Daesh claims Palm Sunday bombings of Egyptian churches; death toll rises to 44

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A general view shows forensics collecting evidence at the site of a bomb blast which struck worshippers gathering to celebrate Palm Sunday at the Mar Girgis Coptic Church in the Nile Delta City of Tanta, 120 kilometers north of Cairo, on Sunday. (AFP)
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A general view shows forensic specialists collecting evidence at the site of a bomb blast which struck worshippers gathering to celebrate Palm Sunday at the Mar Girgis Coptic Church in the Nile Delta City of Tanta, north of Cairo, on Sunday. (AFP)
Updated 09 April 2017

Daesh claims Palm Sunday bombings of Egyptian churches; death toll rises to 44

TANTA,Egypt/CAIRO: At least 44 people were killed in bomb attacks on the symbolic cathedral seat of the Coptic Pope and another church on Palm Sunday, prompting anger and fear among Christians and troop deployments across Egypt.
Daesh (Arabic Acronym for Islamic State) claimed responsibility for the attacks, which also injured more than 100 people and occurred a week before Coptic Easter, with Pope Francis scheduled to visit Egypt later this month.
The assault is the latest on a religious minority increasingly targeted by Islamist militants, and a challenge to President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi, who has pledged to protect them as part of his campaign against extremism.
The first bombing, in Tanta, a Nile Delta city about 100 km (60 miles) north of Cairo, tore through the inside of St. George Church during its Palm Sunday service, killing at least 27 people and injuring at least 78, the Ministry of Health said.
The second, carried out a few hours later by a suicide bomber in Alexandria, hit Saint Mark’s Cathedral, the historic seat of the Coptic Pope, killing 17 people, including three police officers, and injuring 48, the ministry added.
Coptic Pope Tawadros had been leading the mass at Saint Mark’s Cathedral at the time of the explosion but was not injured, the Interior Ministry said.
“These acts will not harm the unity and cohesion of the people,” he was later quoted as saying by state media.
El-Sisi ordered troops be immediately deployed to assist police in securing vital facilities, a statement from his office said, a rare move for the general-turned-president, who as defense chief led the military’s 2013 ouster of the Muslim Brotherhood’s President Mohamed Mursi.
Deflecting Western criticism that he has suppressed political opposition and human rights activists since he was elected in 2014, El-Sissi has sought to present himself as an indispensable bulwark against terrorism in the Middle East.
“The attack...will only harden the determination (of the Egyptian people) to move forward on their trajectory to realize security, stability and comprehensive development,” El-Sissi said in a statement.
President Trump, who hosted El-Sissi last week in his first official visit to the US, expressed support for a leader he has said he plans to work more closely with on fighting Islamist militants, who El-Sissi identifies as an existential threat.
“So sad to hear of the terrorist attack in Egypt. US strongly condemns. I have great confidence that President El-Sissi will handle situation properly,” Trump wrote on his official Twitter account.
Hundreds gathered outside the Tanta church shortly after the blast, some weeping and wearing black while inside, blown apart pews sat atop tiles soaked with blood.
“There was blood all over the floor and body parts scattered,” a woman who was inside the church at the time of the attack said.
“There was a huge explosion in the hall. Fire and smoke filled the room and the injuries were extremely severe,” another woman, Vivian Fareeg, said.


“We feel targeted“
Daesh’s branch in Egypt has stepped up attacks and threats against Christians, who comprise about 10 percent of Egypt’s 90 million people and are the biggest Christian minority in the Middle East.
In February, scores of Christian families and students fled Egypt’s North Sinai province after a spate of targeted killings.
Those attacks followed one of the deadliest on Egypt’s Christian minority, when a suicide bomber hit its largest Coptic cathedral, killing at least 25 people. Daesh later claimed responsibility for that attack.
Daesh has waged a low-level war against soldiers and police in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula for years but is now targeting Christians and broadening its reach into Egypt’s mainland. That is a potential turning point in a country trying to prevent a provincial insurgency spiraling into wider sectarian bloodshed.
Although Copts have faced attacks by Muslim neighbors, who have burnt their homes and churches in poor rural areas, in the past, the community has felt increasingly insecure since Islamic State spread through Iraq and Syria in 2014.

WATCH: Copts rally outside second Alexandria church hit by suicide bomber

“Of course we feel targeted, there was a bomb here about a week ago but it was dismantled. There’s no security,” said another Christian woman in Tanta in reference to an attack earlier this month near a police training center..
Wahby Lamie, who had one nephew killed and another injured in the Tanta blast, expressed exasperation.
“How much longer are we going to be this divided? Anyone who’s different from them now is an infidel, whether they’re Muslim or Christian. They see them as infidels,” he said.
“How much longer are these people going to exist? And how much longer will security be this incompetent?”
(Additional reporting by Ahmed Mohamed Hassan, Mahmoud Mourad, Mohammed Abdellah, Amina Ismail, Ahmed Aboulenein, and Mostafa Hashem)


Palestinian refugees benefit from revival of embroidery technique of tatreez

Updated 28 November 2020

Palestinian refugees benefit from revival of embroidery technique of tatreez

  • Nadine Maalouf and Nesrine El-Tibi set out to re-establish art form while making a humanitarian impact
  • Their social enterprise employs refugee artists and sells their artwork at fairs across the MENA region

DUBAI: When you think of the ancient embroidery technique of tatreez, what usually springs to mind is decorative clothing and elegant patterns on items like cushions. But for 81 Designs — a family-run social enterprise — it is an opportunity for a more comfortable and prosperous future for the female Palestinian refugee community in southern Lebanon.

Nadine Maalouf, alongside her mother Nesrine El-Tibi, is providing a group of refugee artists with a monthly salary by employing them and selling their artwork at fairs across the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region.

“The work is quite detailed and it’s unconventional so it takes a lot of time,” Maalouf said. “Some pieces take four months for one item. We work towards the fair every year because it takes about six months to launch the project from its beginning to its end.”

Maalouf believes more social enterprises like hers could be created to help others. (Supplied)

Starting the company in 2015, then launching two years later at the annual UAE-based fair Art Dubai, Maalouf and El-Tibi set out to re-establish tatreez as an art form while making a positive humanitarian impact.

Three years later and the company employs 20 Palestinian refugee artists creating unique pieces that have preserved and modernized the ancient art of tatreez.

The inspiration for launching 81 Designs came to Maalouf following the birth of her first son. Having studied art direction and art history in her younger years, she worked at various jobs after graduation, but none incorporated the artistic elements she loved.

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Palestinian artists employed by 81 Designs to create pieces that preserve and modernize tatreez.

“I developed this idea because I was doing a lot of research about traditional textiles and artistry,” she said. “I kept on asking myself, ‘Why are we only seeing a one-dimensional form of tatreez?’

“It is an art form, so I wanted to figure out a way to recreate or give a stronger platform to these ladies to be able to sustain what they do as individuals.”

The COVID-19 pandemic has dealt a blow to businesses throughout the Middle East and has caused social and economic problems for many. For 81 Designs, however, it provided an opportunity to work on a non-profit collaboration with Abu Dhabi Health Services on the project “I Am Committed” to help tackle the coronavirus.

“We created wristbands for people to receive at every testing site at the UAE and they were sponsored by different companies throughout the community,” said Maalouf. “The wristbands were encouraging people to get tested.”

Maalouf and El-Tibi set out to re-establish tatreez as an art form while making a positive humanitarian impact. (Supplied)

Maalouf believes more social enterprises like hers could be created to help others. “When you create a social enterprise where you use someone’s skill set to provide a job for them, I think that alone in itself inspires others to do the same,” she said.

“You see a lot of different social enterprises sprouting up from the region and that impact in itself is important to create a hub of opportunities for those who are less fortunate, but not treating them as a charity case because these people are amazing.”

However, 81 Designs was not always destined to be a success. Having contacted several NGOs around Lebanon for initial funding, some of them found the idea to be too abstract and something that would not work, while others were not able to visualize the end product. But none of these hurdles held back Maalouf’s eventual success.

“When you set up as a business, you do face challenges and you just need to keep on going. Believe in yourself. Believe that what you’re actually creating can impact others in a positive way.”

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This report is being published by Arab News as a partner of the Middle East Exchange, which was launched by the Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Global Initiatives to reflect the vision of the UAE prime minister and ruler of Dubai to explore the possibility of changing the status of the Arab region.