Hebron rages against ethnic cleansing of its youth at funeral for five young martyrs

31st October 2015 | International Solidarity Movement, al-Khalil team | Hebron, occupied Palestine

Today, tens of thousands of mourners gathered for the funerals of five Palestinian youth murdered by Israeli forces in occupied al-Khalil (Hebron). After the funeral, Israeli forces violently attacked mourners demonstrating at Bab al-Zawweya, injuring dozens.

Funeral procession on their way to the cemetry

Funeral procession on their way to the cemetry

Tens of thousands of mourners gathered for the midday prayer at the Husseini mosque, where the bodies of the five teenagers arrived yesterday night, after Israeli forces withheld them from their families for weeks. After the prayer, mourners marched the bodies to the martyr’s cemetry in al-Khalil, where Palestinians are laid to their last rest after being killed by Israeli forces or settlers from the illegal Israeli settlements.

When the funeral procession passed close to Bab al-Zawwiyah, Israeli forces from a nearby checkpoint fired tear gas and stun grenades, unprovoked, at the mourners who were solemnly walking towards the cemetery. Once at the cemetery, mourners flooded in to say their last goodbyes.

Mourners solemly walking to the cemetry

Mourners solemly walking to the cemetry

The five youth buried this day are Bayan al-Oseilly (16) and Tarek al-Natsheh (22) killed on October 18th; Bashar (15) and Hussam (17) al-Jabari murdered on October 20th; and Dania Arsheid (17) executed by Israeli forces on October 25th. All of them have been killed by Israeli forces or settlers under the pretext of knife-attacks in less than two weeks. Videos and eye-witness statements strongly refute these claims.

Electronic billboard with pictures of the killed teens.

Electronic billboard with pictures of the killed teens

The Israeli government according to a new law is keeping bodies of Palestinians they claim attempted to harm Israeli forces or settlers, withholding the last remains from their families thus depriving them of their right to mourn their deaths according to their own culture. The bodies returned today are only five of the total 19 Palestinian youth killed in the last two weeks since October 17th only in al-Khalil. A staggering number of Palestinians have been killed all over the occupied West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Keeping the bodies of these youths and young adults from their families deprives them of their right to bury their loved ones according to their religious rites and mourn them according to their culture.

After the funeral, a demonstration marched to Bab al-Zawwiyah protesting the continous murder of Palestinian youths by Israeli forces and the practice of denying the return of the bodies to the families. Family, friends and mourners walking back home from the funeral were forced to pass through areas tear-gassed by Israeli forces, leaving children, women and adults running away from the clouds of tear gas, clinging to alcohol-pads that were handed out in dozens by Red Crescent ambulances to prevent fainting from the highly toxic gas.

Streets filled with tear gas

Streets filled with tear gas

Israeli forces later showered demonstrators with hundreds of tear gas canisters, and attacked them with stun grenades, rubber-coated steel bullets and live ammunition. 23 persons were injured with live ammunition and had to be taken to hospital for treatment, 3 injured with rubber-coated-steel bullets had to be treated in hospital while dozens more were treated at the scene. One person was injured with a tear gas canister in the chest and had to be rushed to hospital. Dozens suffering from tear gas inhalation were also taken to hospital for treatment while many dozens more were treated at the scene by medics.

One of the many persons suffering from exhessive tear gas inhalation treated by a medic

One of the many persons suffering from excessive tear gas inhalation treated by a medic

This comes just as Israeli forces declared two major Palestinian neighbourhoods a closed military zone after ‘registering‘ all the families living there, preventing anyone that is not considered a ‘resident’ by the Israeli forces from entering this area. This further impedes the already tightly-restricted daily lives of Palestinians, completely denying them any freedom of movement. Even passing a distance of only 200 meters to buy essential groceries in a shop now closed most of the time due to the tight restrictions, Palestinians are detained and body-searched at gunpoint twice – all while settlers going to the nearby illegal settlement are walking around the streets freely without being bothered by the Israeli forces at all. This is apartheid.

(Source / 31.10.2015)

Israeli forces kill Palestinian youth in Jenin

The boy was shot directly in the head and chest while he, witnesses said, did not pose any danger

Israeli occupation forces killed on Saturday morning 17-year old Palestinian near military checkpoint in West Bank city of Jenin.

Witnesses stressed that the boy did not pose any danger and he was “clearly unarmed” when he was shot dead by the Israelis occupation forces

Days of Palestine, West Bank –Israeli occupation forces killed on Saturday morning 17-year old Palestinian near military checkpoint in West Bank city of Jenin.

Palestinian medical sources said that the martyr is Mahmoud Nazzal, 17, from Qabatia Neighbourhood in the West Bank city of Jenin.

Arabs from Palestinian occupied in 1948 (Israel) were crossing the Israeli military checkpoint at the time of the killing said: “The Israeli occupation forces shot Nazzal at the head and chest as he was approaching the crossing from the side where workers pass through.”

They stressed that the boy did not pose any danger and he was “clearly unarmed” when he was shot dead by the Israelis occupation forces.

Israeli occupation army claimed that Nazzal was shot after he attempted to stab Israeli soldiers at Al-Jalama Military crossing.

Killing Nazzal brings the number of Palestinians killed by Israeli occupation since start of October to 72, including 15 children and one baby. Meanwhile, 2,130 were wounded.

(Source / 31.10.2015)

Israeli police raid East J’lem hospital three days in a row, injure patients with rubber bullets

Israeli border police enter Makassed hospital in East Jerusalem. (Photo: al-Ray)

Israeli border police enter Makassed hospital in East Jerusalem

Amid weeks of violence in Jerusalem, Israeli police and special forces raided an East Jerusalem hospital for a third day in a row on Thursday and fired tear gas, sound grenades and rubber bullets into the medical compound, injuring three patients.

Israeli police first burst into Makassed hospital in the Mount of Olives neighborhood on Tuesday with a court order to confiscate the medical records of a 16-year old patient who was treated on October 13th for injuries from a gunshot wound.

“They were not trying to confirm that he was shot—because they have him [the patient] in custody and so they know he was shot and they can confirm the bullet wound, but they wanted to see who was with him, who came in with him to the hospital,” said Dr. Rafiq Hussein, the director of Makassed hospital, who questioned why police undertook a militarized operation inside of his facility. “They were after not a dangerous person, or a wanted person, only a file,” he noted.

The following day police returned to the hospital in increased numbers. Hussein said hospital staff were unable to tend to patients as 40 to 50 masked officers again ran into the hospital seeking security footage and interviews with the staff who treated the injured minor.

“They stopped what they were doing because police had come into the middle of the hospital. There was almost a clash between the staff and the Israeli police, because this is a hospital and they [the police] should not have been here,” Hussein said.

Two doctors were taken to a nearby police station where they were questioned about the individuals who accompanied the wounded 16-year old patient, according to Hussein. Police requested an additional four nurses report for interviews over the weekend. Several medical staff were questioned inside of the hospital.

“They have asked about he shifts and the name of everyone who was on the shifts, their ID number and telephone numbers,” Hussein said. “They confiscated the hard disk of the camera system, they took it, and they now asked for interrogations with our nurses.”

On Thursday doctors and nurses held a demonstration in the gated courtyard of Makassed hospital in protest of the police entry, which they said disrupted their ability to care for patients.  Hussein indicated all hospital personnel complied with the court order, appearing for depositions and turning over the requested file and security footage.

Video

“We were protesting because of the two-day of incursions by the police, so then police came in. They started to shoot tear gas, sound bombs and rubber bullets inside of the hospital premises,” Hussein said. “There were a couple of patients who were hit by rubber bullets actually.”

Palestinian media reported that three patients not participating in the medical staff demonstration were shot with rubber bullets during the demonstration.

“This is the first time in a long time that they police enter in large number, masked, with guns to look for information,” Hussein said, “Well of course this was carried out during the Intifada [Palestinian uprising], it was the same, but now this is new to East Jerusalem.”

Hospital staff protest Israeli border police entering Makassed hospital in East Jerusalem, October 29, 2015. (Photo: Dr. Rafiq Hussein)

Hospital staff protest Israeli border police entering Makassed hospital in East Jerusalem, October 29, 2015

Israeli police also erected a checkpoint last week outside of Makassed hospital’s sister facility, Augusta Victoria hospital, located a half-mile away on the Mount of Olives. The crossing is one of more than a dozen new checkpoints built across East Jerusalem neighborhoods in recent weeks, during which Israeli forces have killed more than 60 Palestinians, and Palestinians killed ten Israelis in attacks.

Hospital staff protest Israeli border police entering Makassed hospital in East Jerusalem, October 29, 2015. (Photo: Dr. Rafiq Hussein)

Hospital staff protest Israeli border police entering Makassed hospital in East Jerusalem, October 29, 2015

A group representing six East Jerusalem hospitals said  in a statement last week that the checkpoints prevent ambulances from leaving and entering the facility with speed and are “a major obstacle to the medical and humanitarian work.”

“These concrete barriers/roadblocks have led to major delays in the arrival of patients and their companions to their hospitals’ destination, employees and medical staff such as doctors and nurses, as well as to the disruption and delay of the patients’ movement from one hospital to another,” said the East Jerusalem Hospitals Network.

(Source / 31.10.2015)

S Arabia committing unprecedented crimes in Yemen: Larijani

Iran’s Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani (R) and a delegation of the Yemeni Supreme Revolutionary Council, led by its deputy head Naef Ahmad al-Qanis (5th L), meet in Tehran on October 31, 2015. © ICANA

Iran’s Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani (R) and a delegation of the Yemeni Supreme Revolutionary Council, led by its deputy head Naef Ahmad al-Qanis (5th L), meet in Tehran on October 31, 2015

Iran’s Parliament (Majlis) Speaker Ali Larijani says Saudi Arabia has committed “unprecedented” crimes in Yemen during its seven-month war on the country, stressing that Riyadh is a “wicked regime” in the Middle East.

In a meeting with the deputy head of the Yemeni Supreme Revolutionary Council, Naef Ahmad al-Qanis, in Tehran on Saturday, Larijani said the Yemeni people would undoubtedly emerge victorious in the “unequal war” against their country.

“Yemen and the Yemeni people are very important to us and the country’s issues constitute a constant concern for the Islamic Republic of Iran,” the Iranian official said.

He added that the Saudi regime has committed “numerous crimes” in Yemen which have led to the destruction of the impoverished country’s infrastructure and the killing and injuring of thousands of civilians.

Larijani emphasized that the settlement of the Yemeni crisis is a main political priority for Iran, saying resistance of the Yemeni people can teach a lesson to all aggressive countries.

Qanis, for his part, said Iran is a close country to Yemen, urging the Islamic Republic to prepare the ground for transfer of the injured Yemenis to Tehran given the lack of medical facilities in the war-hit state.

He added that Saudi Arabia conducted airstrikes against Yemen due to Riyadh’s aggressive nature, saying Riyadh seeks to dominate its southern neighbor.

The Yemeni people will turn the country into a grave for Saudis through the friend countries’ support, he said.

Yemenis look at the wreckage of trucks at the scene of a bomb explosion in the capital, Sana’a, on October 31, 2015

Yemen has been under Saudi military strikes on a daily basis since March 26. The military campaign is supposedly meant to undermine the Houthi Ansarullah movement and return fugitive former president Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi, a staunch ally of Riyadh, to power.

According to the latest tally, at least 7,000 people have lost their lives in the Saudi strikes, and a total of nearly 14,000 people have been injured so far.

(Source / 31.10.2015)

Civilians and Hospitals Repeatedly Attacked as Bombing Escalates in Northern Syria

An increase in airstrikes has led to mass displacement and lack of health care for thousands

DUBAI/NEW YORK—Airstrikes in Syria have killed at least 35 Syrian patients and medical staff in 12 hospitals in northern Syria since an escalation in bombings began in late September, the international medical humanitarian organization Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) said today.

According to staff at the hospitals, the attacks, which have also wounded 72 people, targeted medical facilities in Idlib, Aleppo, and Hama governorates, including six supported by MSF. Overall, six hospitals have been forced to close, including three supported by MSF, and four ambulances were destroyed. One hospital has since reopened, yet access to emergency, maternity, pediatric, and primary health care services remains severely disrupted.

“After more than four years of war, I remain flabbergasted at how international humanitarian law can be so easily flouted by all parties to this conflict,” said Sylvain Groulx, MSF head of mission for Syria. “We can only wonder whether this concept is dead. So many humanitarians and health actors including MSF have repeatedly called and are calling for an immediate halt to such attacks across the country, but are our voices being heard?”

As a result of the growing number of attacks in the region, tens of thousands of people have been forced to flee their homes, said MSF. Some have sought refuge in fields and nearby villages. According to MSF community health workers, others have fled further, with some 1,700 families joining an existing 110,000 internally displaced Syrians in four cluster camps spread around Atmeh, in Idlib Governorate. In the past week alone, 225 additional families have arrived at the camps.

With temperatures beginning to drop, finding adequate shelter and access to health care are urgent priorities. It is already difficult for displaced populations to access health care, and there is limited ability to expand existing camps or build new ones to accommodate the massive numbers of newly displaced persons. Some families are sharing tents, while others are taking refuge in mosques and schools.

“In addition to providing extra medical support through a mobile clinic in southern Aleppo, we’re looking into providing non-food items such as tents,” said Groulx. “We’ll also be distributing other items for the upcoming winter, such as blankets. But this kind of support is just a drop in the ocean when you consider what displaced families really need. They need safety. They need security. They need to stop living from one moment to the next, wondering when the next bomb will fall.”

MSF operates six medical facilities inside Syria and directly supports more than 150 clinics, health posts and field hospitals. MSF is also working with patients from Syria who have fled to Jordan, Lebanon and Iraq.

(Source / 31.10.2015)

Israeli forces shoot, injure two Palestinians in Gaza clashes

GAZA CITY (Ma’an) — Israeli forces shot and injured two Palestinian men with live rounds during clashes that broke out east of al-Breij refugee camp in the central Gaza Strip on Saturday, medics said.The two Palestinians were both shot in their lower extremities and were described as being in moderate condition. Medics said they had been taken to the Shuhada al-Aqsa Hospital in Deir al-Balah.Witnesses told Ma’an they were shot when Israeli forces opened fire on a demonstration near the Gaze border fence.On Friday, at least 17 Palestinians were wounded by live fire during demonstrations across the coastal enclave, while 19 others were reportedly injured by rubber-coated steel bullets and a further 10 suffered excessive tear gas inhalation.At least 15 Gazans have been killed by Israeli forces during demonstrations this month, while two more — a two-year-old and her pregnant mother — were also killed in an Israeli airstrike on their home.

(Source / 31.10.2015)

Gaza submerged by seawater pumped by Egypt

File photo of pools created by the flooding of the border area by the Egyptian army

File photo of pools created by the flooding of the border area by the Egyptian army

Palestine’s interior ministry in Gaza said on Friday that wide swathes of land have been submerged by seawater pumped by the Egyptian army to flood the tunnels linking Egypt with the coastal enclave, Quds Press reported.

In a statement, the ministry said that: “The Egyptian army continues pumping seawater into the soil [along the Gaza Strip borders with Egypt] and flooding the tunnels.”

About two months ago, the Egyptian army started pumping seawater into the border area in order to submerge the tunnels.

Before the start of the military rule in Egypt in August 2013, the tunnels were used for smuggling essential supplies for Palestinians, who have been under a strict Israeli and Egyptian siege since mid-2007.

(Source / 31.10.2015)

Locals: Settlers prevent Palestinian farmers from olive harvest

NABLUS (Ma’an) — Israeli settlers on Saturday prevented Palestinian farmers from accessing their olive fields on the outskirts of Burin village near Nablus in the occupied West Bank, locals said.Local sources told Ma’an that dozens of settlers blocked entrance of farmers to their land while Israeli soldiers stopped two busses carring volunteers en route to assist Palestinians in the olive harvest.The busses were stopped on the main road between Nablus and the illegal settlement Yitzhar.

The Palestinians and volunteers were stopped “despite coordination between the Palestinian liaison department and its Israeli counterpart,” locals said.Locals added that Israeli settlers also stole olives and farming equipment from Palestinians in the Bab Sanna area of Burin, which is completely surrounded by illegal Israeli settlements to the north and west.Settlers in the Nablus area — known by locals to be more extreme and violent — frequently prevent Palestinian access to their farmland, much of which lies under Israeli control in Area C.Earlier this week, settlers from Elon Moreh threw rocks at farmers in the Azmut and Deir al-Hatab areas east of Nablus.The week prior, settlers from the Yitzhar settlement threw stones at locals picking olives in Burin, injuring four Palestinians. Dozens of acres of Palestinian agricultural land was also burned.Such attacks are regularly carried out in the presence of Israeli military who rarely act to protect Palestinians.Palestinian leadership has repeatedly requested the UN Security Council to intervene in order to stop aggression by settlers as well as the implementation of a measure to disarm settlers.Settler violence during the olive harvest has historically taken a heavy toll on the thousands of Palestinian families whose annual living depends on access to their land.
(Source / 31.10.2015)

Israeli army threatens to kill Palestinians with tear gas

Israeli occupation killed 8-month baby with tear gas on Friday

Israeli occupation army used loudspeakers to threaten Palestinians in West Bank it would kill them with tear gas.

The Israeli soldier called: “Residents of Aida, if you do not stop throwing stones, we will kill you with tear gas. We will kill your children, youths, elderly and everyone.”

Days of Palestine, West Bank –Israeli occupation army used loudspeakers to threaten Palestinians in West Bank it would kill them with tear gas.

In a video shot over Thursday night, when the Israeli occupation forces stormed the refugee camp near the West Bank city of Bethlehem, a voice of an Israeli soldier was heard from a military jeep calling on the refugees that they would be killed by tear gas.

The soldier called: “Residents of Aida, if you do not stop throwing stones, we will kill you with tear gas. We will kill your children, youths, elderly and everyone.”

After they stormed the camp, the Israeli occupation forces kidnapped Qassan abu-Akar, 25. The Israeli soldier, who spoke in Arabic, warned: “We have arrested one of you, he is with us now. We took him from his home, and we will kill and slaughter him in front of you.”

Israeli military forces raided the camp and fired tear gas and flash grenades indiscriminately at people’s windows, balconies, and down the narrow streets, allegedly in response to Palestinian youths throwing stones at the Israeli Separation Wall.

Not far from Aida Refugee Camp, the Israeli occupation forces fulfilled their promise and fired tear gas at Palestinian protesters in the village of Beit Fajjar, Bethlehem, killing an eight-month old baby.

(Source / 31.10.2015)

Egyptian Copts, women make record gains in 1st stage of 2015 parliament elections

Analysts and advocates say 2014 constitution gave a big push for ‘minority’ candidates, expect similar gains for women and Copts in the second stage

Sahar Talaat Mostafa

In this Wednesday, Oct. 14, 2015 photo, Sahar Talaat Mostafa, a businesswoman and a newly elected parliament member with the For the Love of Egypt list attends a campaign rally in a parade if cars and buses in Alexandria, Egypt

On top of the biggest winners of the first stage of Egypt’s parliamentary elections, held between 17 and 28 October in 14 governorates, are Copts and women.

Official statistics show that out of 110 running as independents and party-based candidates in the first stage, 32 women have succeeded in securing seats in the coming parliament. Statistics also indicate that 16 Egyptian Copts have also won seats.

Mervat Tallawy, former minister of social solidarity and the sitting chairwoman of the National Council for Women (NCW), stressed that the number of 32 seats women winners in the first stage of the elections represents a record.

“Please also note that women were keen to actively participate in the polls and cast their votes,” Al-Tallawy told Al-Ahram newspaper 30 October, adding that statistics show that women accounted for 30 per cent of the turnout in the first stage.

The Egyptian Centre for Women’s Rights (ECWR), an independent NGO, reported that 308 women had registered as candidates in Egypt’s two-stage parliamentary elections, with 110 in the first stage covering 14 governorates and 198 in the second stage covering 13 governorates.

The figure 32 includes 27 winning seats as party-based candidates in the first round, held 17-19 October, and five winning seats as independent candidates in the run-off round, held between 27-29 October,” ECWR announced 30 October.

ECWR said the 27 women winning seats in the first round were members of the electoral coalition entitled “For the Love of Egypt,” while three of the five who emerged victorious in the run-off round were independents, with two affiliated with two political parties — the Arab Nasserist Party and the right-of-centre Conference Party.

ECWR also indicated that out of the first round’s 27 female winners on the “For the Love of Egypt” list, 20 won in the 45-seat North, Middle and South Upper Egypt constituency, while seven won in the 15-seat Nile West Delta constituency.

Five of the women who won as party list candidates were Coptic. Foremost among them are Suzy Adli Nashed, a professor of public economics at Alexandria’s Faculty of Law and a former MP appointee in Egypt’s abolished Shura Council; Elizabeth Abdel-Messih, director of the Healthcare Department affiliated with Upper Egypt’s Assuit Health Directorate; and Mervat Michel, a reporter at an Upper Egypt radio station in Beni Suef governorate.

Topping the list of female winners are Nasserist journalist Nashwa Al-Deeb (Giza), businesswoman Sahar Talaat Mostafa (Alexandria), Amna Noseir, a professor at Al-Azhar University, and Olfat Kamel, a political activist with the Modern Egypt Party.

Tallawy said that though 32 is a record figure, it is still short of the required quota. “Anyway, we expect this figure to increase in the second stage as 198 female candidates will be running in 13 governorates,” said Tallawy.

The Egyptian 1956 Constitution gave Egyptian women the right to vote and run for parliament for the first time. In 1957’s parliamentary elections, two women — Rawya Atteya and Amina Shukry — were elected, becoming the first female parliamentarians in the Arab world.

Al-Ahram Centre for Strategic and Political Studies (ACPSS), however, indicated that women’s representation in Egyptian parliaments in the second half of the 20th century was always low, ranging between 10 and 12 women (or two per cent or 2.5 per cent of the total).

“In 2010, a quota of 64 seats (or 12.7 per cent) was reserved to women, but this quota was quickly abolished after former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak was forced out of power and parliament dissolved in February 2011,” said the ACPSS study.

In the last parliamentary elections, held in 2011 and dominated by Islamists, 11 women only (2.2 per cent) were elected, and with most of them as candidates on party lists.

“This big drop was largely due to the fact that Islamist parties refused to place a lot of women candidates on their lists,” said the ACPSS study.

In 2005-2010’s parliament, women accounted for just two per cent of the total seats, or 2.4 per cent.”

Tallawy and ECWR expect that women will clinch no less than 70 seats (or around 14 per cent) in Egypt’s coming parliament. “This will be an unprecedented figure and will be a big push for women’s participation in politics in Egypt,” said Tallawy.

Tallawy believes that the 2014 constitution, which mandates that political parties place a certain number of women on their lists of candidates, helped a lot in boosting the number of successful women in the polls.

“Moreover,” added Tallawy, “the [semi-governmental] National Council for Women played a big role in encouraging women to run in terms of raising their awareness of political participation and encouraging women in cities and the countryside to turn out by the millions to largely vote for female candidates.”

Equally significant is the election of a record number of 16 Egyptian Copts in the first stage of Egypt’s parliamentary elections.

Political analysts agree that the adoption of the party list system, which obligates political parties to include Copts on their lists of candidates, will guarantee that 24 Copts win seats in the two-stage polls. But they also agree that some other Coptic candidates running as independents in the second stage could boost the total figure of elected Copts to an unprecedented 30 seats.

Statistics of ACPSS show that out of around 50 Copts who contested the first stage of parliamentary polls, as many as 16 have won seats.

“As many as 12 Copts won as candidates on the “For the Love of Egypt” coalition in the first round, but also four have won as independents in the run-off round,” said the Higher Elections Committee.

It is the first time in 70 years that four Copts manage to win seats as independents. In the pre-1952 revolution era, some high-profile Coptic figures were able to win seats as candidates fielded by Egypt’s then mainstream political party, Al-Wafd. Among these was Fikri Makram Ebeid, an influential politician and parliamentarian during the 1930s and 1940s.

Like women, the representation of Copts in Egyptian parliaments since 1956 has been generally low, with Egyptian presidents leaning to use their presidential appointment quota to appoint more high profile Coptic figures to parliament.

ACPSS studies show that Youssef Boutros Ghali, a former finance minister who was close to former president Hosni Mubarak’s son and heir apparent, Gamal, was the only elected Copt in the 2005-2010 parliament. “But this was largely due to his influential position as a minister and Mubarak protégé, rather than to popularity,” said ACPSS. Ghali, the nephew of former UN Secretary General Boutros Boutros Ghali, won the seat of Shura, a north Cairo district largely populated by Copts. Ghali fled Egypt for London after the Mubarak family was forced from power in 2011.

ACPSS studies also show that the representation of Copts has been generally low since 2000. “They were seven (1.5 per cent) in 2000, six (1.4 per cent) in 2005, 10 (two per cent) in 2010, and 11 (2.2 per cent) in 2011,” said ACPSS.

The four Copts who won seats as independents come mainly from Upper Egypt governorates where Copts form a large part of the population. Two of these candidates were fielded by the revolutionary Egyptian Social Democratic Party and the liberal Free Egyptians Party. They are Ihab Mansour from Giza governorate’s constituency of Omraneya, and Sherif Al-Nady from Al-Minya governorate’s Malawy constituency. The other two are independents: former police major general Tadros Qaldus from Assuit constituency, and another police major general, Sobhi Soliman, from Sohag constituency.

Al-Nady told reporters that he is proud that he was able to get the confidence of Coptic and Muslim voters in his constituency. Al-Nady, however, said that the Free Egyptians Party, founded by Coptic business tycoon Naguib Sawiris, played a great role in helping Copts top the lists of its candidates, providing them with good funding to ensure they compete well.

The Free Egyptians Party came first in terms of political parties gaining seats in the first stage of Egypt’s parliamentary elections, with 41 seats in total.

For its part, the Egyptian Orthodox Church strongly denied that it had any role in helping Copts gain seats in parliament, or even in recommending political parties nominate them.

Yusri Al-Azabawy, an ACPSS analyst said in a television interview that the fact that 16 Copts emerged victorious from the first stage of parliamentary elections is good progress and a positive step.

“If this number increased to 30 seats, it would be a record and unprecedented, and it will highly encourage Copts to more actively participate in political life,” said Al-Azabawy, adding that,

“The rise in the influence of Islamist movements in political life in Egypt in the last 15 years has been largely disappointing to Copts, pushing them not to run in elections or even participate in the ballots.”

Al-Azabawy believes that the party list system, although constituting 120 seats only, or 32 per cent, has shown in early stages that it helped many political parties and formerly marginalised sectors, like women, Copts and young people, to be represented in parliament.

(Source / 31.10.2015)