Coptic Christians remain in hiding from Muslim brotherhood

Christians who were forced to flee village in Egypt after violence sparked over property dispute, remain in hiding.

Coptic Christians in an Egyptian village have been under attack by Muslim neighbours since Sunday over a property row which first began in 2012, according to persecution charity International Christian Concern (ICC).

The Makanouti family were first attacked on 20 September by the Lahoty family in Al-Oula village after a property dispute between the two families escalated violently, despite the Makanouti family having a court order for property to be returned to them.

The police went to the village twice attempting to reclaim the land, but were ambushed upon arrival.

Their second attempt, on 20 September, was met by "many thousands of armed Bedouins... They used stones, rocks and exchanged gunfire. The police used tear gas... but were unable to control the situation," according to Naguib Hamadi Maknouti, the son of the landowner.

"There were injuries among the police men and a Muslim young man named Mahmoud Rawaq Issa, 27 years old, was killed." Issa was a relative of the Lahoty family.

The police left the village and a crowd of Muslims attacked the Mar Girgis church and surrounding Christian property and people.

Issa's family have refused to accept condolences, rather seeking revenge on the Makanouti famly, forcing them to remain housebound.

"We are hiding in our homes," Maknouti told ICC. "We are afraid to go out because we have received many death threats from the family of the man who was killed. They want to take revenge on us because they consider us as the main reason he was killed. The situation is extremely dangerous for us now and there isn't any protection for us."

Despite the imminent danger and ongoing death threats, the government has provided no support to the family.

"We ask our Muslim neighbours to bring food for us from the stores," Mousa Zarif, a nephew of the landowner told ICC. "We have received many threats from Bedouins demanding us to leave our homes and lands and get out of the village, otherwise they kill us. We cannot do that, we don't have any another place to move to.

"Our children also cannot go to their schools, we are afraid that they would be kidnapped [or] killed by Bedouins if they went out to the street.

"We live in fear and terror and there isn't any protection for us. Where is the police? Where is the government? How long will we be trapped in our homes?"

The economic impact for the family could be great with harvest approaching.

"It's the time of reaping the tomato harvest," Zarif said. "We have about 13 acres of cultivated tomato plants. Their harvest is estimated at more than one million EGP [£84,000], but we cannot go to reap the harvest. The Lahoty family have prevented any workers from working in any piece of our land. They threatened them with death if anyone were to come work for us. So our loss from this could be very big."

The confiscation of Christian land was not limited to this family; at least two other families in the area have been affected by Bedouins taking over their land.