Egypt: Security Police Torture Christian Convert Woman

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Estranged Islamist relatives vow to kill young wife.

ISTANBUL, July 18 (Compass Direct News) -- Security police in Alexandria, Egypt have repeatedly tortured a young woman convert to Christianity in custody since Monday (July 16).

Fanatic Islamist relatives of Eman Muhammad el-Sayed, 26, attacked her two days ago while she and her husband were strolling through a local fair in Alexandria. Although police intervened in the street-side fracas, they promptly arrested the victim herself, allegedly to protect her from her Muslim family.

Each day since then, El-Sayed, 26, has been transferred to a security police headquarters in Alexandria, where inside sources confirmed to Compass that she has been subjected to hours of interrogation and severe physical torture.

At 3 p.m. today, Egyptian authorities again sent the young woman back from the local police station where she was arrested to security police custody. Sources in Alexandria confirmed again today that SSI officials at the El-Fraana police headquarters have subjected El-Sayed to severe torture, including electrocution of sensitive parts of her body.

Together with her husband, also a former Muslim who converted to Christianity, El-Sayed was browsing through a fair in Alexandria’s Al-Azareeta district on Monday afternoon (July 16) when she was spotted by her brother and an uncle.

Since their marriage four years earlier, the convert couple had managed to avoid any contact with her family, all members of the fanatic El-Salafiyeen group of Sunni extremists.

El-Sayed’s male relatives immediately grabbed her and began to beat her with their hands, attempting to shove her into a car and vowing to kill her.

But when El-Sayed began screaming loudly, people in the crowd called the police, who interfered in the attack and took her into custody.

Meantime, El-Sayed had called to her husband, urging him, “Go! Escape from here before they catch you!” Her husband managed to flee the scene, escaping from both her angry relatives and police detention.

But his wife was taken under arrest to the nearby Bab-Sharky police station, on the orders of officer Khayree Nasar. Soon afterwards, her family members ringed the police station, demanding that she be turned over to them to be punished for abandoning Islam.

When El-Sayed was searched and found to be carrying Christian identity papers, local police then transferred her to State Security Investigation (SSI) officials in the El-Fraana district of Alexandria.

To intimidate her with the threat of public shame, she also had been forcibly disrobed and photographed naked at the Bab-Sharky police station.

“This is not legal treatment, but it is happening all the time,” said Rasha Noor, an Egyptian convert now living abroad and tracking reports of overt persecution against Christians in her homeland. “The Christians from Muslim background can’t change their identities, so they are always pushed by the authorities to return back to Islam – or else.”

Converts Targeted

In a similar incident in April documented by Compass, a Christian convert couple living in a Cairo district far from their relatives were targeted after aggressive Islamists noticed the husband did not attend mosque prayers.

Mounting a deliberate watch, the Islamist vigilantes followed the husband until they finally saw him go into a church.

Soon afterwards, a group of 10 men stormed the couple’s home without warning, accusing them of committing “apostasy.” They made a neighborhood spectacle by searching their house and dragging them off to the police station.

There the wife was raped twice and her husband savagely beaten. When the Islamist vigilantes finally released them a day later, they threatened the convert couple with prison if they dared to tell anyone what had happened to them.

The husband was subsequently fired from his well-paying job, and local shopkeepers refused to sell them food or other goods. They were eventually forced to move away to a remote village, where he found work as a day laborer.

Although a growing number of Muslim-born Egyptians have left Islam and quietly converted to Christianity, they are forbidden to change their official religious identity.

In order to become part of local Christian congregations and raise their children as Christians, some converts acquire forged Christian identity papers, classified as a misdemeanor under Egyptian law.

“Egyptian society is not prepared to face this problem of converts,” one Egyptian Catholic leader told Compass recently. “Whether it’s Christians or Baha’is or whoever, there’s a lot of personal prejudice and discrimination.”

He said he has told SSI agents that, in the next five to 10 years, the government must resolve how to protect converts. “They have to deal with it, without making a fuss over this issue of apostasy, because people are wanting real freedom of speech and belief,” he said.

In contrast to the restrictions against Muslims converting to Christianity, the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, Sheikh Muhammad Sayed Tantawi, stated last year that some 7,000 Coptic Christians had openly converted to Islam between the years 2000 and 2006.

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