Egypt is to lift its nationwide state of emergency imposed four years ago following bomb attacks against churches, which left dozens dead and more than 100 wounded.
President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi announced his decision in a Facebook post on 25 October, stating “Egypt has become, thanks to its great people and its loyal men, an oasis of security and stability in the region.”
The state of emergency was imposed by President al-Sisi after suicide bombers targeted two major churches on Palm Sunday 2017, killing at least 65 people and injuring 126. Responsibility for the devastating blasts at St George’s Church in Tanta and St Mark’s Church in Alexandria was claimed by Islamic State (IS – also known as ISIS, ISIL, Daesh).
The emergency measures were imposed for three months after the bombings and were subsequently regularly renewed, most recently in April 2021.
At the time of the bombings Egypt was experiencing a growing wave of violence linked to IS militants, much of it targeted against Christians, particularly in the north-east Sinai region.
The state of emergency granted broad powers to the authorities to make arrests and oppose acts, persons or groups considered “enemies” of the nation. Critics of the government say the powers were used to counter both Islamic extremists and political dissent.
Christians, who make up 10% of the population of Egypt, say that their situation in the Muslim-majority country is now better than it has been in living memory. The president has been quick to give verbal and practical support to the Christian community whenever anti-Christian incidents occur and his government is working steadily to legalise churches following the repeal of Ottoman-era restrictions in September 2016. Al-Azhar University now controls most of the mosques so that the extremist Muslim Brotherhood has become much less influential.