Friday, March 11, 2011

The Road to Atfeeh

Getting off the Subway in the governorate of Helwan, I had no idea what to expect on my way to the Village of Soul in Atfeeh, where a Christian Church had been demolished by Muslims a couple of days ago. I had agreed with some friends and tweeps to meet in Downtown, then split ourselves and head to sectarian strife zone; mainly Atfeeh, Mokattam and Mansheyet Naser. I created an event on Facebook, which 93 people said they were attending. After waiting for almost two hours, only 3 people showed up and all are my friends. And when we decided to move, only two joined me: Mohammed Moustafa (Uoso) and Heba Naguib. We took the subway to Helwan and from there; we took a cab to Atfeeh. Luckily for us, the cab driver was a resident of Soul and knew the head of the village. We asked him to stay with us and be our guide till the end of the trip. After about an hour, we arrived to the village, surrounded by the curious residents and by-passers. What my friends and I noted is that almost every Muslim woman who passed by us wore Niqab. Anyways, It didn’t take us long to arrive at the house of Sheikh Ali Abu Soliman, Head of the village. The man was welcoming and offered us cold beverages. What he told us about what happened was the following: It all started after January 25th, when it was discovered that a Christian Man and a Muslim Woman were engaged in a relationship. He said a similar case in the village about 8 months ago was settled between the families of the man and woman. He asserted that both the Christian man and Muslim woman were of low standard and that if this happened in his family, he would’ve killed his daughter and kicked the man out. But what happened was that a group of Muslims went to the Christian Man’s house and burnt his car. The man, naturally fearing for his life, fled the village the next morning and has not been found up till now. Meanwhile, The Muslim youth, who perceived the Muslim Woman’s family reaction as lenient, went to her place and an exchange of gunfire occurred between them and the woman’s father and cousin. Both these men died and one other sustained injury. We told the Sheikh that how come they brought down the church if it was a fight amongst Muslims. He told me that Muslims blamed the Christians for what had happened in the first place and they held feelings of deep hatred against the Church, which he said was the stage for Works of witchcraft and wizardry. He supported his argument by telling us that there is a known Christian Wizard by the Name of Milad Ragheb who lived right across the church and that when the Church was demolished people found documents inside the church with names of all Muslims in the village and their families. He asserted that this list was designed to target Muslim Individuals with witchcraft and wizardry. He also assured us that no Christian was harmed and that the Muslim Elders did try to stop the youth from demolishing the church but they were outnumbered. He concluded that the incident was not sectarian as Muslims had no problems with Christians and were in fact coexisting harmoniously with them, but they did have a big issue with the Church existence in the light what was –allegedly- going on inside it. With that we left Sheikh Ali and went down the road to the Church. Upon arriving there , we found one tank blocking the road and then over 20 soldiers at the entrance of the street leading the Church. They asked us who we are, and the cab driver told them we are correspondents from Mehwar TV. One of them told us to Escort him and we then moved to a Big house full of Army Personnel. They asked us for ID to prove that we work for Mehwar and I told them that Cab driver said so to let us but we don’t work for Al Mehwar, we are just people who want to know what happened and deliver a clear picture to the people in Cairo. Besides some interesting debates with Army officers about what happened in Tahrir, which I will go through later, what was strange is that we were then introduced to the Colonel of the Army Unit in the Village who then introduced us to a man wearing civilian clothes and said his name was Yehia. He had a deep voice and I suspected that he is a State Security Officer. What deepened this suspicion was that both the Colonel and this Yehia were trying to convince me that everything the Sheikh told was true and that there is no Sectarian division between Muslims and Christians. We insisted on meeting a Christian family just to complete the picture and they asked one of the residents to escort us to the House of Kama Youssef. When we arrived there, Kamal was not present and his wife let me and Heba in while Uoso and Alaa the cab driver stayed outside. She called Kamal and asked him to come, which took less than Ten Minutes. Far from being welcoming, the man was furious because of our presence and literally kicked us out of his place saying that he didn’t want any trouble. One of his Cousins, named Sami Shaaban invited us to his place to tell us his story. Sami said that he’s a well-educated man, who has a degree in Psychology. What he said was the following: regarding the man and woman, he told us a similar story as to that of Sheikh Ali except he added that both were married and that they were from well-known families. He adamantly denied the accusation of the Church being used as a Hub for Wizardry but did confirm that a Christian wizard named Milad Ragheb lived right across the Church. He told us that Milad has hidden these documents inside the church and that the church was not associated with these documents whatsoever. He kept stressing national unity and role Christians played throughout history in support of Islam and he cited the Quran a lot to support his argument. In the end he told us that people who were demonstrating in front of Maspero (Television and Radio Building) were doing so because they felt that their words are being edited and misconstrued to convey other meanings, and he criticized the Egyptian TV for lack of accuracy.

We left Sami and his family with a promise that we will try to deliver the whole picture so that more people can read for themselves the accounts of what has happened.

Sheikh Ali Abo Soliman Head of the Village

Female Peasant Statue at the Entrance of the Village of Soul


Anonymous said...

Thanks for the post...please change wizard to witchcraft..I think it is more appropriate

الكونتيسة الحافية said...

Thanks for your comment
I used both wizardry and witchcraft.

Yasser said...

Very interesting visit.
Would you go once more, to check how are things after almost a month?

Marie Brinch said...

Thx. for interesting reading. Also listened to your playlist, nice choice of music. I'll send you a link to a norwegian song, it's about the possibilities of tomorrow:

Best regards :-)

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