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ICC Note:

An Egyptian who has confessed to participating in the kidnapping of Coptic girls shares how the most vulnerable girls of the Christian community are targeted, abducted, and forced into marriage with Muslim men. These kidnappings have devastated families, leaving many of Egypt’s Christians fearful of the kind of future in store for their daughters. In these cases, the police are often less than helpful to the families and sometimes receive rewards for their assistance to the kidnappers. Some girls are eventually freed and the trauma of their experience leaves them in great need of care.

 

09/17/2017 Egypt (World Watch Monitor) – “I remember a Coptic Christian girl from a rich, well-known family in Minya. She was kidnapped by five Muslim men. They held her in a house, stripped her and filmed her naked. In the video, one of them also undressed. They threatened to make the video public if the girl wouldn’t marry him.”

‘G’, an Egyptian, admits he was in a network actively targeting Coptic girls for years before he left Islam; he says that the kidnapping of such girls is now at an all-time high. “Salafist networks began in the seventies and it’s reached its highest levels now, in the era of President Sisi… A group of kidnappers meets in a mosque to discuss potential victims. They keep a close eye on Christians’ houses and monitor everything that’s going on. On that basis, they weave a spider’s web around [the girls],” he says.

Strategies can be subtle. “A Muslim boy tells a Christian girl he loves her and wants to convert to Christianity for her,” ‘G’ explains. “They start a romantic relationship until one day they decide to ‘escape’ together. What the girls don’t know is that they are actually being kidnapped. Most of the time they will not marry their kidnapper, but someone else.”

This summer there were two ‘kidnap’ incidents within two days.

Sixteen-year-old Marilyn was kidnapped through this ‘love’ tactic, as her family priest, Father Boutros Khalaf, explains, when we meet in their village, Balansora, Minya province, as her desperate parents cry nearby. “On Wednesday evening [28 June, 2017] at 5pm, Marilyn disappeared. Her mother searched everywhere but couldn’t find her. Some people told us that she had been kidnapped by a young man named Taha. He had taken her to a farm where he works,” says Fr Khalaf.

An Egyptian researcher, who wants to remain anonymous, confirmed to World Watch Monitor over the phone: “Marilyn was seduced by a recruit of a Salafi organisation. She was involved in a love affair; he was then able to convince her to run away with him. Marilyn isn’t 18 yet. So even if she had agreed to go with Taha, in our law this is clearly a case of kidnapping a minor.”

The day before, 15-year-old Neveen Adly Beshai Sawiris was pushed into a car with force by two men as she walked along a street in Cairo. Her 38-year-old kidnapper later confessed he had forged her papers to show her as an over-18 and married her.

He was charged with kidnapping a minor, forgery, and inciting sectarian strife.

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