Egypt's Coptic Christians protest exclusion from Olympic and other sports
A charity that campaigns for equal rights in Egypt has filed a formal complaint of discrimination against Coptic Christians in the selection of Egypt's Olympic team.
Coptic Solidarity has complained to the International Olympic Committee and to the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) claiming that Egypt has discriminated against Coptic athletes.
Coptic Solidarity says this discrimination prevents Coptic athletes from competing at national and international levels in football, athletics and many other sports, and says it has received numerous complaints from Copts complaining of exclusion.
"Despite successfully passing all selection stages, these athletes have been excluded from national and international competition for no reason other than their religious background," says Coptic Solidarity.
About 10 million of Egypt's 90 million citizens are Christian.
Egypt's Olympic mission to Rio de Janeiro was made up of 122 athletes but did not include a single Copt.
Egypt's 2012 London delegation also did not include any Copts.
Additionally, not a single Egyptian Christian player, coach or trainer can be found on any club in the country's premier soccer league.
Over the past four decades, just a handful of Copts have been included in any club at any level of professional or semi-professional competition in Egypt.
"This is not an impossible statistical anomaly, but instead is the product of deep-rooted discrimination that exists in the administration of athletics and football in Egypt, and in Egyptian society at large," says Coptic Solidarity. "The infusion of religious bigotry into sports has become all too pervasive in Egypt, and is undermining the very meaning of sportsmanship. The shameful action of Egypt's judoka, Islam El Shehaby in refusing to shake hands with his Israeli counterpart at the 2016 Olympic Games was condemned worldwide, yet in Egypt celebrated as a contrived religious victory."
The charity says it has at least 10 such cases whereathletes are prepared to testify regarding the religious discrimination they have endured in Egyptian athletics.
It reports hundreds, if not thousands, of other cases that have not been publicised because of the perceived futility of even trying.