Christian Couple Escape from Egypt

Monday, May 17, 2004

Coptic husband, convert wife leave separately.

by Barbara G. Baker

ISTANBUL, May 17 (Compass) -- Thirteen months after Egypt jailed and tortured a Coptic Christian pharmacist for marrying a former Muslim woman, Boulos Farid Rezek-Allah Awad has finally been allowed to emigrate from Egypt to Canada.

Rezek-Allah flew out of the Cairo International Airport to Canada in March, shortly before his Canadian immigration visa was due to expire. A few weeks earlier, his wife Enas Yehya Abdel Aziz had escaped the country to claim refugee status abroad.

Egyptian security police officials told Rezek-Allah last November that he was permanently blacklisted from leaving Egypt. They vowed to track down and punish his wife for her “illegal” marriage to a Christian.

In a telephone interview from an undisclosed location in Canada, Rezek-Allah told Compass that he assumed that the Egyptian authorities somehow learned that his wife had managed to slip out of Egypt without being identified and arrested.

“So after they lost hope of catching Enas, they allowed me to depart from Egypt,” he said. “But I am not sure that even now they know to which country she went, and where she is now.”

Rezek-Allah was arrested in February 2003 by security police in Cairo for breaking Egyptian law by secretly marrying a Muslim woman who had converted to Christianity. Islamic law forbids a Christian man to marry a Muslim woman in Egypt, where Muslim citizens are not allowed to change their religion.

Since Rezek-Allah and his wife had been accepted to immigrate to Canada, they kept their wedding secret, living separately while waiting for their immigration papers from the Canadian Embassy.

But before they could leave, Egyptian police authorities obtained copies of his wife’s new Christian I.D. and marriage certificate, revealing that she had been baptized three years earlier and then married Rezek-Allah in May 2002.

Rezek-Allah was interrogated under torture for weeks at Cairo’s El-Shobra police station, where officers hung him by his arms and beat him, trying to find out his wife’s whereabouts. But Enas had gone into strict hiding, foiling police attempts to track her down.

After his release from Tora Prison on June 1, Rezek-Allah was kept under continual surveillance and intimidation by the police. During his two subsequent attempts to leave for Canada, through the Cairo airport in August and across the Libyan border in November, he was turned back by Egyptian authorities.

Rezek-Allah said that he himself did not know all the details surrounding his wife’s recent escape from Egypt. But after she managed to leave the country, the Canadian government granted her refugee status, citing the religious persecution she faced in her homeland for converting from Islam to Christianity.

She has since undergone leg surgery, related to injuries in a car accident before she left Egypt. After recovering from the operation, she plans to enter English language classes in her new homeland.

Her husband, meanwhile, is studying for his final pharmacy-license exams in Canada this coming August.

Rezek-Allah admitted that it had been a long, stressful 13 months since he was arrested and separated from his wife under the threat of never being reunited. “But I think now, I begin to forget all this,” he told Compass. “God has healed my mind and my heart.”

“Enas and I know that God is good,” Rezek-Allah said, “and that He will complete doing every good thing in us and for us.”