Egypt Arrests 22 Muslim Converts to Christianity

Thursday, October 23, 2003

Washington D.C (10/23/03) – U.S. Copts Association received several phone calls from the families and friends of over 20 Egyptian Muslim converts to Christianity who have been detained by the Egyptian police since October 20th.

The string of arrests began with the apprehension of a married couple who secretly converted from Islam to Christianity. Yousef Samuel Makari Suliman (formerly Muhammad Ahmad Imam al-Kurdi), his wife, Mariam Girgis Makar (formerly Saher El-Sayid Abd al-Kani), and their two daughters, Sarah and Marina (formerly Sarah and Shaymaa) had been living in hiding after their conversion. Colonel Taha Afify of the Criminal Investigative Research Unit – Civilian Affairs Department of the Alexandria police department arrested the couple. The couple was then transferred to Cairo and an investigation into the couple’s case was opened in the Al-Muski Police Department (Case number 3793 - Year 2003). Lawyers, granted access to the couple, report that Mariam Girgis has been the subject of sexual assault and attempted rape by police officers. In addition, she and her husband have been beaten and physically abused. Initial reports indicated that lawyers were able to negotiate the release of Yousef; however, we are told this information is inaccurate. Both Yousef and Mariam
are still in prison while their children are with friends. Police officials subsequently arrested several civil servants who had aided the couple in securing new ID cards with Christian names. These administrative officials were subject to severe torture at the hands of the police and coerced into producing the names of approximately 100 other converts who had similarly secured new ID cards with Christian names. Immediately thereafter, 20 more converts were arrested in Alexandria alone.

Officially, the 22 imprisoned converts have been charged "with falsifying ID papers." Unable to change their religious affiliation on their ID cards, the converts resorted to obtaining new cards. These new ID cards are viewed by the state as fraudulent.

U.S. Copts Association is concerned that the Egyptian police, now armed with a list of names, may follow up its string of arrests with up to 100 additional apprehensions of Muslim converts to Christianity. ‘It is ironic that while the Egyptian constitution guarantees the individual’s freedom to change his or her religion, the Egyptian government repeatedly violates the constitution by harassing, torturing, raping, and holding converts indefinitely to pressure them to leave their new faith. In addition, the government does not legally recognize conversion from Islam to Christianity and, as a result, converts lose all their rights, inheritance, and positions” said Michael Meunier, president of U.S. Copts Association.

The U.S. Copts Association will be leading a congressional campaign in the U.S. Congress to ensure that this repeated violation of human rights and freedom by the Egyptian government is exposed.