Photo Essay: The Families of the Minya Attack Victims

Photos by Jonathan Rashad

June 6, 2017

"If I see any one from ISIS, I would hug him. They are the reason my brother is in heaven." These were the words of Marianne, 21, sister of 24-year-old Bishoy Ibrahim, one of the 29 Christian Egyptians killed by ISIS in late May.

Three vehicles carrying Coptic Christian families from Minya were a few kilometers from their destination - the St. Samuel the Confessor Monastery - when they were attacked by gunmen. The attack brings the total number of Christians killed in Egypt by ISIS to 82 since the beginning of the year.

I visited a few of the homes of those killed. The village of Nazlet Hana lost lost seven people in the attack, including two children. Seven men from the village of Deir El Garnos were killed. The victims from the village were all farmers and laborers traveling to the monastery for work. Many of the families in these villages are taking solace in what they describe as their loved ones becoming "martyrs."

Father of 24-year-old Bishoy Adly, one of the 29 Christian Egyptians killed by ISIS last week. Born and raised in Nazlet Hanna, Bishoy worked as a tailor. "Three days before the attack, Bishoy was talking with his friends about martyrdom and martyrs. It is like he knew he was going to be one," his father said.
Grandmother, mother and sisters of 24-year-old Bishoy Adly, one of the 29 Christian Egyptians killed by ISIS. Born and raised in Nazlet Hanna, Bishoy worked as a tailor. His mother, Safaa, 43 (right), and his sister Julia, 7 (center), both witnessed the attack. "A few kilometers before the monastery, our bus stopped suddenly and live rounds were shot from outside targeting our vehicle. I saw the bullets flying inside. I looked through the window and I saw masked men in army outfits. The shooting was non-stop and many were getting shot inside. Right away, Bishoy covered his 7-year-old sister and I under his arms. Amidst the screams, as we were lying down, we watched our relatives and friends being sprayed by the bullets of the terrorists. When one of us opened the door, he was shot in the head and one masked ISIS man got in. I do not know what he looked like. He was masked. But I remember his wide green eyes. The masked man asked all the women for their money and jewelry. In the meantime, he shot two teenage girls between their legs. The masked man left the bus and we thought they were all gone. Not until he got back on again and started pointing his rifle at a 6-month old girl. That was the moment Bishoy stood up and screamed, trying to protect the baby. The terrorist called him "kafir" [infidel] and shot him in the head and throat. Then he fell on my lap. Why would a 7-year-old girl watch her brother being slaughtered? Why?," Bishoy's mother asked.
Julia, 7, sister of 24-year-old Bishoy Ibrahim, one of the 29 Christian Egyptians killed by ISIS. Julia witnessed the killing of her brother.
Wife, sons and daughters of 57-year-old slain farmer/laborer Eid Ishak. "My dad never refused to go to the monastery, even when he had important work at the farm. Christianity was his priority," said Ishak, 20 (right), Eid's son.
Father of 26-year-old Hany Adel Rizk holds a photo of his son. "I was working in a farm field when I get the phone call. Someone called me and informed me that my son had been killed by terrorists in the convoy. I fainted when I heard this. I went to the scene of the attack and found no one. Then I went to the hospital to find the bodies. It was such a shock that I could not see or hear anything," said the 63-year-old father.
Wife, sons and daughter of 55-year-old slain farmer and laborer Lamy Ishak. "May God forgive ISIS. We will never leave our faith. We never left Jesus," said Nadia, 45, wife of Lamy.
Marco, 14, Mina, 10, sons of 46-year-old slain laborer Ayed Habib Tawadros. Their father was the driver of one of the three vehicles. Marco and Mina witnessed their dad being shot and survived the attack. "On the way to the monastery, someone holding a rifle stopped our vehicle. We saw the other vehicle shot ahead of us. Once my dad got out of the car, he got a bullet in the head. Then two masked men came and started shooting all the men in the vehicle, except my brother and myself. They ran away, chanting ‘Allah Akbar’. Before they ran away, one masked man pointed the rifle at me. Then his comrade asked him not to shoot me," said Marco.
Nawal, 26, her sons Kirollos, 5, Mina, 2 and her daughter Erine, 4 months. "He had breakfast with me before he left and gave me some money to spend while he is away. He was going to work at the monastery to get me money for my eye operation," said Nawal, wife of 32-year-old slain laborer Nasef Mamdouh Ayad.
Mother, wife, brothers, sons and 4-month-old daughter of 32-year-old slain laborer Nasef Mamdouh Ayad. "ISIS did him a favor. Now he is in heaven," said Nasef's wife.
Wife, sons and daughters of 38-year-old slain laborer Wahib Edwar.
Deir El Garnos is entirely populated by Copt Christians. At least 20,000 live in the village.
Luiz Botros Hana, 39, stares at the village of Deir El Garnos from inside its main church the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Jonathan Rashad is a self-taught documentary photographer who grew up in Cairo and started his career in 2008. He has covered events in Egypt as they have unfolded over the past few years. Follow him on Twitter @JonathanRashad

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