Ever since the run-off elections started, with the candidates being Morsy and Shafiq, and a dangerous new rhetoric started rising within the ranks of the revolutionaries with one clear theme: The Christian Coptic Population have betrayed the revolution. Why? Well, because the supreme majority (One would estimate about 85%) of the Christian voter base went to Ahmed Shafiq, with the remaining 15% dispersed over various “revolutionary” candidates like Amr Moussa and Hamdeen Sabahy (There are rumors that some Copts have voted for AbulFotouh, but none could be found to verify this), thus providing Shafiq with the necessary votes to reach the run-off elections. The Blame Game started immediately, and despite revolutionary infighting between the supporters of various revolutionary candidates that never quite made it, they all seem to agree on one point: The Copts ( also insert: The Church) have screwed the revolution over with their voting choice. It goes without saying that this rhetoric is very immature and dangerous for the Coptic population, and will lead to further polarization amidst the revolutionary ranks, and that they are better suited to finding out why that happened and try to court that vote, instead of entrenching that belief further. In reality, their choice of vote, while unfortunate, is very logical and should not be blamed for it, and to paint them as traitors after being the population that suffered the most after this revolution is nothing short of latent sectarianism and ignoring the facts.
Of all the different social segments of society, the Coptic Christians are the ones who have suffered the most due to the success of this revolution. Instead of having one of the primary and explicit goals of this revolution to be the end of sectarianism and social prejudice against the Copts, the revolutionaries seemed more intent on freeing all of the political prisoners during the Mubarak era, which included many people who were jailed for belonging to various islamist groups. While the supreme majority of those prisoners are not “terrorists”, many of them have committed, planned or engaged in terrorist acts , and almost all of them do not share feelings of goodwill towards the Egyptian Coptic population, since many of those terrorist acts were aimed at them during the 80’s and 90’s. The revolutionaries at the time supported the freeing of those prisoners due to: 1) Our seemingly unbending utopian belief that this population was radicalized due to the absence of peaceful political means for them to present their ideas, 2) Our desire to keep the islamists within our ranks, and this was extremely important to them, 3) Our Goal of having a new Egypt where equality for all Egyptians, and not just Christians, was the top priority. Completely sure of ourselves and our ways, we were completely oblivious to the simple fact that not even three months after the All Saints Church bombing in Alexandria, which was one of the principle drivers of this revolution, we actively lobbied for the release of thousands of people that have previously encouraged such acts or at the very least wouldn’t necessarily sympathize with its victims, all the while the Egyptian police is nowhere to be found. Imagine their horror as they sat back watching this unfold, all the while being completely unable to publically protest out of fear of being accused of being anti- revolution or Human Rights. And then immediately after sectarian rhetoric and conflicts started: The Camilia Shehata case, the Atfeeh and mansheyet Nasser attack, the Imbaba Churches attacks, Abu Qurqas, etc.. All in all, the Christians had 6 of their churches attacked in 2011, which was unprecedently terrifying, naturally.
Instead of cursing the situation, and believing in the spirit of togetherness that Jan25 created, the Coptic Christians started to have a political activist wing, and started having their own protests to demand their rights of equality, safety and laws that allow them to practice their faith in full, and had their sit-in at Maspiro, expecting the revolution to rally around them. The revolutionaries, unfortunately, had other priorities, like dismantling the security apparatus, attempting to ban NDP officials from Political participation, and politically clashing with the SCAF over having their demands fulfilled and having the military trials stopped. So, we would go to the Maspiro sit-in for solidarity every now and then, but we wouldn’t stay or give it our full attention, support and participation, telling ourselves that the revolution is working with the Christians demanding their rights and that we are better suited to fight the big political fight over the shape of the next government and state. Our hearts were with them, but we offered little else in terms of tangible support. All the while, attacks on them in the media and society intensified, and sectarian tension started rising again in Egypt, openly promoted by islamists and salafi leaders, without real condemnation of any kind. And then the Maspiro attacks happened.
There is no point in re-hashing what happened in Maspiro and its aftermath, but needless to say no accountability was ever achieved and the non-christian Egyptian population kept its mouth shut. The revolutionaries naturally protested and demonstrated, but the general population all exhibited a case of eerie silence. The Army had killed Egyptian Christian civilians, and had its media incite violence against the Christians, and the country went into paralysis, unable to comprehend or face what just happened. This is the moment where Egypt’s Copts felt most alone and abandoned: They abandoned their passivity, despite all the attacks and incitement continued protesting for their rights and against the injustices placed on them, and they got run over by tanks, and we did nothing. And then the parliamentary elections took place, where the islamists used every sectarian card they had in their pockets, and ended up winning more than 70% of the seats of the parliament, and calling for legislations based on Islamic Sharia immediately. In the hearts and minds of the average Christian in Egypt, the belief that this revolution was turning into an islamist revolution, and that the secularist revolutionaries could do nothing to stop it, was finally cemented.
As time went by, and as the hope for an inclusive and not Islamist dominated constitution started to vaporize, many of the Copts started viewing the notion of stopping the islmaist camp from reaching the presidency became the top priority. Searching for viable candidates, they were presented with the following pool: the Ex-MB NourParty backed AbulFotouh, The head of the party that went into a parliamentary alliance with the MB during the parliamentary elections Hamdeen Sabahy, the wishy-washy politician that is Amr Moussa, and the ex-regime revolutionary enemy #1 Ahmed Shafiq, who was firmly opposed to the MB and the Islamist, and represented the promise of the return of the Mubarak days, where Islamists were not one election away from taking over the country, possibly forever, but rather were kept “under control” by state security. Fully aware that the previous regime discriminated against them and allowed the random attack against them every now and then, many in the Coptic ranks did the math, compared having maximum one attack per year and retaining almost equal rights to having 6 of their churches attacked in one year and the possibility of losing their rights forever, and came up with supporting Shafiq as the natural conclusion. Many of them didn’t, and voted for Sabahy and Moussa for the revolution’s sake, but the supreme majority, literally terrified about prospects of their survival, made that compromise and supported Shafiq.
Now, instead of figuring out what lead to this, or even attempting to understand it, the revolutionaries, once again, forgot what Copts feel and fear, openly blamed them for Shafiq’s ascension, and some of them started urging people to vote for the MB candidate Morsy so that Shafiq doesn’t win. Never mind that more Muslims voted for Shafiq than Christians, never mind that having Morsy in power would ensure that the Muslim Brotherhood would have full control of the legislative and executive, and will be able to write whatever they wish for in the rights and liberties section in the constitution or legislation in parliament, never mind that not a single revolutionary candidate showed a clear stance for secularism or anti-Islamism that would’ve courted their votes. Nope, Shafiq being in the run-off is the Copts’ fault. They have betrayed the revolution. Full stop. No discussion.
Well, I disagree. Blaming the Coptic Christians for Shafiq is like blaming SCAF for “Hijacking the revolution”, both are attempts to deflect personal responsibility and deny the simple truth that had the revolutionaries united behind one leader or presidential candidate, they would’ve easily won this election and been in the run-off already, with the Coptic vote firmly behind them. But no, it’s not our fault that we chose shitty candidates and ignored their plight for over a year, it’s their fault for picking the least of all evils to them. They are not under any illusions over their choice, but when you have been facing rising and mounting hostility and danger from day one of this revolution, when you seem to be the one always paying the heaviest price, when you are a Coptic Christian, and hear about the verdict to release all Muslims suspects in the Abu Qurqas clashes and giving all Christian suspects life sentences not even a week ago, it’s easy for you to understand why they voted the way they did. Many revolutionaries may feel that the Coptic Christians have abandoned the revolution with their choice, but the uncomfortable truth may be that the revolutionaries abandoned the Coptic Christians a long time ago, and are paying the price for it now.