Egyptian Muslims create human barriers to protect Coptic Egyptians and stand against religious militancy and government inaction, 2011


Protect Egyptian Coptics from militant extremism, promote solidarity and unity amongst Egpytians, address and demonstrate the need of representation and accountability from the government.

Wave of Campaigns

Time period notes

The campaign was promoted from approximately January 1st, 2011 to January 7th, 2011. The campaign itself took place on the January 7th 2011.

Time period

7th January, 2011 to 7th January, 2011



Location City/State/Province

Alexandria, Egypt
Jump to case narrative

Segment Length

One day.

Notes on Methods

Preparation for the campaign took approximately 7 days, the campaign itself took place January 7th 2011.


Mohamed El-Sawy


Not Known.

External allies

Not Known.

Involvement of social elites

Adel Imam, Amr Khaled, 2 of Hosni Mubarak's sons.


Islamic Militants, Government.

Campaigner violence

Not Known.

Repressive Violence

Not Known.


Human Rights
National-Ethnic Identity


Third-party nonviolent intervention

Group characterization

Muslim Egyptians
Egyptians at large.

Additional notes on joining/exiting order

The order that groups joined is unknown, but it is generally accepted that Egyptians at large supported the campaign from the day of its inception.

Segment Length

One day.

Success in achieving specific demands/goals

4 out of 6 points


0.5 out of 1 points


2 out of 3 points

Total points

6.5 out of 10 points

Notes on outcomes

There was no known violence against Coptic Egpytians on the night the human barricades were made. The campaign successfully sent the message that Egyptians will not tolerate religious militancy. The campaign received a great deal of media attention. Although the campaigners successfully received media attention, and were able to voice their frustrations with the lack of representation and the government's failure to protect Egyptians from extremist violence, the campaign did little about it in comparison to the overarching Egpytian Revolution that began a number of weeks later.

Database Narrative

On New Year’s
Eve, in 2010, Islamic militants attacked the Saints Church in Alexandria,
raising tensions and concerns about religious violence in Egypt. The attack was
only the most recent occurrence of religious violence and militancy in Egypt.
Many Egyptians perceived the issue as an epidemic, as well as the failings of
the Egyptian government to ensure the right to freedom of religious beliefs.
The growing resentment of government inaction and lack of representation led to
the Egyptian majority taking matters into their own hands through a campaign to
address the issue.

The attack
sparked an outcry from Egyptians, and millions expressed sentiment for
Muslim-Coptic solidarity by changing Facebook profile pictures to images of a
cross rested inside of a crescent – a symbol for Islam-Coptic unity.

El-Sawy, de facto leader of the human shield campaign, thought that it would be
a good idea for Muslim Egyptians to demonstrate and show solidarity with the
Coptic Egyptian minority. His idea involved the creation human barriers around
Coptic churches, to protect Coptic Egyptians and ensure that they could safely
attend their Christmas services. This act would both serve the concrete goal of
protecting Coptic Egyptians from persecution and victimization on their
Christmas, as well as serve as a symbolic act that shows solidarity amongst all
Egyptians, and a desire for an Egypt free of religious militancy and

organized Egyptian Muslims by spreading word of his idea by distributing flyers
through his cultural centre. In the wake of the attack on the Coptic church,
banners promoting Egyptian unity were flown throughout Alexandria. On the
Coptics’ Christmas, January 7th, of 2011, thousands of Muslims
attended to participate and protect Coptic Egyptians throughout the country.

prominent Egyptians made appearances and participated in the human shield
campaign. These prominent figures included the actor Adel Imam, televised
Muslim preacher Amr Khaled, and two of Hosni Mubarak’s sons. Dalia Mustafa, one
of the campaign’s participants said that he was participating because, “The
only way things will change in this country is if we come together.” Cherine
Mahomed, another demonstrator, shared thoughts that parallel Mustafa’s. She,
similarly, stated that, “We either live together, or die together, we are all

The campaign
successfully averted possible violence against Egyptians on the night of
action, raised awareness of the lack of representation and the lack of protection received
from the Egyptian government. It also sent an overall message that Egyptians would
not tolerate militancy and religious violence. The campaign, however, did not
receive a response from the Egyptian government. Due to the human shield
campaign’s proximity to the much larger Egyptian Revolution of 2011, the
campaign could possibly have been influenced by, and a part of, the overarching
Arab Spring movement.


Arab Awakening [2]


El-Rashidi, Y. (2011, January 7). Egypt's Muslims attend Coptic Christmas mass, serving as "human shields". Retrieved from Ahram Online:
McGuire, A. S. (2011, January 7). Guest Voices: Egyptian Muslims act as "human shields" for Coptic Christmas mass. Retrieved from The Washington Post:

Name of researcher, and date dd/mm/yyyy

Jan Stander, 24/10/2013