In the nearly five years of turmoil that have followed the resignation of President Hosni Mubarak in 2011, no group in Egypt has suffered more than the 15 million Coptic Christians. Both a religious and ethnic minority, the Copts are descended from the native population of Egypt who lived and ruled there from the time of the pharaohs until the Roman conquest in 31 B.C. They are the largest Christian community in the Middle East today.
Copts have long been the target of discrimination and persecution in the majority-Arab nation. But this ancient people faced a terrifying new prospect in 2012: Muslim Brotherhood rule.
After Mubarak was ousted, the violence began almost immediately. Churches and schools were burned; peaceful protestors were massacred. When parliamentary elections were held nine months later, they were swept by the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamist parties. When Mohamed Morsi won the presidential election in May 2012, the party’s victory looked complete. The same year, Morsi gave himself unlimited powers and the party drafted a new constitution inspired by Sharia law.
Morsi benefitted from the organizational advantage of the Muslim Brotherhood. Backed by imams preaching the benefits of religious rule, the previously banned political party was able to defeat the fractured coalitions of the pro-West, liberal, and secular candidates.