- (Photo: Reuters/Stringer)
The parents of a 10-year-old Christian Coptic girl who was gunned down in Cairo while walking home from bible study class at the local evangelical church where her uncle serves as a pastor have spoken out regarding their daughter's death.
Jessica Boulous, 10, was killed last Tuesday after attending bible class at the Ahmed Esmat Street Evangelical Church, where her uncle, Nasr Allah Zakaria, is lead pastor. Although the tragedy took place last week, the girl's family only spoke with the media yesterday after police failed to pursue the case. No shooter has taken responsibility for the shooting, but the girl's family argues that the death of their daughter is a result of the continued violence against Christians following the ousting of President Mohamed Morsi, a member of the Muslim Brotherhood, in June.
"Jessi was everything to us. Her killers didn't know that Jessi was my life, my future. They killed our future. I lived for her," Jessi's father told BBC News of the tragedy. "I'm telling you in the West that your taxes and government money go towards supporting the killing here - by funding Islamist political parties."
Jessi's mother, Phoebe, seconded her husband's sentiment that they believe their daughter was targeted due to her faith. The family is now reportedly seeking legal help from a top Cairo prosecutor to achieve some form of justice in their daughter's death. According to figures released by Amnesty International to BBC News, Jessi is one of seven Christians who have been killed in Egypt during the civil unrest over the past few months.
Boulous was reportedly walking home with her Sunday school teacher when the teacher stopped at a local outdoor market to pick up an item. When the teacher turned back to Boulous, the young girl was laying on the ground. She had been shot once in her chest, and the bullet had pierced her heart, killing her before they could reach a hospital.
The Muslim Brotherhood has attempted to scapegoat Morsi's fall on the minority Christian population in the country, arguing that Coptic leader Pope Tawadros II wished to have a Christian state and therefore pushed for Morsi's resignation.
In early July, following days of protests in Cairo, President Mohamed Morsi was forced to step down from his leadership post, and an interim government took hold while the country's constitution was suspended. Many of those protesting for Morsi's resignation were dissatisfied with the president's apparent preferential treatment of Muslims, especially those who were members of his Muslim Brotherhood political party.
Following Morsi's resignation, Egypt's al-Qaeda leader Ayman Zawahiri and leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood blamed Morsi's ousting on the minority Christian population, arguing that Pope Tawadros II encouraged the resignation. As a result, muich of the post-coup violence has been focused on Christians, with Islamic radicals vandalizing Christian neighborhoods, attacking churches and congregants, participating in drive-by shootings, and attempting kidnappings.
Morning Star News reports that on the same day of Jessi's death, a Coptic Christian family was attacked by masked gunmen in the Jazeerat Al Khazendara village in Souhag. The gunmen managed to kidnap one family member, Milad Ebeed, while the other members of the family were shot on the scene. Ebeed was later released by his captors when a ransom was paid.
The violence in Egypt has become so uncontrollable that it has prompted Egypt's Interim President, Adly Mansour, to declare a month-long state of emergency in the country, as well as enacting a curfew in Cairo and 10 provinces in an attempt to restore order. Egypt's Health Ministry reported Wednesday that clashes between security forces and pro-Morsi protesters, who have staged a six-week sit-in in Cairo, have resulted in the deaths of 149 people, while the state news agency MENA has claimed that over 1,000 people have been injured.
Security forces used bulldozers and helicopters early Wednesday morning to clear two camps full of Morsi supporters in Cairo; reports from Reuters and other news outlets describe a blood bath in which protesters fled to the nearby zoo and campus of Cairo University to avoid the security force's gunshots, tear gas, and bulldozers. The violence prompted interim vice president Mohamed ElBaradei to resign.
A British cameraman working for Sky News and a Dubai newspaper reporter were both killed as a result of Wednesday's violence. Both the U.S. and the United Nations have condemned the brute force used by security forces on protesters.
"While the UN is still gathering precise information about today's events, it appears that hundreds of people were killed or wounded in clashes between security forces and demonstrators," United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said in a statement, condemning the violence.
Additionally, White House spokesman Josh Earnest said in a statement that the world is watching Egypt's actions, and it is "time for them to get back on a path of respecting the basic rights of their people."
The continued civil unrest has caused the U.S. Embassy in Egypt to remain closed, as well as the country's stock exchange to remain suspended. Train services have also been suspended.