A number of angry residents from Karm village in Minya assaulted and stripped a Coptic Christian woman in a wave of sectarian violence, the archbishopric of Minya said in an official statement late Wednesday.
The violence erupted after a rumor circulated of a romance between a Christian man, Ashraf Atteya, and a Muslim woman.
Atteya received a number of threats, leading him to flee the village. On May 19, his parents filed a complaint at Abu Kourkas Police Station about persistent harassment, according to the statement.
The following day, 300 armed men attacked the homes of seven Coptic families, looting them and causing severe damage and financial losses amounting to at least LE350,000, according to the archbishopric.
Atteya’s mother Soad was stripped naked, dragged into the street and beaten, according to another statement on Thursday, published with photos of her meeting archbishopric clerics. Soad had to crawl under a car after being covered by another woman, the statement added.
“Soad declined to speak out at first about the assault, fearing the shame associated with it as if she was raped or sexually harassed, but she could not resist the feeling of oppression for three days, which pushed her to file an official complaint,” the statement added.
Police ignored the first complaint made by Atteya’s family, threatening Soad and her husband and throwing them out of the station, she says.
Six people have now been arrested in relation to Soad’s official report of abuse, the Archbishopric reported.
Head of Minya investigations department Abdel Fattah al-Shahat claimed the assault was a rumor circulated by people outside the village.
Governor of Minya Tarek Nasr blamed members of the Muslim Brotherhood for stoking sectarian tension by spreading rumors, provoking an angry mob to throw Molotov cocktails on Coptic homes. He denied Soad’s assault, according to the privately owned Al-Arabiya website.
Mixed marriages between Coptic Christians and Muslims have frequently stirred sectarian violence in several governorates, leading to damage to Coptic homes and a number of forced relocations.
A similar affair between a Muslim man and Coptic woman in Imbaba, leading to her conversion, stirred violence in June 2011 that left 15 people dead. The woman, Abeer Talaat, was reportedly held inside a church against her will after declaring her conversion, leading to an attack on the church by residents in the area.
The state has rarely intervened in such incidents, which have frequently resulted in customary reconciliation sessions between the conflicting parties and religious leaders from both sides under state supervision. A study by the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR), released in 2015, stated that such sessions usually lead to violating citizenship rights and often enhance discriminatory practices against Coptic minorities.