04/29/2016 Washington, D.C. (International Christian Concern) – Osama Gamal knows his brother Michael did not commit suicide because Osama knows his brother.
Michael Gamal Mansour was a happy 22-year-old Christian who dreamed of opening a carpentry business, getting married, and having children one day.
Why would he kill himself only three months out from the end of his contract with the Egyptian Army?
Michael’s story represents just one tragic example among dozens of Christian Egyptian military members who have died suspiciously and their deaths were ruled as suicides.
The painful truth is that the circumstances of Michael’s death point to persecution and foul play.
In Egypt, military service is a compulsory for every citizen. For Michael, having a vocational diploma in carpentry meant that he owed two years of service.
He joined the army in April 2014 in the artillery unit in the Al-Shoouk area of Cairo. In August 2015, he was moved to another unit in Shibin Al Kawm of the Al Minufiyah governorate.
In February 2016, he died from a close-range gunshot wound to the chest, hours after speaking with his family over the phone.
“I used to call him every day,” Osama told International Christian Concern (ICC). “The last call with him was on a Monday evening. He talked to us and he was in a good state.”
On February 16, Osama tried to call his brother for another daily chat because Osama wanted to encourage Michael who faced social exclusion as a Christian among the majority-Muslim ranks.
“I tried to call Michael many times but his cell phone was switched off, at 10:20 p.m. One of [Michael’s] colleagues called me from Michael’s cell phone and told me my brother was injured and in the hospital at Kasr Al Ainy Hospital in Shibin Al Kawm,” Osama explained.
After receiving this call, Michael’s phone was shut off again.
Since the family was unable to contact Michael, his brother Alla set out to visit Michael in the hospital. Alla arrived on Wednesday, February 17, just past midnight, when military police officers informed him that Michael had committed suicide. They told Alla that Michael had shot himself after having a disturbing phone conversation with his family.
The next morning, the rest of the Gamal family arrived. They were allowed to see Michael’s body before he was transferred to the morgue for examination.
When the Gamal family asked a military lieutenant how Michael died, the officer’s only response was that he had seen nothing because he had been on leave.
The coroner’s report simply confirmed that Michael’s cause of death was a gunshot wound to the chest from close range with no other details.
Michael’s family laid him to rest in a cemetery in their home village of Al-Zawya, Assuit.
A Recurring Pattern
Michael’s death is just one of several cases of Christian conscripts killed inside army units under mysterious circumstances. This is an all-too-common phenomenon clouded with unanswered questions and it continues with impunity.
On November 20, 2014, Bishoy Natay Boushra, 21-years-old, was killed in in his army unit along the Cairo-Suez desert road. His superiors claimed he had hanged himself.
According to his father, Bishoy had been in a dispute with a Muslim conscript who had insulted his religion. Though his body showed signs of foul play, the forensic report issued suicide as the cause of his death.
Bahaa Gamal Mikhail, 24-years-old, from the Assiut province was killed on June 24, 2015. Though his battalion claimed that he killed himself, Bahaa had suffered two fatal gunshot wounds. He died at the same base as Bishoy, along the Cairo-Suez desert road.
In August 2015, Bahaa Saeed Karam, a 22-year-old Christian recruit from Sohag, died of four gunshot wounds at the headquarters of his battalion. He had previously received death threats from a fellow Muslim conscript named Mohammed Tarek. Bahaa’s death was also reported as suicide.
Another tragic case was that of Christian conscript Abou Al-Khair, who had refused to embrace Islam after a fellow soldier invited him to convert from Christianity. He was found dead soon after on August 31, 2013, and his death was also ruled a suicide.
In yet another instance, Hany Saroufim Nasrallah was found dead in the Nile River near Nag Hammadi in August 2006. His body revealed signs of foul play and torture. In this case, Hany had actually contacted his family about the humiliating oppression he was enduring under his commander, due to their different faith backgrounds. Like all of the rest, the military ruled Nasrallah’s death as a suicide.
Those listed above represent a mere fraction in the concurrent string of “Christian suicides” plaguing the Egyptian military.
Despite the outcry from the Coptic community and human rights activists, incessant and deafening silence persists from the Egyptian government on this issue. The truth behind these mysterious, tragic deaths remains unknown as families still struggle with unanswered questions.
Osama Gamal and his family now grieve as Michael has joined this painfully long list of Christian martyrs from the Egyptian military. This trend reveals a chilling truth that demands investigation, especially from a government that supposedly supports its Christian minority.