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Eyewitness denies claim that besieged town is Islamist stronghold

February 5, 2014 at 10:16 am


A lawyer from one of the Egyptian towns brutally attacked by the coup authority’s security forces has denied claims that it has been held by armed Islamists or is in any way an ideologically-driven local population.

Speaking on live television last Tuesday, Ali Mehana was in the process of explaining what had happened when his interview was ended prematurely. The transcript of Mehana’s conversation with a presenter known to be pro-coup is given below:

Presenter: Now we ask a citizen from Delga about the situation in his town. He’s with us on the ‘phone; Mr Ali Mehana, a lawyer and citizen of Delga. Good evening, Mr Mehana.

Ali Mehana: Good evening, madam.

Presenter: An hour ago, we heard that marches and eventually violent acts are expected in your town. Can you tell us what’s happening?

Mehana: These marches are peaceful, so, I don’t see any problem with them.

Presenter: Well, people are afraid. So, did you see any marches or not? That’s my question.

Mehana (ironically): I don’t understand who is afraid? Surely, not Delga people?

Presenter: Our correspondent has just told us that the general feeling is dreadful, especially with the curfew, and the fact that there were gun-shots and tear-gas bombs in the morning. So…

Mehana (interrupting): No madam. First of all, Delga is a very conservative town. It has a simple religious nature, with no affiliation to any political current. It has around 250,000 inhabitants. There are around 60 to 70 prosecutors and counsellors, and at least 15 assistants to the Minister of Interior. Delga also has at least 500 international employees.

Of Delga’s 250,000 people, there are 15 Christian families. In Delga, you don’t see any difference between a Christian and a Muslim, because they are all living in harmony. Delga is a very pragmatic town, and a naturally religious one.

What happened in Delga is the same as what happened in many other places on August 14. A group of thugs set fire to a church and some other places, but there has not been any sectarian conflict. Here in Delga, each Christian family is twinned with a Muslim one. Our family is well-known in Delga and is called “Al-Awam”. There is a Christian family twinned with Al-Awam.

We do not allow anyone to harm Christians; absolutely not. Why should anyone present the situation as a sectarian problem? Why drag Christians into this?

Right after the ouster of President Morsi by General Al-Sisi’s decree, a Christian man called “Nagui Mazar” went out near the entrance of Delga, just beyond the police station, and kept shooting with an automatic rifle. As a result, a Muslim man was killed, others were injured.

Presenter: Mr Ali Mehana, the lawyer… I understand your feeling of pride of your home town, its people, and its history. I totally understand and appreciate this, but I was asking about what happened today in particular. One of our guests…

Mehana (interrupting): What I’m saying is supported by reason and reality. All that you and the media are broadcasting is not true. The information you and Mr. Wael El-Ibrashi [the presenter of another TV programme] have got is incorrect. The security forces entered the village today with no conflict. Nobody attacked any of the security forces. Nobody pointed guns towards any of the army and police forces entering the town.

Presenter: You are right. This is what happened today.

Mehana: The forces entered the town from both main entrances, and no one attacked them. People are trying to present Delga as something that it is not.

Presenter (interrupting): So, Mr Mehana, what you are trying to say is…

Mehana (continues): You are trying to present Delga as a part of the Muslim Brotherhood. Well, if the Muslim Brotherhood has committed mistakes, its members shall be tried and sentenced. But Delga does not belong to the Muslim Brotherhood nor to any other group or party.

Presenter: So, what you’re trying to say is that Delga is not welcoming terrorism, that it is not a terrorist town, that it is a peaceful town, with well-educated people. That’s what you’re trying to say… that the state of violence, chaos and arson, which took place last week doesn’t mean Delga should be punished and linked to acts of terrorism.

I totally understand this, Mr Mehana. Now, the question is: today, there are security forces on site, and there is a curfew. Our correspondent has just told us that there might be a state of fear and anxiety. Do you disagree with that? Do you think that after these 48 hours, everything will be the same as it was before? Or do you have any fears? That’s the question.

Mehana: Everything will be fine. The people of Delga are wise. By the way, most of this town’s inhabitants originally belong to Arab tribes. This is a rich town. There are no poor people in Delga. Delga is auto-regulated by its wise people and its Sheikhs [Scholars]. So, what you’re talking about does not exist in Delga.

Please, do not attribute to Delga any ideas or ideologies that do not belong there. Here in Delga, we love our country and our religion. Security is part of our country and we respect it.

Presenter (interrupting): OK. Thank you Mr. Ali Mehana, the lawyer, and Delga resident, who is proud of his origin and his town. But it seems like he’s talking from a totally different perspective. He doesn’t want Delga to be dragged in any talk about terrorism or sectarianism. Which is totally his right…