November 10th, 2009 10:58 EST
Disappearance, Forced Conversions and Forced Marriages of Egyptian Christian Women
The Disappearance, Forced Conversions and Forced Marriages of Coptic Christian Women in Egypt - a pioneering report on human trafficking - was released today by Christian Solidarity International (CSI) and the Coptic Foundation for Human Rights.
Researched in Egypt by American anti-trafficking specialist Michele Clark and Egyptian women`s rights activist Nadia Ghaly, the report documents a criminal pattern involving deception, sexual violence, captivity, compulsion to convert to Islam and forced marriage. This phenomenon of violence against Egypt`s Christian women corresponds to internationally recognized definitions of human trafficking.
Among the documented cases are:
- R. 17-year-old Christian from Al-Fayoum: Drugged, kidnapped, raped, coerced into conversion to Islam, forcibly married.
- J. 19-year-old Christian from Cairo: Abducted, raped, incarcerated, forcibly married, converted to Islam.
- M. 15-year-old Christian from El Menya: raped, gave birth, converted to Islam, physically scarred, forcibly married, drugged, and prostituted.
The report demonstrates these violations of fundamental human rights are encouraged by the prevalence of cultural norms in Egypt - often rooted in religious tradition - that legitimize violence against women and non-Muslims. The report furthermore finds the Egyptian authorities tacitly complicit by consistently demonstrating a lack of will to adequately investigate allegations of rape, abduction and abuse.
Egypt`s prestigious Al-Ahram Weekly recently broke a longstanding taboo by acknowledging that allegations of widespread conversion and forced marriage of Coptic girls to Muslim men have brought relations between the country`s Christian community and the Islamic authorities to a boiling point. (Al-Ahram Weekly On-line, 3-9 September 2009, no. 963)
Writing today to President Barack Obama, Dr. John Eibner of CSI urged the U.S. government "to encourage Egyptian President Mubarak to take credible measures to combat the trafficking of Christian women and girls." Eibner furthermore stated "the unhindered and unpunished trafficking of Christian women and girls in Egypt is a litmus test for the true state of relations between Muslims and non- Muslim minorities."
Last June in Cairo, President Obama addressed the Muslim world, calling for a new beginning in relations with the United States, and the need to uphold the rights of religious minorities and the rights of women.
The Clark-Ghaly report concludes by urging human rights institutions to undertake further research on this largely unexplored facet of human trafficking in Egypt.