As Egypt moves toward “democratic reforms,” the situation is deteriorating for the Coptic church, especially Christian women.
Last year’s protests in Cairo’s Tahrir Square inspired hopes for freedom. But one year later, “freedom” seems even more distant for Egypt’s Coptic Christians who’ve seen their churches burned and community abused.
“I kept asking myself, ‘What if this man hadn’t saved me. Where would I be now?’” a Coptic Christian going by the name “Ann” said at a hearing in Washington, Wednesday.
Ann is seeking asylum in the United States and recently testified to a congressional committee from behind a wall to conceal her identity and protect her family in Egypt.
She recounted how a man tried to kidnap her last year.
“I was screaming. I didn’t know what he wanted. I had no idea why he was doing this,” she recalled.
Ann managed to escape. But many victims aren’t that fortunate.
According to a new Christian Solidarity International report, the number of disappearances and abductions among Coptic women is on the rise, all with the goal of converting the women to Islam.
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“I don’t care who’s in the White House, Democrat or Republican. When women are being abused, when anybody’s human rights are being abused, there just should be no partisanship,” Rep. Chris Smith, R-N.J., said.
Smith hosted the hearing in Washington to highlight the report – titled “Tell My Mother I Miss Her” — and pressure the U.S. government to do more.
“It’s a war of attrition against the Christians, using the women as scapegoats,” explained Michele Clark, a Chrisian Solidarity International boad member and co-author of the report.
Clark added that while most cases include kidnapping, abuse, and forced marriages, some radicals also use the lure of love and romance.
“They go and make the girls fall in love with them,” she said. “He gets one; she’s married off, goes out recruits another. He gets her, goes out, recruits another. The same name is recited in five separate police reports.”
Some experts believe the abductions are part of a wider campaign to impose an Islamist agenda.
“The practices of abducting, torturing, and forcing conversions on Coptic women or any element of society is a terrorist act,” Middle East expert Walid Phares said.
The number of asylum petitions has also skyrocketed. The U.S. is granting more requests to victims like Ann, who said she’s grateful but also can’t help but feel a tinge of guilt.
“Until today when I think about it, I thank God that I was saved,” Ann said. “But then I think about the others that weren’t saved. What happened to them?”