Nabil Habashi Salama, a 62-year-old Coptic Christian who was abducted by Islamic State (IS) terrorists in Northern Sinai, Egypt, in November 2020, was executed on 18 April.
CSW sources report that IS media platforms circulated a video clip depicting Mr Salama’s execution, and sent a message to the Christian community warning that they will be targeted due to their support for the Egyptian army and their loyalty to the Egyptian state.
Mr Salama was abducted in Bir Al-Abed town in broad daylight. His abductors initially demanded a ransom of 5 million Egyptian Pounds (approximately GBP 230,000). Mr Salama’s family owns several jewellery and mobile phone businesses in Bir Al-Abed, and built the town’s only church, known as the Saint Mary & Anba Karas & St Abanob Church.
Mr Salama’s son Peter told the Egyptian newspaper, Watani: “My father was tortured by the terrorist group because his teeth appeared broken. We were forced to close our businesses and leave our homes to another city and we continue to receive threats.”
CSW has also learned that Bakhit Aziz Georgy, a Copt who had been abducted by armed men in 2020 along with another man named Youssef Semaan Gerges, was released approximately two months ago after a ransom was paid. The men were kidnapped in August 2020 by an armed gang in a 4x4 vehicle in the village of Al-Abtal in Ismailya Governorate. Mr Gerges was released a few days later, while Mr Georgy remained in captivity. Following his release, Mr Georgy and his family moved to another city, fearing for their safety.
This was not the first time Mr Georgy and his family have been targeted on account of their religious beliefs. Four years ago, Mr Georgy’s son was abducted, and the family believes the kidnappers killed him. One of his cousins, Seif Milad, was kidnapped in 2013 and was freed after the payment of 300,000 Egyptian Pounds (approximately GBP 14,000).
CSW’s Founder President Mervyn Thomas said: “We extend our deepest condolences to Mr Salama’s family and the Coptic community in Egypt. Whilst President Sisi has been personally committed to promoting peaceful co-existence between Christians and Muslims in Egypt, and his government has taken some encouraging steps towards promoting this, the abductions of Mr Georgy and Mr Gerges highlight that far more must be done to uproot sectarianism, protect vulnerable communities, promote social cohesion and uphold fundamental human rights for all Egyptians.”
In a separate development, on 12 April the Egyptian government legalised 82 churches and church buildings, bringing the total number of churches legalised since the Church Construction Law (Law No. 80 of 2016) was approved by the Egyptian Parliament to 1882. Under this law, the power to approve the building and renovation of churches was extended to provincial governors. However, while this made the process less complicated, the legislation remains discriminatory, as similar requirements do not apply to Sunni Muslim houses of worship, while other religious groups, such as the Ahmadi and Baha’i communities, are not covered by the Law.