Eshhad is an online platform that aggregates and collates alleged religious persecution and sectarian attacks in Egypt. Although Egypt’s Christians have been the predominant target of sectarian hostility, the country’s Bahá’í, Jewish, Shi’a , and Non-Religious citizens have also been subject to similar incidents of discrimination. Eshhad hosts a database that collects publicly available information and a map that geo-references the recorded incidents. In addition to the Eshhad Database and Eshhad Map, Eshhad will provide a variety of resources, including minority group background profiles and analytical commentary. Sectarianism is a complex issue and with the increasing political and social changes the need for a way to track the problem is of growing importance. Although currently focused on minorities in Egypt, future phases of the project may expand to include other coverage of other countries and marginalized groups in the Middle East and North Africa.
Since August 2013, Eshhad has documented over 500 alleged sectarian incidents—events that have victimized homes, houses of worship, stores, schools, and individuals in Egypt. Eshhad serves as a platform that provides researchers, policymakers, and journalists with data that is crucial to addressing issues of security, rule of law, and basic freedoms of religion and thought. The project provides a backdrop to understanding Egypt’s simultaneous pursuit of freedom and security within the greater context of democratic transition.
Although sectarian conflict and violence are not new phenomena in Egypt, it has become increasingly difficult to accurately document the ongoing incidents. The project was launched in order to fill an information gap and provide a clearer picture of religious discrimination and violence in Egypt. Eshhad, which previously existed as an independent entity and is now an incubated project at the Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy (TIMEP), seeks to encourage transparency and to influence policy by explaining the context in which sectarianism occurs throughout the Middle East. While Eshhad is currently focused on highlighting the proliferation of sectarian attacks on minority groups in Egypt, its long-term vision will expand to include sectarianism in the region as a whole.
Eshhad is critical to TIMEP’s mission in supporting voices in the Middle East that call for the essential components of a democratic system. TIMEP strongly believes that freedom and security are not mutually exclusive but are best pursued simultaneously. Documenting incidents of alleged sectarian violence targeting Egypt’s religious minorities serves both of these aims, first by exposing infringements on the right to religious freedom as guaranteed by Articles 53 and 64 of the 2014 Egyptian Constitution, and by highlighting security concerns for religious minorities. While not every incident documented by Eshhad is driven or motivated solely by sectarian intent, each incident contributes to a context in which religiously motivated violence and persecution thrives.
Eshhad joins the ranks of other TIMEP projects such as Egypt Security Watch and the Legislation Tracker, which follow a similarly systematic approach of documentation, tracking, and trend analysis; addressing the need for both qualitative and quantitative understanding of the region’s ongoing events. For more information on Eshhad’s history and vision, please refer to the Project Introduction and the Eshhad Map and Database Codebook.
In fulfilling its mission to provide accurate and verified data in a comprehensive English-language database, Eshhad provides the following resources:
- Eshhad Map: The live map component of the website showcases incidents of sectarian attacks and violence. The data represents the most comprehensive set tracking this information, detailing the location, players, victims, and responses to each data point. At present, Eshhad’s geographical scope is limited to Egypt; in the near future, Eshhad will expand to remaining countries in the region.
- Eshhad Database: The database presents the information embodied by the interactive form.
- Analysis: Written by experts and specialists who work in the field, analysis is provided to interpretations of the conclusions that can be drawn from the data provided in the database and the map.
- Reports: This segment of the website will provide both vital background information on the minority groups impacted by sectarianism in Eshhad’s target countries (Minority Profiles and Issue Briefs), alongside regular reports (Monthly Reports) on statistics and findings.