Benevolence and Blasphemy: Egypt’s Contradiction

By Claire Evans

07/15/2021 Washington D.C. (International Christian Concern) – Their eyes are everywhere. They say they are watching for the good of society; that they are deescalating conflict. They call it benevolence. The world calls it censorship. For Ehab, it is a blasphemy conviction.

Ehab is 17 years old, and the dangers of living in Egypt’s Islamic society add a different dimension to his teenage experience. Christians are marginalized, forced into lower-paying jobs, and increasingly vulnerable to persecution. Though only a child, Ehab was the breadwinner of his household. Parentified, marginalized, and targeted by his peers, Ehab’s life was hard.

Last summer, he vented on Facebook about the pressures Muslims place on Christians. The ever-watching authorities noticed and said it could incite conflict. Ehab was arrested for blasphemy and has since been imprisoned. He is scheduled for release soon, but blasphemy victims receive many empty promises.

His arrest caused family disarray. Ehab’s mother was left completely alone with her two younger sons. The shock of his arrest left her noncommunicative for months, so depressed that she was unable to leave the house. After all, he is only a child—her child—and the family’s breadwinner.

ICC learned of the case as soon as Ehab was arrested and began providing assistance. It was a difficult case. “They are a very humble family,” observed our field team. “The father died and Ehab was the breadwinner. The mother is miserable and in pain. She can’t communicate with people.”

Every month, we returned to the family, gifting food and other necessities. His mother would bring some of this food to Ehab in prison, worried because he was receiving little nutrients. However, she was not allowed to see him. “I suffer in this matter; I know that my son doesn’t eat the prison food.”

During one of her visits, she clashed with a police officer when she learned that he was blocking Ehab’s letters home. “During one of my visits, a police officer cut the letter which my son was sending to me. Ehab told him it was a letter to check up on the family, but the officer screamed at me saying it is an illegal action here. Writing is illegal.”

This explosion of anger concerned her. Maybe this officer was beating Ehab? She made a complaint to his supervisor, who comforted her and said, “Your son is innocent for sure, but this is how life is. If you want to bring food to your son, please give it to me [instead] and I will deliver it to him. Don’t worry.”

She found a way to protect her son in prison, but her heart was heavy. This incident happened near Christmas, which she spent crying alone. “I am not happy at all.” She told her other sons, “I can’t cook food while your brother is in jail. I can’t cook for them even [for Christmas]. It was like a punishment.”

However, with the news that Ehab may soon be released, the family’s spirits have lifted. “Now I have exceptional visitation rights with my son. It is a very good action from the government. He will be free in July, thanks [to] God.” Now she meets Ehab behind a fence, though she cannot hug or touch him. But at least now she can see him.

“Thank you for your help each month,” she shared with ICC. “You alleviate the burdens of these visits. Thanks for your [support]. I can’t imagine how could I do these services if you were not by my side.”

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