The rate of Coptic Christian women and girls “disappearing” off the streets of Egypt—only to be reported as having “willingly embraced Islam”—has grown dramatically over the last few weeks. [Note: Two more cases appeared a day after the publication of this article.]
In response, a recent post by Sameh ‘Asker, a secular author and political activist, offers some background on the methodologies employed against these hapless women.
Sameh began by referencing the notorious 2010 case of Kamelia Shehata, a Christian woman whom Muslims insisted had willingly converted to Islam only to be kidnapped, held captive, and even tortured by the Coptic Church in an effort to force her to recant Islam and return to Christianity.
Then, virtually every Muslim organization in Egypt, particularly those financed by Qatar, and “with the blessing of the [Egyptian] state,” did everything to incite Muslims against the Copts. They even fabricated and disseminated images of Kamelia dressed in a hijab with the caption “My captive sister,” and said that she was sending secret messages to Muslims to “save me from the Crusaders holding me captive!”
The incitement worked; masses of Muslims rioted against Egypt’s Christians, attacking them and their churches: “The attacks resulted in the burning of 3 Coptic Orthodox churches, and the destruction of many Christian-owned houses and businesses. In addition, 15 people were killed in the attacks, and about 232 injured.”
In the end, it was all a lie. Kamelia Shehata, who had been in hiding for fear of the Muslims, eventually appeared on television saying that she was living with her husband and son, had never converted to Islam, had never been held captive by the church, and all photos of her wearing a hijab were fabricated.
Not that Egypt’s more fervent Muslims believed her. Indeed, not willing to let a good pretext go to waste, the Islamic State even went on to cite “revenge” for what the Coptic church supposedly did to Kamelia as the reason for slaughtering 21 Coptic Christians in Libya (a whole five years later), as well as the massacre of nearly 60 Christians inside a Baghdad church in 2010.
After asking, “So how are things now after 10 years of revolutions?” Sameh ‘Asker concludes:
More sectarian incidents in Upper Egypt, and organizations dedicated to Islamizing Coptic women and igniting sectarian strife—without the arrest of a single sheikh or leader in this realm of savagery…. I repeat my warning of sectarian strife [overwhelming] Egypt soon, behind which stand Salafist organizations and preachers on the Internet claiming that they convert Copts to Islam. They specifically target girls and women for social reasons, as they are the weakest link through which the Salafis control the church and impose their conditions on the Copts.
It should, of course, be no surprise that the same Muslim outfits that project their methodologies on Christians—in this case, the kidnapping and forcible conversion of women—are themselves experts in the art of preying on “infidel” women. Sameh’s references to organized networks that target Coptic girls are especially important and reminiscent of the revelations a former Egyptian trafficker made back in 2017:
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]…. The kidnappers receive large amounts of money. Police can help them in different ways, and when they do, they might also receive a part of the financial reward the kidnappers are paid by the Islamisation organisations. In some cases, police provide the kidnappers with drugs they seize. The drugs are then given to the girls to weaken their resistance as they put them under pressure. I even know of cases in which police offered help to beat up the girls to make them recite the Islamic creed. And the value of the reward increases whenever the girl has a position. For example, when she is the daughter of a priest or comes from a well-known family…. The Salafist group I knew rented apartments in different areas of Egypt to hide kidnapped Coptic. There, they put them under pressure and threaten them to convert to Islam. And once they reach the legal age, a specially arranged Islamic representative comes in to make the conversion official, issue a certificate and accordingly they change their ID…. If all goes to plan, the girls are also forced into marriage with a strict Muslim. Their husbands don’t love them, they just marry her to make her a Muslim. She will be hit and humiliated. And if she tries to escape, or convert back to her original religion, she will be killed.
The former trafficker confessed to one example:
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.
Other tactics, as documented in a Coptic Solidarity report, “include utilizing or planting Muslim female neighbors, colleagues, coworkers or friends to invite Coptic women to their home or travel across town during which time they are kidnapped by the groups who organized with the known female.”
These kidnapping “networks are often supported by like-minded members (including high-ranking officials) of the police, national security and local administrations,” adds the report. “Their roles include refusal to lodge official complaints by the victims’ families, falsifying police investigations, organizing the formal sessions of conversion to Islam at Al-Azhar, or harassing families into silence and acceptance of the de facto trafficking of their loved ones.”
From here one understands why virtually every week one or more stories of Coptic Christian women “disappearing” in Egypt surface, often under strange and confusing circumstances. Sometimes they are never heard from again; other times, especially when the Coptic community makes enough noise, the police “find” and return them home. Sometimes they disappear but reappear in videos dressed in hijabs saying that they willingly became Muslim and ran away from home; other times they eventually return home and confess that they were kidnapped and forced at gunpoint to make such videos (here and here).
Such is the plight of—and highly involved plot against—Egypt’s Christian women and girls.