By Aidan Clay — Originally published in Persecution.org
A mosque in suburban Cairo was used by Islamic hardliners to terrorize a Christian and anti-Islamist protestors in suburban Cairo in March, activists said. Christians and liberals are growing increasingly concerned with the Muslim Brotherhood’s failure to protect religious minorities.
Amir Ayad was on his way to join protestors near the headquarters of the ruling Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party in suburban Cairo on March 22 when he was stopped by a group of civilians who were checking vehicles for weapons.
“I mistakenly thought they were police,” Ayad told ICC. “When they saw my ID card they found out that I am a Christian. At that moment, they hit me on the head from behind and I lost consciousness. I woke up to find myself lying down on the floor of Belal Ibn Rabah mosque in Al-Moqattam.”
Ayad said the mosque had been turned into a torture facility. “Inside the mosque I was tortured, naked, my legs were tied, and my hands were tied behind my waist,” he explained. “They came with thick wooden sticks and metal rods and started to strongly hit my legs and arms in order to break my bones.”
According to Ayad, the facility had been installed by Muslim Brotherhood sympathizers in order to scare protestors who disagreed with the Brotherhood’s policies. “At first, I was there with nine others who were demonstrating against the Brotherhood,” Ayad said. “They released the other captives—after breaking their legs and arms—and brought more demonstrators.”
Wagih Yacoub, a Coptic rights activist and friend of Ayad’s, said the facility used deliberate and efficient methods of torture that would be too sophisticated for an unorganized group of criminals to fabricate. “They were very well organized,” Yacoub told World Net Daily. “They had stations and one where they made people take off their clothes. The others, they passed their clothes to another group where [the clothes] could be searched. The people in the mosque checked the pockets and took the victims’ identification papers.”
Ayad reportedly told Yacoub that the torturers operated in the dark so they would not be identified. “[The torturers] also relied on the cell phone lights so no one could recognize their faces. They put [the victims’] hands behind their backs and tied up their legs,” explained Yacoub. “The torturers lifted their victim’s legs up onto a chair and then they beat them with sticks badly all over their body – on their legs, on their hands, on their back, and on their head.”
Torture Undermines President’s Authority
Six hours after his abduction, Ayad found an opportunity to escape. “The last 20 minutes there was a debate between two groups of people who were torturing us because they had different opinions,” Ayad said. “The first was to kill me and the second was to smash my bones and to fill my body with scars to be an example to others who decide to protest against the Muslim Brotherhood.”
“At the end I was in the room with only two men who were torturing us,” Ayad continued. “While they were busy I decided to jump out the window. I crawled for around an hour until I reached some people. Then I lost consciousness until I woke up to find myself at El-Hilal Hospital in Cairo.”
Mosque officials later claimed that they had no idea the mosque had been used to torture people. “[We] deeply regret what has happened and apologize to the people of Moqattam,” officials said, according to MidEast Christian News. “[We] had lost control over the mosque at the time.”
Shaul Gabbay, a professor of international studies at the University of Denver, told Fox News that the men who tortured Ayad likely work hand-in-hand with the Muslim Brotherhood and may be beyond the ability of President Mohammad Morsi to control. “Though [Morsi] may benefit from roving bands that attack demonstrators, they also undermine his claim of being a legitimate leader,” Fox News reports.
The situation for Christians in Egypt is bound to get worse, says Gabbay. “This has been a longstanding conflict, but now that the Muslim Brotherhood is in power, it is moving forward to implement its ideology – which is that Christians are supposed to become Muslims,” he said.
Two weeks after Ayad was tortured, hundreds of Christians and sympathetic Muslims gathered outside a funeral procession held at St. Mark’s Cathedral in Abbassia, Cairo on April 7 to denounce the Muslim Brotherhood for failing to protect Christians and to call on Morsi to step down from power. “With our blood and our soul we will sacrifice ourselves for the cross,” chanted protestors, according to The New York Times.
Hours after the demonstration, Christians were again attacked, this time by Muslim rioters who threw Molotov cocktails and tear gas at Christian mourners attending a funeral inside the cathedral. Two Christians were killed and several dozen were injured.
Morsi called Coptic Pope Tawadros II soon after to condemn the attack on the cathedral and to assure that Christians would be protected by the government. “But in reality [Morsi] did not [protect the cathedral],” Tawadros said, according to The Associated Press. “[It] comes under the category of negligence and poor assessment of events… The church has been a national symbol for 2,000 years. It has not been subjected to anything like this even during the darkest ages… There has been no positive and clear action from the state.”
Christians, who comprise roughly 10 percent of Egypt’s population, are not alone in their opposition to the Muslim Brotherhood. Moderate Muslims and liberals are also growing frustrated with the Brotherhood’s treatment of religious minorities.