Some reflections on Qena through Thursday’s paper

Today’s paper highlighted civil disobedience in the Upper EgyptianprovinceofQena. For the past week thousands of protests have flooded the streets of the city, holding sit-ins and closing the railway as they call for a new governor.

Most of the media coverage says that people in Qena are opposing the newly-appointed governor Emad Mikhail, a former police general, because he is Christian. State-run Al-Akhbar ran a headline that reads “Governor of Qena is still in his post,” adding details that Mikhail has yet to submit a resignation despite protesters’ calls for a new governor by Friday.

The paper quoted from the cabinet meeting on Wednesday, saying ministers discussed the impact Qena unrest is having on various levels.

Prime Minister Essam Sharaf’s media adviser, Ahmed al-Semman, told the paper that it is unacceptable to oppose an appointment because of religion. In addition, he said that closing the railway stations is a crime punishable by law and that the southernprovinceofAswanis being deprived of basic commodities and energy supplies.

Protesters in Qena paid little heed to cabinet warnings and have called for a “million-man” demonstration on Friday. Several imams from the city’s mosques said the Ministry of Endowments had instructed them not to address the subject during Friday prayers.

Despite the significance of the issue, state owned Al-Ahram only covered the cabinet meeting in a short story equating protests with blackmail and saying the government will not respond.

Journalist Abdel Mohsen Salama wrote in his weekly column, “What’s going on in Qena is an alarming indicator for the rise of sectarianism.” Salama accused the government of being the first to make a mistake by appointing Christian governors for Qena.

Privately owned Al-Shorouk reported that most of the Christians are in favor of the protests against Mikhail. Al-Shorouk also reported that Bisoy Narooz from the Qena archbishop’s diocese gave a speech to protesters saying that Muslims and Christians are brothers and that the situation surrounding the previous governor should not be repeated.

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