Reconciliation meetings in Egypt

Sent On: 
Mon, 2021-02-15
Newsletter Number: 

Unfortunately reconciliation meetings in Egypt have received a lot of negative publicity by Coptic activists in the West. Former European Member of Parliament Bas Belder, widely seen as expert on Christian minorities in the Muslim world, quoted in a paper for our webinar on September 26, 2020, Samuel Tadros [Ṣamūʾīl Tādrus] who wrote “The regime continues to use reconciliation sessions that have resulted in a culture of impunity and encouragement to those attacking Copts.”


Such generalizing statements are utterly unhelpful. Of course the system of reconciliation meetings is far from perfect but from the many years I have been in Egypt it is obvious that most reconciliation meetings seem to go well. These are the ones that go unreported. It is true that reconciliation meetings can go wrong and cause even more harm to the victims. These are the meetings that most frequently are picked up in media reporting.


A reconciliation session between two families after incidents that left one person dead and two were injured

A report by Eshhad, a project of the Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy (TIMEP), that seeks to encourage transparency and influence policy by explaining the context in which sectarianism occurs throughout the Middle East, is more helpful than Samuel Tadros’ generalized claim.


Customary reconciliation councils, their report explains, are a “form of conflict resolution in much of Egypt’s countryside, particularly Upper Egypt and Sinai.” Village elders, heads of clans, along with political and religious leaders meet on ad-hoc basis to solve personal disputes. Some local people believe the courts to be unfair and corrupt which I believe to be an unfair presentation of Egypt’s courts but definitely a factor is that court procedures in Egypt are extremely slow and one needs a good lawyer if one wants to have a chance of obtaining justice. That means costs for villagers who often do not have this. It also means class justice if one party is able to afford a good lawyer and the other party is not.


Councils are mostly created on an ad-hoc basis. These can go wrong I the people making up these councils are not qualified. Esshad correctly states that the structure and setup of the meetings in resolving sectarian conflicts can be problematic.


CAWU intern Dina Abdulrahman reported about the excellent work in reconciliation that has been carried out for years by Ḥussayn Abū Ghadīr in Assiut and others. For her report please click here.


Thus while reconciliation sessions, in particular for disputes involving people of different religions, definitely can be improved the statement of Samuel Tadros is over the top.



Cairo, February 15, 2021


Cornelis Hulsman,

Editor-in-Chief Arab-West Report