies on an emergency 
law, move more towards a civilian rule of law and we need to support a 
political process that allows multiple views by nonviolent people – parties – 
that respect religious freedom, freedom of speech, association and the rights 
of women.

REP. PITTS:  Now, you mentioned earlier the importance of diversity.  How could 
the authorities involve Islamic and Christian religious establishments in a 
strategy to strengthen this idea of diversity, of values, of religious 
tolerance and coexistence?

MR. POSNER:  You know this is a process.  I think we start from a premise – I 
start from a premise that for several decades institutions of government and 
nongovernmental institutions were ossified.  They weren’t allowed to flourish 
and operate openly.  

And so when I say we’re in a beginning of a transition, we’re at a place where 
we can encourage but Egyptian people have to lead in creating a more open 
discussion both about advancing pluralistic democratic political process but as 
part of that encouraging diversity of views, diversity of religions, diversity 
of perspectives to be part of that mix.  

We take these things for granted in a society where we’ve had a lot of 
experience dealing with it.  We’re in, in Egypt, in a very early stage of a 
transitional process where all of these elements are still being set up, as it 

REP. PITTS:  What about training, for instance, for judges, for prosecutors, 
for police, teachers, whomever, those who are responsible for administering and 
applying the law about respecting these rights?

MR. POSNER:  I think those are critical elements.  And those are very much –

REP. PITTS:  Are we engaged in encouraging that?

MR. POSNER:  Absolutely. I mean, there are discussions going on now between our 
governments about how can we best support a transformation, transition in the 
police.  We have – there’s a long history of the police playing a – state 
security playing roles that we would consider antithetical to the way in which 
we practice democracy.  

And so it’s important that there be a move towards professionalizing the 
police, professionalizing the courts, creating, as I say, strong civilian 
institutions that are the kind of foundation, the basis for a democracy.  All 
of that’s on the table.  We’re doing training already of some of the political 
parties, voter education and all of that.  

But democracy isn’t just elections.  It’s also building those strong 
institutions – police, prosecutors, courts, the media.  All of those 
institutions are part of what makes sustainable democracy real.  And we’re very 
much engaged in the discussion of all those things.  Again, I want to say 
again, though, we need to take our lead from people of Egypt.  

This is their moment of transition and it’s critical that Egyptians lead.  We 
are more than willing – we’re eager to be a strong partner in those efforts.  
But we’ve got to come in in a way that reinforces what Egyptians themselves are 
demanding and pursuing.

REP. PITTS:  Thank you.  Now, I was a little surprised with your answer to the 
chairman about this barbaric practice of forced, you know, kidnapping and 
forced conversion, if you will, forced marriages and conversion of Coptic 
Christians.  For, you know, 15 years I’ve talked to people in Egypt who said 
this is a common practice.  Doesn’t the State Department – aren’t they aware of 
this?  Aren’t they pursuing this issue?

MR. POSNER:  As I said, Congressman, we are very aware of the discriminatory 
practices that make it very difficult, for example, for people to convert from 
Islam to Christianity.  We are aware of the discrimination and some of the 
harassment of the Christian community.  That’s what this hearing is about.  On 
the subject of abductions –

REP. PITTS:  And marriage – forced marriage.

MR. POSNER:  And forced marriage – the broad allegations are out there.  What 
we’re – what we need and what we’re looking for are specific cases that we can 
pursue.  If we get those cases, we will pursue them ourselves and raise them 
with the government.  

We know those allegations are out there but as of this moment they’re not 
specific cases where we’ve been able to substantiate what’s been alleged in a 
broad sense.  I’m not saying it doesn’t happen.  What I’m saying is the more 
information we get, I am very open – in fact eager – to get information about 
specific cases that we can then examine ourselves and take to the government of 

REP. SMITH:  Would my friend yield?


REP. SMITH:  My concern is that we’re not even looking and not looking – I 
mean, this isn’t something that’s going to walk up and say, here’s a forced 

Because of retaliation, because of the killing of the young woman or the fact 
that in many cases she feels that she cannot go back to her Coptic family and 
all the other reasons, this is something that very aggressively, if not and 
covertly probably, has to be looked at which is why human rights investigators 
– I mean, I would hope there would be no takeaway for the Egyptian government 
and somehow our government in saying it has not been substantiated.  

I believe that the evidence is compelling.  It awaits further investigation.  
But we need to be, I think, as aggressive as all get out.  I mean, you know, 
anyone who – any daughter, any young woman to be abducted and forced into what 
I really believe is sexual slavery and to lose your faith and your life and to 
be forcibly married through some level and degree of coercion is among the 
worst human rights abuses I can possibly think of.  

So I would hope the takeaway would be to deploy our Foreign Service or human 
rights officers and to do a major study on this, to initiate something that is 
– that leaves no stone unturned.  And we need to bring this up in every 
possible forum with the SCAF and every other official in Egypt.

MR. POSNER:  Congressman, we will – I share the concern.  We will – I will make 
sure – I will redouble our efforts with our embassy to make sure they are 
pursuing this subject in the way that you suggest.  It would also help us if 
there are particular cases that come to your attention.  That makes it easier 
for us to pursue this in a more concrete way.

REP. PITTS:  Yeah, I thank you for that.  I know that is a desire.  But you 
have to also keep in mind you don’t want to jeopardize the lives, the safety of 
the families, the women, you know, who are involved in this horrific practice.  
But thank you very much.  We appreciate your willingness to look into that.

REP. SMITH:  Commissioner Pitts, thank you very much.  And I’d just like to ask 
one final question, Mr. Secretary.

MR. POSNER:  Sure.

REP. SMITH:  And in a way, we’ve talked about it but just to get your reaction 
to this statement by Dr. Michele Dunne from the Rafik Hariri Center for the 
Middle East of the Atlantic Council.  In her testimony, she’ll say, the SCAF 
approach has been almost identical to that of the Mubarak era.  

That is, after each sectarian incident the authorities promise to investigate 
and prosecute crimes vigorously and to address the underlying causes of the 
incident such as discriminatory laws regarding the building and the alteration 
of places of worship.  But as soon as public attention moves on, such efforts 
are either abandoned or long delayed, leaving the victims with a sense of 
injustice and the perpetrators with a sense of impunity and sewing the seeds of 
further violence.  

In cases where military government or government officials are accused of 
complicity in violence or at least irresponsibility in dealing with it, the 
SCAF has staunchly resisted accountability.  Is that a true statement or a 
false statement?

MR. POSNER:  Well, I think I would answer that by saying we are now at a 
critical moment following the October 9th violence.  And what I’ve said here 
and what I think this hearing has helped us amplify is the need, one, for 
accountability.  There are two investigations going on.  It’s important that 
you and we stay the course in monitoring the progress of those investigations.  

And the other piece is the government’s stronger commitment to adopt a unified 
law of construction of new religious sites, repairs, et cetera and to amend the 
penal code in a way that fights discrimination in a more particular way.  I 
want to leave this hearing with a sense that these are priorities for the 
United States.  

I think it’s great that you’ve had this hearing.  It helps draw attention to 
these issues.  And there should be no doubt in anybody’s mind that we are 
highly attentive to the need for accountability and for affirmative expressions 
by the government of their desire to end practices of discrimination.

REP. SMITH:  We’re joined by Gus Bilirakis from Florida.  Mr. Bilirakis, do you 
have any statements or comments you’d like to make?

REPRESENTATIVE GUS BILIRAKIS (R-FL):  I do have a statement, if that’s all 

REP. SMITH:  Absolutely.

REP. BILIRAKIS:  OK.  Thank you very much.  I’m on the – (off mic.)

REP. SMITH:  You’ve got to put your mic on.

REP. BILIRAKIS:  Thank you.  But anyway, I’m sorry that I’m late.  I commend, 
of course, Chairman Smith and Chairman McGovern for holding this very important 
hearing.  I’ve been heartsick over recent tragic events that have taken place 
in Egypt against the Coptic Christians.  It is devastating what is happening to 
them under the current military regime in Egypt.  

The United States should contemplate defunding the Egyptian military until they 
can guarantee the religious freedom of all minority faiths, specifically the 
Coptic Christians.  Christians are dying or being displaced as we speak.  
Perpetuating religious freedom for all minority religions, and especially 
Christians, in the Middle East will continue to be a top priority of mine.  

I look forward to meeting with your brothers and sisters here in faith later 
this week and I have some constituents coming up, Mr. Speaker, as well.  But we 
need to do everything we can on behalf of religious freedom throughout the 
world, particularly in the Middle East.  Thank you very much for giving me the 

Thank you, Mr. Secretary.  I appreciate you being here.  Thank you for your 
testimony.  We’re having a little trouble with the microphone.  I apologize.  
And then I’d like to introduce the next panel.

REP. SMITH:  Thank you very much.

REP.  BILIRAKIS:  OK, I’d like to introduce the second panel.  Welcome.  First, 
we have Dina Guirguis – I hope I pronounced that correctly.  She’s an 
Egyptian-American democracy activist and attorney and member of the 
Egyptian-American Rule of Law Association.  

Formerly, she was the Keston Family research fellow in The Washington Institute 
for Near East Policy’s Project Fikra.  She founded and was editor of a near 
real-time Arabic English blog called Fikra Forum, connecting Arab activists 
with U.S. policymakers on issues of regional political reform.  

Prior to joining the institute, Ms. Guirguis was the executive director of 
Voices for Democratic Egypt.  She holds a J.D. from Vanderbilt University Law 
School.  Welcome.  

Next, we have Samuel Tadros.  Samuel is a research fellow with the Center for 
Religious Freedom and the Hudson Institute.  Before joining Hudson in 2011, Mr. 
Tadros was a senior partner at the Egyptian Union of Liberal Youth, an 
organization that aims to spread the ideas of classical liberalism in Egypt.  

He previously interned at the American Enterprise Institute and worked as a 
consultant for both the Hudson Institute on moderate Islamic thinkers and the 
Heritage Foundation on religious freedom in Egypt.  He holds a master’s degree 
from Georgetown University.  

Next, we have Michele Dunne.  She is the director of the Atlantic Council Rafik 
– I don’t know if I’m pronouncing this right – but Rafik Hariri Center for the 
Middle East.  Dr. Dunne has served in the White House on the National Security 
Council staff, on the State Department’s policy planning staff and its bureau 
of intelligence and research and was a diplomat in Cairo and Jerusalem.  

Prior to joining the Atlantic Council, she was a senior associate at the 
Carnegie Endowment for International Peace where she edited the Arab Reform 
Bulletin and carried out research on Arab politics and U.S. policies.  She 
holds a doctorate in Arabic language and linguistics from Georgetown 
University.  Welcome.  

And now we’ll begin the testimony.  Ms. Guirguis, you’re recognized for five 
minutes.  Thank you.

DINA GUIRGUIS:  Thank you.  Good afternoon. Can you hear me?  Can you hear me 
now?  Great.  Good afternoon and thank you to Chairman Smith for organizing 
this timely hearing. Thank you, Congressman Bilirakis.  I’m especially pleased 
to have the opportunity to give testimony on Egypt’s not only continuing but 
growing sectarian problem. I would even characterize it as a crisis at this 

To begin with:  If I die, take me to Tahrir.  These were the last words uttered 
by Mina Daniel, a young man in Maspero who eventually succumbed to a sniper 
bullet that entered his chest and exited through his lower back on October 9th, 
which has come to be known as “Bloody Sunday.”  Mina’s story is only the most 
recent example of the plight of Egypt’s Christians, a tragic manifestation of 
Egypt’s sectarian crisis, a matter n which I testified earlier this year in 

At that time, I began my testimony by quoting 22-year-old Miriam Fekry, who had 
posted a New Year’s prayer for 2011 on her Facebook page, just hours before she 
was killed in a heinous attack on the Two Saints Church in Alexandria  on New 
Year's eve which left at least 21 people dead. 

Then, I stated that Miriam’s hopes, and ultimate fate, and now joining her, 
Mina Daniel’s, even after Egypt’s promising revolution, so tragically and 
poignantly illustrate the plight of the Coptic people, Egypt’s native 
Christians, who represent 10 to 15 percent of Egypt’s 83 million people. I 
stated that while the Copts are the Middle East’s largest Christian minority, 
they have faced an alarming escalation of violence as state protection has 

I explained that for at least three decades, we, the Copts, have been offered 
an authoritarian compact of sorts. The Copts, as all Egyptians, were to live 
under a draconian emergency law suspending basic constitutional protections, in 
exchange for the delivery of stability and protection from terrorism. 

In those three decades, however, Egypt failed to make adequate progress on key 
developmental indicators, and Egypt’s human rights record fared no better.  
Egypt’s record on religious freedom went from bad to worse, placing it on the 
U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom’s watch list since 2002.

After Egypt's revolution, the commission recommended, for the ?rst time, the 
further downgrade of Egypt's status, designating Egypt as a, quote, “country of 
particular concern,” or CPC, for, quote, "engaging in and tolerating egregious 
violations of freedom of religion or belief.” 

While religious freedom conditions in Egypt had been deteriorating during the 
last years of the Mubarak regime," the commission stated, "since Mubarak’s 
ouster on February 11th, conditions have further deteriorated,” end quote.  In 
the commission's view, this deterioration has warranted Egypt's ranking 
alongside China, Iran and Afghanistan.

I last testi?ed on Egypt's sectarian problem on January 20th, only five days 
before the Egyptian revolution broke out. Back then, I had described the 
authoritarian pact offered by the Mubarak regime as an illusory Faustian 
bargain.  I argued the real answer to Egypt’s sectarian crisis is progress 
toward a democratic state that respects human rights, applies the rule of law 
and extends equal constitutional protections to all citizens. 

I also noted that the Egyptian regime will avoid doing so at all costs. But we 
soon learned that Egyptians‘ frustration with decades of tyranny could not be 
inde?nitely contained, and on January 25th, Egyptians of all stripes took to 
the streets to demonstrate precisely that.

Somewhat cautiously, Christians regarded the revolution as a potential turning 
point and joined their fellow Muslim citizens in demanding fundamental change 
which they hoped would entail a new Egypt based on principles of equal 
citizenship, rule of law and individual freedoms. Instead, Egypt's current 
trajectory highlights not just substantial challenges to democratic transition, 
but the absence of political will from the current military regime to affect 
that transformation.

In the process, Egypt's vulnerable groups, including the Copts, women and 
others, are more susceptible than ever to unprecedented violence and 
insecurity.  In 2011 alone, Copts have been the target of 33 sectarian attacks, 
12 of which involved an attack on a church. The combined casualties, even 
before the latest Maspero massacre, include 72 dead, as well as a substantial 
number of Christian homes, property and churches destroyed. 

With the Maspero massacre, the death toll rises to 97, and the number of those 
injured exceeds 400.  Compared to 2010, these statistics represent more than a 
six-fold increase in Christian casualties in 2011.  

While some may blame the revolution for this serious escalation and praise the 
relative stability of the Mubarak days, I submit that the same societal ills 
and more signi?cantly the insidious state role in inciting sectarian violence 
plague Egypt more than ever today.

And that responsibility lies in no small measure squarely at the foot of the 
military dictatorship, represented by the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, 
or SCAF, which has adopted the old authoritarian tactics while proclaiming 
itself, quote, “the revolutionary government."

For decades, the regime encouraged and capitalized on the growth of a culture 
of discrimination against religious minorities, and eventually sectarian crimes 
became crimes of impunity. We’ve already heard about that from Assistant 
Secretary Posner.  Substituting the extension of the rule of law and equal 
protection, the state always insisted on, quote, "reconciliation sessions,” 
where victims and perpetrators were coerced into extrajudicial extra-judicial 
settlements by the state security apparatus. 

In March of 2011, after Mubarak’s ouster, when a Christian man had his ear 
severed by hardline Islamists known as Sala?s in Upper Egypt, SCAF very 
powerfully conveyed the message of impunity by forcing the victim, that man, 
not to bring legal charges and failing to investigate or bring the perpetrators 
to justice. 

Perceiving the continuation of the status quo, this and similar incidents 
strengthened extremists‘ convictions that not only would the state tolerate 
blatant persecution of Christians and minorities, but it would do so with a nod 
and wink for its own interests, much like the days of the Mubarak era. 

Capitalizing on an environment of police absence from Egyptian streets 
following the Egyptian revolution – a massive security failure on the interim 
government's part which itself requires investigation and accountability –  the 
Sala?s – hardline Islamists – once again lashed out at Christians in May, when 
they accused the Coptic church of holding alleged Christian converts to Islam 
against their will. 

Incitement by the Sala?s in a poor, crowded neighborhood of Cairo resulted in 
an all-out war between Muslims and Christians which lasted for hours, without 
absolutely no police or military intervention, leaving 12 dead and two churches 
burnt to the ground at the end of the day.

The response of SCAF to the incident was to send in a Sala? preacher known as 
Mohamed Hassan to the neighborhood to pacify the situation. This preacher has 
long been known for his incitement against Christians and calls for their 
second-class citizenship. He is also the same man that was granted a podium and 
allowed by the military regime to preach from Tahrir Square in the weeks 
following Mubarak's ouster, where he was given free rein to express hate speech.

I refer you specifically to this example because I think Chairman Smith had 
asked Assistant Secretary Posner whether the government was in any way involved 
in provoking sectarian incidents.  And these are some very minor examples and 
examples abound.  

While the churches were rebuilt, no one was held to account for the day's 
heinous violence, and when interviewed about this in the independent media, 
SCAF General Hassan El-Reweiny stated that it was, quote, “preposterous” to 
demand further action on the matter, including an investigation and arrests, 
since the churches were, after all, rebuilt.

Once again, taking their cue from the SCAF's Mubarakist treatment of Egypt's 
vicious sectarianism, extremist Muslim youths in an Upper Egyptian town called 
Edfu took it upon themselves in September to destroy a church because it 
allegedly lacked the necessary permits, even though the church was an ancient 
one and had been operating for years. Rather than hold the youth to account, 
the region’s governor instead praised them.

SCAF subsequently refused an independent commission’s recommendation that the 
governor be removed.  With these successive tragedies in mind and years of 
societal intolerance, institutionalized discrimination and state complicity and 
incitement continuing with the SCAF's blessing, Christians took peacefully to 
the streets on October 9th, as they had alongside other Egyptians during the 
18-day uprising, to protest the military regime’s denial of basic civil 

Muslim activists and sympathizers joined them in their call. They were, as we 
all know now, met with disproportional violence, culminating in live shootings 
and the crushing of unarmed civilians by armored personnel carriers, or APCs. 

Meanwhile, while the corpses of civilians, most of whom were Christian, were 
being taken to hospitals, Egyptian state television misrepresented the facts, 
stating that, quote, “Coptic gangs,” had killed three soldiers and were 
attacking the military in a manner, quote, “not even the Israelis would dare," 
end quote, even going so far as to exhort, quote, “honorable Egyptians" to come 
to the defense of their military against these elements. 

This incitement directly led to vigilante acts – this incitement directly led 
to vigilante acts of sectarian violence in Cairo's streets, where some Muslims 
sought out Christians – sought out and targeted Christians for retribution and 
beatings or worse.  

Unsurprisingly but no less tragically, the SCAF's ensuing press conference 
addressing the tragedy blamed the victims and exhorted Egyptians to, quote, 
“put themselves in the place of the soldier driving the armored – the armored 
carrier, who was understandably confused and panicked."

Adding insult to injury, the SCAF praised the role of Egyptian state TV and 
when asked about the names of the alleged military casualties, refused to 
release them for, quote, "security reasons.”  Again, when we’re talking about 
provocation of the state, this is a very, very blatant example.  Egypt state TV 
does not act independently of the government.

Thus, in the aftermath of the revolution, the state itself has continued 
institutionalized discrimination and encouraged the growth of a culture of 
sectarianism and impunity to act on that sectarianism. During the last days of 
the Mubarak era, a Cairo-based human rights organization had described Egypt as 
a, quote, “police state infused increasingly with theocratic elements." 

I would submit that if you substitute the words "police state" with "military 
state," this would be an accurate description of the state of things today. The 
military regime continues to count on divide and conquer tactics to consolidate 
its power.  

It continues to scapegoat the Copts to de?ect from its own governance failures. 
 It continues to sow instability and simultaneously present itself as the sole 
solution to that instability, justifying along the way the continuation or 
institution of new repressive practices and laws. 

One need only give a cursory look at SCAF's history since its assumption of 
power.  As the chairman quoted, over 12,000 civilians have been tried in 
military tribunals that do not meet minimum standards of due process.  

Female protesters have been subjected to degrading virginity tests, the 
notorious emergency law which Egyptians were ruled by for three decades and 
were looking forward its removal, as soon as Mubarak left, was extended and 
numerous laws restricting freedom of assembly and even criminalizing criticism 
of the military have been opaquely passed and enforced in draconian fashion.

Local rights groups are already decrying these abuses and more, including the 
SCAF's pre-election conduct which observers accurately note portends 
substantial fraud in upcoming elections where Islamists are expected to win a 
substantial parliamentary presence.

This parliament, according to the SCAF's transition plan, will be responsible 
for the drafting of Egypt's new constitution, raising doubts about whether such 
a document will embody the aspirations of Egyptians, as expressed through their 
revolution, which rejected notions of both autocracy and theocracy but rather 
expressed a desire for a civil, meaning nonmilitary and nonreligious state.

Attempts by the SCAF to issue, quote, "guiding principles" for the constitution 
are little comfort. While the U.S. government may be banking on SCAF to turn 
Egypt into a pre-Erdogan Turkish model, what is actually unfolding is more 
analogous to models such as the Pakistani one, entailing greater collusion 
between military authorities and Islamists at the expense of all other 
political forces. This is clearly a dangerous situation.

Avoiding this outcome requires that the U.S. not fall into the trap it 
previously did with Mubarak, placing as it did all its bets on the 
authoritarian partner and a police state, which is what we have today.  

This means that the U.S. must insist that its support during and for Egypt's 
transition be contingent on a prompt and genuine democratic transition to a 
civilian authority which represents the aspirations of all Egyptians and 
guarantees the equal rights of all, starting with the immediate cessation of 
sectarian incitement and elimination of all forms of discrimination.

And including but not limited to immediate security sector reform entailing the 
prompt return of police to the streets, the conduct of free and fair and 
monitored elections, an inclusive and transparent constitutional drafting 
process, the elimination of laws that repress basic rights and the expansion of 
the political space to allow a greater role for civil society and nonreligious 
political parties and ultimately a free civilian presidential race which 
represents a true handoff of power from the military. 

Egypt's civilian president must then go about undoing decades of the disease of 
pernicious sectarianism which has in?ltrated society through undertaking 
substantial legal, institutional, educational and media reform, all vast tasks 
which only a person entrusted and vested with the faith of Egyptians and the 
interests of Egypt, and not the interests of a few privileged generals, could 

We owe it to those who sacri?ced to herald a new era of freedom in the Middle 
East. We owe it to a young Mina Daniel, who while anticipating being killed by 
Mubarak’s police forces while camped out in Tahrir Square during Egypt’s 
courageous 18-day uprising, survived then, only to be massacred a few months 
later at the hands of Mubarak's successors, who represent more of the same.  
Thank you.

REPRESENTATIVE CHRIS SMITH (R-NJ):  Ms. Guirguis, thank you very much for your 
very powerful testimony and for previous testimonies you’ve provided to this 
commission.  I’d like to yield to Mr. Aderholt, distinguished member of this 
commission, for any comments he might have.

REPRESENTATIVE ROBERT ADERHOLT (R-AL):  Thank you.  Just I came in late and so 
into the panel and I apologize for my tardiness.  But the – you know, the SCAF 
is what, you know, is certainly disconcerting about a lot of the reports that 
we’ve heard.  But I guess my question would be just, you know, in your opinion 
do you think that they have deliberately provoked confrontation with Coptic 
Christians, basically going back to that date of October 9th.

MS. GUIRGUIS:  This question is directed at me, I assume?  OK, just didn’t – 
the specific events in terms of who started shooting when and where are still 
being parsed out.  And I suspect that will remain unclear for some time given 
that the military has undertaken to investigate itself whereas it is the 
accused party in all of this, which truly undermines the independence of any 
such investigation.  

What is clear, however, is one thing which is the incitement of the state or 
official TV on that day.  I, as most Egyptians living abroad, was glued to 
Egyptian TV on that day and following the independent media as well.  And the 
vast different in reporting was quite stunning.  As I stated before, official 
Egyptian TV can never act independently, would certainly never release numbers 
of military causalities and actually name an aggressor party without direct 
orders from the SCAF.

In fact, after the incident when there was a lot of criticism regarding the 
conduct of the official media in covering the massacre, a group of anchors that 
were working for official TV resigned in protest.  And they explicitly in their 
statement stated that they had received explicit orders from the SCAF in terms 
of what to report and how to report that incident.  

And as I mentioned, the reporting led to direct violence.  And as a lawyer, I 
can tell you that this rises to the level of criminal incitement, which is – 
should be punishable by law.  So clearly in that instance, the instance of the 
incitement of the official media, the SCAF can be the only responsible party.

REP. ADERHOLT:  OK, thank you.  Thank you, Mr. Chairman.  And I may have some 
more questions after the rest of the testimony.  Thank you.

REP. SMITH:  Mr. Aderholt, thank you so very much.  I’d like to now recognize 
for purposes of receiving his testimony, Samuel Tadros, research fellow, Hudson 
Institute Center for Religious Freedom.  Please proceed as you would like.

SAMUEL TADROS:  Thank you, Mr. Chairman.  Thank you for holding this timely and 
important hearing and for inviting me to testify today on the plight of Egypt’s 
Christians and what it signifies for the prospects of a democratic transition 
in Egypt.

The title of today’s hearing suggests a correlation and a linkage between 
religious freedom, or more precisely the lack thereof and democracy and the 
prospects of a democratic Egypt. Unfortunately, for many policymakers, this 
linkage has been absent.  The modern debasement of the concept of a free 
society to essentially mean the holding of elections has led to people ignoring 
the religious freedom as a foundation for a truly free society.

The recent massacre of Copts while signi?cant in terms of the number of people 
that were killed has to be viewed as part of an ongoing pattern that has taken 
its effect for many years.  That pattern is a continuation of events and 
attacks that had been conducted before during the Mubarak regime and before 
that and continue after the revolution.  The three main parties that influence 
and take part in this pattern of discrimination are the Islamists, the Egyptian 
government and the general population.

Instead of naming the specific incidents that my colleague has mentioned, I 
think it’s important to look at how those three elements work together to 
create this culture of intolerance and attacks on Christians.  The first party 
in that regard, the Islamists, have conducted numerous attacks on Christians.  
We’ve seen a number of those attacks, most recently before the revolution, the 
Alexandria church bombing on New Year’s Eve.

The state, for its part, has a number of very discriminatory laws against 
Christians limiting the number of Christians in government service and putting 
restrictions on the building of churches.  

On the other hand, the government also participates in encouraging this culture 
through its impunity that it provides to the people conducting the attacks.  
The undersecretary mentioned the latest incident where someone was for the 
first time punished for one of those incidents in the Nag Hammadi attack.

Unfortunately, this is the first time that such action is taken.  We’ve seen a 
long number – a long list of attacks where no one has ever been punished for 
them, creating the impression that attacking Christians was unpunishable and 
this encouraged.  

The third element, and the most problematic for the future of Christians in 
Egypt, is the general intolerance amongst their Muslim countrymen.  This 
increase in number of attacks by ordinary Muslims encouraged at certain moments 
by Islamists, whether the Salafis or others, or driven by their own feelings of 
– or their opinions about Copts, this number of attacks has been very 

If we can think that the government can be stopped or restrained by certain 
actions, that the U.S. can take or pressure applied, if we can think that the 
Islamists can be contained somehow, it is the fact of being attacked by one’s 
neighbors that is very problematic for the future of Christians in the Middle 

As Egyptians took to the streets in January and February, there were huge hopes 
that this was about to change.  Powerful images of Christians and Muslims 
praying together and protesting together in Tahrir Square led to this belief 
that democracy would bring with it religious freedom.  Unfortunately, reality 
has started to hit very soon.

We’ve seen a continuation and an increase in – substantial increase in the 
number of attacks and the continuation of those patterns that we had witnessed 
before the revolution.  The Islamists, now emboldened by the complete lack of 
control with the absence of the state security, have now started to take more 
drastic attacks against the Copts, whether in terms of attacks on specific 
Coptic churches or attacks generally in their TV channels on Copts and inciting 
people to act against them.

The government, for its part, has not taken any action to stop this and has not 
punished anyone for those attacks.  Again, as was mentioned, while the 
government – the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces – has built that one 
church that was burned in Otabia (ph) to the south of Cairo, they have not 
punished anyone for that specific attack.

They have also not, until this moment, although the trial has been ongoing, 
offered any speedy trial for the people that have conducted the Imbaba attacks. 
 As was mentioned also, they have continued to hold this pattern of 
reconciliation meetings whereby Christians and Muslims are expected to kiss 
each other and that would be the end of the affair.

Those reconciliation councils have encouraged again this feeling that the local 
Muslim population can then put its demands on its Christian neighbors.  The 
last element is that ongoing sectarian increase or the intolerance increase 
among the general Muslim population.  We’ve seen a number of incidents where 
Christian girls are required to wear the hijab by government-appointed 
headmasters in schools.

It was mentioned by the distinguished member before during the opening remarks 
the very disturbing incident of Ayman Nabil Labib, a 17-year-old kid – student 
in the school in Egypt and being killed by his very own colleagues and students 
in his classroom.  This increased level of attacks by the ordinary Muslim 
population is the most alarming for the future.

Again, governments can be restrained and pressured.  Islamists can be 
contained.  This level of intolerance is the most drastic element in the whole 
process.  Those – we also see a continuation in terms of the government 
arresting a number of Christians and holding them as a bargaining chip with the 
church leadership where the pope and the various bishops are pressured to agree 
to the government’s lack of action in exchange for getting their members out of 
the Egyptian jails.

This pattern of arresting a number of Christians, we’ve seen it again with the 
Maspero incident, with around 25 Christians arrested and that remain in jail as 
we speak today.  This level has – this increased level has raised the question 
for Christians whether Egypt that might be democratic in its future or might 
not but whether Egypt will be a place for its Christian minority.  

Like their Jewish counterparts years ago, 60, 70 years ago, they are beginning 
to realize that their countries might be a place that is not welcoming for them 
anymore.  Unfortunately, unlike the Jews who had the place to go to, these 
people do not.  The facts of demography and geography pose limitation on any 
attempt to provide safe havens or any other such notions.  

The remaining prospect of immigration is problematic in and of itself.  While 
we’ve seen waves of immigration before of Iraqi Christians and perhaps in the 
future Syrian ones, the numbers that are involved in Egypt are much larger.  
Simply put, neither the West nor anywhere in the region is better place for 8 
to 10 million refugees.  

This, again, creates the problem that while the richest elements of the Coptic 
community might be willing and capable of leaving the country, the poorest 
ones, the ones that face the daily discrimination in their lives, will not find 
a place to go and will be living under this what is becoming a very, very cold 
and long winter.  

For those that are concerned with Egypt’s future, it is also becoming very 
clear that elections will not provide a solution to religious freedom.  I do 
not have a crystal ball but I am willing to predict that the Muslim Brotherhood 
will win a majority in the next Egyptian elections. This will change a culture 
of impunity into a culture of encouragement, whether by the Muslim Brotherhood 
or the more extremist Salafi groups.  

The prospects for the Christians in Egypt are becoming darker.  Egypt remains a 
key ally and friend of the United States and cooperation between the two 
countries take place on various issues, most importantly the military.  

However, the prospect of a democratic Egypt and one that is based n religious 
freedom is important to the U.S. national security and will have its effects on 
that cooperation with Egypt on the long-term.  I have a number of policy 
recommendations or comments in that regard that I perhaps believe might be 
better left to the question, or should I?

REP. SMITH:  Sure.

MR. TADROS:  The first element that we should understand is punishment for 
those that have conducted those attacks.  There has been a good development in 
that regard last week with the military judges announcing for the first time 
that there are military personnel that have been arrested and will be tried for 
the Maspero attack.  

This is the first time that the military actually acknowledges, even 
unofficially, that they did something wrong during that attack.  An 
encouragement for that process to continue and for punishment to be provided 
for those responsible is something that the U.S. should work on.  

Secondly, we understand now that the Muslim Brotherhood will take a majority in 
the next parliament and the Christians will continue to be underrepresented.  
We must make sure that underrepresentation in terms of electoral votes does not 
result in underrepresentation in terms of the writing of the constitution.  

Making sure that the next Egyptian constitution will be one that protects 
religious freedom and provides equal citizenship for all of Egypt’s people is 
something that we need to definitely work on.  

Thirdly, while it’s the wrong electoral timetable that the SCAF has suggested, 
provides us with an understanding that they will remain involved in running, 
ruling and governing the country.  With also the collapse of the police force, 
it is likely that the army will continue to provide basic law and order 
services in Egypt for some time in the future.  

The U.S. military has built a tremendous cooperation with the military and the 
U.S. military provides trainings for the Egyptian army on a variety of issues 
including trainings on basic law and order which the U.S. has perfected in 
conflict zones – in various conflict zones should be something that the U.S. 
can help the army deal with those situations better.  

Fourthly, while the U.S. Department of State and USAID and MEPI have provided a 
variety of funding to strengthen democracy in Egypt, there have been very 
disturbing reports of a lot of this money or at least some going to Islamist 
parties whose commitment to religious freedom is, to say the least, 

Making sure that religious freedom is one of the key elements whereby those 
seeking help, those groups and parties seeking help are recognize and judged 
upon is an important step.  

Lastly, this money that is being provided for strengthening various groups 
looking for having a sounder or voice in their country’s future.  As a 
minority, the Copts are facing numerous challenging – challenges in organizing 

Whether any of that money provided by State goes specifically to minority 
groups to help them, like other Egyptians, to organize themselves and bring 
their voices to building their country’s future is something that needs to be 
looked into.  Again, thank you very much for organizing this session and 
inviting me to testify.  Thank you.

REP. SMITH:  Mr. Tadros, thank you very much for your testimony, for your 
incisive analysis of the current, near-term and long-term situation and your 
policy recommendations, which will be most helpful going forward.  Dr. Dunne, 
if you would proceed?

MICHELE DUNNE:  Mr. Chairman, distinguished members, thank you for the honor of 
testifying before the commission.  As you noted in your opening statement, Mr. 
Chairman, it is quite disappointing that the unity between Muslims and 
Christians that we saw in Tahrir Square just earlier this year has deteriorated 
and sectarian tensions have escalated dangerously in the intervening months.  

But the violence is not unfortunately I think particularly surprising because 
it’s expected in a post-revolutionary climate that the tensions and conflicts 
that were beneath the surface are going to emerge more openly.  And the 
sectarian tensions – sectarian tensions have been present for decades.  

But it was noticeable for the last couple of years that they were – that they 
were rising and especially in the months leading up to the January revolution, 
the attack on the church in Alexandria at the beginning of January has been 
mentioned a number of times.  And even leading up to that, there were a number 
of anti-Christian riots, particularly by Salafi Muslim groups that have become 
much more active in Egypt in the last couple of years.  

And I would suggest that the increasing activity of these Salafi groups is one 
of the reasons why we have seen these kind of tensions and anti-Christian 
violence on the rise.  

Now, these clear and disturbing trends that were apparent even before the 
revolution make it all the more difficult to understand why the Supreme Council 
of the Armed Forces, the SCAF, that was entrusted by Egyptians with the 
authority upon the forced resignation for former president Mubarak has failed 
to address sectarian violence in any effective manner.  

The SCAF’s approach has been almost identical to that of the Mubarak era; that 
is, after each sectarian incident, the authorities promise to investigate and 
prosecute crimes vigorously and to address the underlying causes of the 
incident such as discriminatory laws.  

But as soon as public attention moves on, such efforts are either abandoned or 
long delayed, leaving the victims with a sense of injustice and the 
perpetrators with a sense of impunity and sowing the seeds of further violence. 

As has already been noted during this hearing, the investigations of several 
serious incidents of large-scale anti-Christian violence leading to the deaths 
of almost a hundred people and the injuries of hundreds more are ongoing.  And 
they might well be inconclusive if we look at what has happened in previous 
instances going back even to the al-Kush massacre a decade ago.  

What typically happens in these events is that the investigations are botched, 
either deliberately or through negligence, and that there is very little, if 
any, effective prosecution after the fact.  And in the case where military or 
government officials are – I’m sorry – accused of complicity or at least 
irresponsibility, and also today we’ve discussed this October 9th incident in 
Maspero extensively.  

The SCAF has staunchly resisted accountability.  I would note that the SCAF’s 
seeming inability to carry out these investigations and prosecutions in an 
expeditious fashion contrast very much with their speed in prosecuting bloggers 
and others who are critical of the military.  

Also, I will skip through this but the transitional authority supervised by the 
SCAF also has been very slow to make the promised legal changes, especially 
these laws regarding the building and renovation of places of worship which 
over and over again for years and decades now have been at the root at some of 
the sectarian tensions.  

Now, anti-Christian violence is one of several serious Egyptian issues that the 
SCAF has shown itself to be unwilling or unable to deal with.  Others include 
rising crime, lack of needed police reforms and a deteriorating economy.  As a 
military organization, the SCAF is not equipped to address such issues.  And it 
shouldn’t be called upon to do so, particularly for a prolonged period.  

That’s why it’s essential that the SCAF agree to a clear, realistic timetable 
to turn over not only legislative but also executive authority to elected 
civilians.  The problem right now is that the SCAF is trying to postpone the 
transfer of executive authority until it secures guarantees of its status 

And the status the military is seeking is not simply a continuation of the 
extensive political influence and economic perquisites it enjoyed during the 
Mubarak era but actually more than that.  The SCAF has sponsored a document of 
super-constitutional principles that would give it the implicit right to 
intervene in politics and the explicit right to overrule legislation as well as 
freedom from civilian supervision or budgetary oversight.  

What this would produce, as Ms. Guirguis noted, is a political system similar 
to that of Pakistan where elected civilian institutions are relatively 
powerless while unelected and unaccountable military and intelligence services 
actually run the country.  

And as we know from Pakistan as well as from Egypt’s own history and current 
situation, in that kind of a system, military and intelligence organizations 
often manipulate sectarian tensions and extremist tendencies within the country 
in order to serve narrow agendas.  

That would be a very unhappy outcome of the January 25th revolution for all 
Egyptians, including Egyptian Christians, and also I would note for the United 
States because the United States cannot escape partial responsibility for the 
actions of the SCAF due to the tens of billions of dollars in U.S. military 
assistance that it has provided over the decade and continues to provide now.  

The United States should stand unambiguously on the side of the development of 
a real democratic system in which the rights of all citizens including the 
right to religious freedom will be protected in a climate of free political 
competition and the rule of law.  Only the democratic system will difficult 
issues such as anti-Christian violence and discrimination be able to be 
addressed openly.  This will not happen overnight.  

Building a strong Egyptian democracy will be the project of many years.  But it 
would be making a serious mistake to now create large new obstacles to a 
process of real democratization by acquiescing to the expansion and 
formalization of military control out of a fear that Islamists might gain a 
plurality or even a majority in the parliament to be elected over the next few 

There are many uncertainties involved when freely elected civilian institutions 
have real power.  But one thing we know for certain is that military rules – 
rulers will fail to protect all citizens and enforce laws without 
discrimination.  Thank you very much.

REP. SMITH: Dr. Dunne, thank you as well for your excellent testimony.  Let me 
just begin the questioning.  You know, Mr. Tadros, you mentioned in your 
testimony that faced with growing threats is no surprise.  The Copts are 
questioning whether or not there’s a future.  

And you said, isolated and ignored by the West, the Copts can only wonder today 
whether after 2,000 years the time has come for them to pack their belongings.  
If you could – and the other panelists – speak to the issue of isolated and 
ignored by the West.  Does that include the United States?  

Have we been – has there been a dereliction on our part, our duty to promote 
democracy and freedom there?  Does that include the administration, the Obama 
administration, the U.S. House and Senate and the EU and others who at least in 
theory support democracy?  I do believe that our intentions are right.  But 
very often our intentions are not matched with deeds and with a seriousness 
about what the threat actually is.  

And your point that a ruler can be bought or constrained by international 
pressure but with the mob there is no constraints, we saw mob rule in history 
time and time again played out, and recently in the former Yugoslavia, where 
neighbor against neighbor committed unspeakable atrocities because – not just 
impunity but a sense of hatred that was otherworldly took over. 

So I wonder if you might speak to that issue of isolated and ignored by the 
West.  How well are we doing?  Are we being serious?

MR. TADROS:  By isolated and ignored, I was referring to more of a historical 
story.  The first is that Copts were historically isolated from Western 
Christendom by theological differences and were very skeptical about 
missionaries and what the West would offer them.  The second is their 
experience under the British occupation was not a very pleasant one.  

Unlike the French and the Levant that favored religious minorities, the British 
in Egypt tried to undermine the Copts and exclude them from government service. 
 Lord Cromer, the famous ruler of Egypt, was no friend in Copts and had very 
harsh opinions about them.  

This pattern of lack of a friend in the West as compared to the Maronite 
community in Lebanon, for example, has made the Copts very skeptical about any 
real offers of help or the willingness of any Western power to help them.  

As to the specific actions of the United States, as the statement of the 
president that he made after the Maspero attack, it’s a very disturbing 
statement to say the least.  The attitude of equating both the victim and the 
victimizer and asking both sides to show restraint is, again, very troubling.  
One wonders how Copts should show restraint.  Restraint from dying perhaps?  
One fails to understand the logic behind such actions.  

The president in his Cairo speech mentioned the Copts and the importance of 
their plight.  But we have not seen any action in that regard.  Again, the very 
distributing reports of Islamist groups and parties getting money, being aided 
by the U.S. State Department, through its policy of not looking at parties’ 
ideologies but whether they are committed to nonviolence is a very disturbing 
thing and undermines the positions of the Copts in the country.  

So if I am to judge this administration in terms of its interest and actions, I 
would view it completely as a failure.  Thank you.

MS. GUIRGUIS:  Sir, I’d like to add to that.  Just adding my voice, the 
statement indeed after the massacre from the White House was extremely 
disappointing.  The very notion of equating victim with aggressor is an insult 
to unspeakable tragedy already.  

And I think that there has been a little too much of U.S. concessions to the 
U.S. – to the Egyptian security solution for the Coptic problem which ruled the 
day during the Mubarak era and which continues.  It is sort of this 
blackmailing relationship where as long as you stay out of our sensitive files, 
including our treatment of religious minorities, you will continue to gain our 
cooperation on strategic interests.  

And I think that that argument has held way too much sway for way too long.  
Egypt has its own interests in cooperating with the United States and they are 
compelling reasons.  And there is no reason to think that Egypt will run to 
China tomorrow and turn away from the United States.  

One other comment that I have to make, major disappointment – SCAF delegations 
have been coming on a routine basis since February to visit Washington.  They 
make their rounds in the Pentagon, on the Hill, at the White House.  Only days 
after the latest Maspero massacre, there was a new SCAF delegation that came in 
town, mostly actually to protest the attempts at conditioning foreign 
assistance that the House and the Senate were attempting to undertake.  

Well, who was assisting them in their lobbying efforts?  Well, it’s very 
disappointing for us to discover that CENTCOM was a part of that lobbying team. 
 I myself have spoken to Pentagon officials in the aftermath of the Maspero 
massacre and the statements that I heard were incredibly disappointing.  

I heard and was told directly that the military acted with restraint, that they 
were actually pleased that the outcome, you know, was as it was, that it could 
have been much worse and so certainly the military-to-military relationship I 
think is really skewing what the larger perspective on all of this should be 
and what this entails for U.S. longer term strategic interests, not just in 
cooperating with Egypt but in the region as a whole.

REP. SMITH:  Dr. Dunne?

MR. DUNNE:  I agree that there has been a tendency on the side of the U.S. 
administration to accept the SCAF’s – the SCAF’s narrative which is that, you 
know, we’re just simple military men, we’re doing our best, it’s a difficult 
situation.  And remember, it’s us or the Islamists. That’s your choice.  

And that of course is the – you know, is the right out of the old Mubarak 
playbook.  I think though that the actions of the SCAF recently, this October 
9th Maspero incident and their absolute, you know, failure to accept 
accountability for that, the super-constitutional document that I mentioned, 
the harassment and persecution of nongovernmental organizations especially 
those receiving assistance from the United States have really begun to make 
people here wake up a little bit to what the SCAF’s real intentions might be.  

So I hope we will not continue to fall victim to this, you know, binary choice. 
 It’s either authoritarianism with all the ugliness that comes with that or 

REP. SMITH:  In questioning Michael Posner, the assistant secretary for 
democracy, human rights and labor, I asked him a series of questions about 
Michele Clark’s testimony at our previous hearing.  

And he did indicate that he would take it back and hopefully robustly and very 
aggressively get the department to investigate forced marriages of Coptic 
Christian women and obviously the abductions that precede the forced marriage.  
Were you satisfied with his answers?  Any of you –any of you want to comment on 

MR. TADROS:  On the specific issue, it’s disturbing that those allegations have 
been there for a number of years.  They’ve been reported without comments in 
the various State Department-issued religious freedom reports.  So it’s a bit 
surprising that if those have been there why didn’t anyone investigate them 

The more distributing elements perhaps in the narrative that is accepted from 
SCAF is this issue that the military and the Egyptian government will pass a 
new law governing the houses of worship.  I’m not sure if people at State have 
read that law or not.  But I have and it in no way supports religious freedom.  
The law requires that an area of a minimum of 500 meters be available between 
any other religious building or mosque.  

I don’t know if anyone has visited Cairo, but I doubt there is any 500 meters 
between any two mosques in Cairo.  So the idea that this law will somehow help 
Christians, make it easier for them to build churches is debatable to say the 

REP. SMITH:  Any other witnesses like to respond?

MS. GUIRGUIS:  No, I just – I do agree with that.  I don’t think it’s a 
solution at all.  I think the bottom line is that there continues to exist no 
political will to address the root causes of this problem.  

I think if the sectarian problem of Egypt – I think the solutions are there.  
everybody knows them.  We’ve been talking about them and offering them for 
years now.  They’ve been on the books collecting dust in the Egyptian 
parliament for years now.  

But I think if you deprive any authoritarian government of that card, of the 
card to manipulate society in that way, to be able to use the 
divide-and-conquer card, to be able to sew instability and create these 
explosive events and justify their own existence, I think they would be gone.  

And that’s the most powerful – in my view, one of the most powerful sort of 
evidentiary proofs there is of the intentions of the SCAF and what the SCAF 
actually represents.

REP. SMTH:  Other – yes, Dr. Dunne?

MS. DUNNE:  I have not seen Ms. Clark’s testimony and I don’t know anything 
about the specific cases that she raised there. I would say that having looked 
into some of these cases in the past – and I would say this is sometime in the 
past.  This is, you know, 10 years ago or so when I was at the U.S. embassy in 

What I found in some of these cases where I was able to find out what happened 
was that a member of one religious community had eloped with a member of 
another religious community.  And this gets to the problem that religious 
conversion and intermarriage are completely unacceptable.  And I believe 
they’re unacceptable to both communities, to both the Muslim and the Christian 
communities in Egypt.  It is true that certainly Egyptian law discriminates in 
favor of Muslim in this case, that conversion to Islam is permitted and from 
Islam not so much.  

But I would say on the level of society, there is a deep issue here and Dina 
was just alluding to it, that somehow cannot be addressed openly in a situation 
in which you have authoritarian governments that are manipulating these 
tensions for political advantage.

REP. SMITH:  Is there anything else any of you would like to add before we 
conclude this hearing?

MR. TADROS:  If I can add, going back to the assistant secretary’s statement 
where he writes on page six:  I want to make clear that most of these clashes 
have involved both Copts and Muslims and members of both communities have been 
the perpetrators and victims of the violence.  

I’m not sure if State Department has seen any evidence of Copts attacking 
Muslims.  At least I am not aware of any such incident.  So it’s a very 
interesting statement to put, to say the least.

REP. SMITH:  Anything further?  Thank you so much for your testimony.  This 
will be part of an ongoing series of hearings I’ve planned in my subcommittee.  
It’s called “Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights,” sometime in probably 
January or February to hold another hearing.  And it’s my understanding that 
the Lantos commission for human rights might be planning one as well.  While I 
don’t chair it, Frank Wolf does.  I am a member of that and certainly will be 
at it.  

And I think now more than ever we need to bring maximum scrutiny and I hope for 
some very wise interventions on the part of the U.S. government and our 
European Union friends and everyone else who is concerned about religious 
persecution as well as democracy and good governance because there is a window 
of opportunity, it seems to me, and a window that is closing so fast and 
things, as you pointed out, Mr. Tadros, that could get – you know, it won’t 
just be impunity.  

It will be – it’ll encourage mob action.  And in some cases, they may already 
be there.  so I – and for the record, when a delegation from Egypt came through 
and visited members of the House foreign affairs committee, I did join in 
meeting with them and had with me a catalog of human rights abuses directed 
against Coptic Christians for which I got – you know, that’s been fixed and 
that’s OK, we’re working on that, always some kind of that’s always in the 

And I certainly was not convinced. And so I hope the wool is not being pulled 
over the eyes of the Congress or the administration.  With that, the hearing is 
adjourned.  (Applause.)