Factbox: Egyptian Reactions to the Paris Attacks

Three coordinated teams of terrorists carried out simultaneous attacks at locations throughout Paris late Friday, including the Stade de France, a concert hall, and at least two restaurants. The attack, claimed by the Islamic State (ISIS or ISIL), left at least 129 dead and over 300 wounded. Numerous countries, including Egypt, condemned the attacks and expressed of support for the French people.

Egyptian Casualties

Two Egyptians were killed in the Paris attacks, twenty-eight year old Paris resident Salah Emad al-Gebali and thirty year old dual Egyptian-French national Lamia Mondegeur. The Egyptian consulate said the location of al-Gebali’s death remains uncertain, however he is believed to have been killed at the Le Bataclan concert hall. Mondeguer died during the attack at a restaurant on Rue de Charonne at Paris’ 11th arrondissement, a source close to her family said. Mondeguer studied cinema and worked as a communications manager at a talent agency.

State Reactions

President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi condemned the Paris attacks. In a phone call to French President Francois Hollande, Sisi said the attacks would not dissuade countries from combating terrorism and extremism. He described the attacks as “lowly and cowardly crimes” and extended his condolences to France on behalf of the Egyptian people. Presidential Spokesman Alaa Youssef said Saturday that Sisi assigned Egyptian Ambassador to France Ihab Badawi to emphasize Egypt’s support for Paris and international counter terrorism efforts.

The Egyptian Foreign Ministry said in a statement that Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry met with his French counterpart Laurent Fabius on Saturday on the sidelines of talks on Syria in Vienna. The Ministry said Shoukry expressed his condolences, underlined Egypt’s condemnation of the attack, and expressed support for France’s government and people. Shoukry also told Laurent that France can rely on Egypt as a partner in combating terrorism and that Egypt seeks a more “serious and decisive” effort in confronting terrorism.

Also on Saturday, Egypt’s cabinet said the Paris attacks highlighted the terrorist threat facing Egypt and reiterated the importance of international cooperation. “Such terrorist crimes highlight the pressing and urgent need for countries in the world to unite to put an end to terrorism,” a cabinet statement read.

On Sunday evening, joining similar displays of solidarity in the United States, Canada, Australia, Brazil and other countries, colored lights representing the Egyptian, Lebanese, French, and Russian flags illuminated the area around the pyramids. Several officials, including the ministers of antiquities, tourism, and environment held a vigil at the pyramids. Antiquities Minister Mamdouh al-Damati expressed his condolences to the Russian and French people and stressed that Egypt stands beside all countries in the fight against terrorism.

Official Religious Reactions

The Grand Imam of al-Azhar Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayyeb denounced the attacks as “hideous” and “hateful” and urged the international community to work towards countering terrorism. “We condemn this hateful incident,” al-Tayyeb told a conference focused on combating extremist thought in Luxor on Saturday. “The time has come for the world to cooperate to confront this frantic monster [of terrorism],” he said

Egypt’s Grand Mufti Shawky Allam also condemned the attacks and emphasized that Muslims around the world consider such terror attacks criminal acts that violate all religious and humanitarian norms. Allam called on the French authorities to protect the Muslim community in France from retaliatory attacks. Allam wrote on the Egyptian Foreign Ministry’s blog that “the whole Muslim community is in a state of mourning, just like the rest of the French people.”

Responses from Political Parties

Social media responses to the attack from political parties and political figures were widely supportive of the French people and condemned the attack.

Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh, former Muslim Brotherhood leader and presidential candidate, released a tweet offering his condolences to the families of the victims in Paris.

The Free Egyptians Party released a statement condemning the attack in Paris and called on the international community to join with Egypt to launch a “full-scale confrontation” against terrorism and extremism. Other political parties denounced the attack, including the Wafd Party, Conference Party,  Socialist Popular Alliance Party, and Dostour.

The Muslim Brotherhood also released a statement condemning the Paris attacks.

The French branch of the April 6 Youth Movement released a statement following the attacks. The group said it was mourning for the victims of the attack and criticized terrorism for seeking to “undermine the principles of humanity.” The group called on the international community to unite in order to safeguard freedom and security on European governments to protect Muslims and Arabs in their countries in the wake of the attacks. The group’s statement was echoed on by the April 6 Youth Movement on Twitter.

Responses in the Media and on Twitter

Some used the Paris attacks as an opportunity to criticize the international community’s response to recent terror attacks in Egypt. Shortly after the news broke, popular Egyptian television anchor Lamees al-Hadidy posted a tweet that social media users said mocked the tragedy.

She said in Arabic, “We want to send a team of investigators to inspect France’s restaurants. This is unsettling.” The tweet was in response to a previous French announcement that the country was sending a team of investigators from the French Civil Aviation Safety Agency to Egypt to investigate the cause of the MetroJet airliner that crashed in Egypt on October 31.

Ahmed Moussa
, another well known pro-government television anchor, used the Arabic hashtag “Tweet as if you’re a French activist,” which questioned outrage over terrorism in the west but not elsewhere. Moussa tweeted in Arabic, “Turns out there are no activists except here. Turns out there are no traitors determined to destroy their country except here. Despite all the mistakes of its security forces, the French people rally behind their leadership.”

Al Masry Al Youm
columnist Mohamed Amin criticized US President Barack Obama’s condolences for France. He argued that ISIS is not strong enough to have carried out an attack of that magnitude and suggested that the west was behind the attack.

In his column in Shorouk on Monday, former member of parliament Amr Hamzawy criticized the international community for its “double standards.” Hamzawy contrasted the public outcry over the attacks with “silence” in response to deadly suicide bombings in Beirut last week.

This is a sentiment that was echoed elsewhere in the Middle East. Lebanese writer Joey Ayoub wrote in Global Voices:

“These have been two horrible nights of violence. The first took the lives of over 40 in Beirut; the second took the lives of over 120 people and counting in Paris.It also seems clear to me that to the world, my people’s deaths in Beirut do not matter as much as my other people’s deaths in Paris.We do not get a “safe” button on Facebook. We do not get late night statements from the most powerful men and women alive and millions of online users.We do not change policies which will affect the lives of countless innocent refugees.This could not be clearer. I say this with no resentment whatsoever, just sadness.”

Egyptians around the World

In New Delhi, India, Egyptian painter Mohamed Abla incorporated expressions of support for Paris during an initiative he led Saturday to convert a wall of the city’s Khan Market into a mural. Abla painted the “peace for Paris” sign, created by French artist Jean Jullien, in the mural, which he said was “not just about Paris,” but about “a global art effort to combat terrorism.”

Meanwhile, some Egyptians in France expressed worries of heightened security measures following the attacks. Spokesperson for the French People’s Current Mostafa Bakry said Arabs and Muslims will suffer from enhanced security measures. “The perception linking terrorism with Arabs and Muslims will affect these communities in Europe,” he said.

Still, Egyptians around the world continued to express support for Paris.

Initial Speculation over Egyptian Involvement

A source close to the investigation told CNN that French authorities found an Egyptian passport on one of the attackers. “There is strong assumption that these passports are fake,” the source said.

However, Ambassador Badawi said the passport belonged to twenty-seven year old Egyptian national Walid Abdel-Razeq, who was seriously injured in the attack. Abdel Razeq’s brother Wael said he underwent three operations for serious injuries from shrapnel but remains in critical condition. Wael said his brother was heading to the De France Stadium to watch the soccer match between France and Germany when he was injured in the attack. He added that he and Abdel-Razeq arrived in Paris two weeks ago with their mother in search of medical treatment for Wael, who has cancer.

Buzzfeed News spoke with Wael from Paris. “I can’t believe what’s being said about my brother. The man had massive pieces of shrapnel lodged in his body. How can he be a suicide bomber?” Wael continued, “he is a tourist who was going to watch a football match and what happened to him is a result of the French authorities’ inability to secure the stadium when the French president himself was there.”

According to Egyptian Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Ahmed Abu Zeid, Abdel-Razeq had been missing until Saturday when it was discovered that he was in the hospital. He had been admitted without any personal documents. “We have no accurate information we can rely on to say whether he [was one of the attackers],” Abu Zeid said on Saturday. A friend of Wael’s, Mohamed Gaber, posted on Facebook early on Saturday that Abdel-Razeq was missing. He said the Egyptian embassy in Paris did not know that Abdel-Razeq was missing. “The embassy’s staff started messaging me on Facebook to ask which hospitals the family had been to so they would concentrate their efforts and go to other hospitals.”

On Sunday, Badawi said that the media had incorrectly portrayed Abdel-Razeq as a suspect. “No charges have been directed at Abdel-Razeq at all,” he said.

Elissa Miller is a Program Assistant the Atlantic Council’s Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East. Brandan Martini is an intern at the Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East. 

Image: Photo: Egyptians light candles as the French and Egyptian flags and France's national colours of blue, white and red are projected onto one of the Giza pyramids, in tribute to the victims of the Paris attacks, on the outskirts of Cairo, Egypt, November 15, 2015. (Amr Dalsh/Reuters)