Police detained an Egyptian convert to Christianity on her wedding anniversary in Upper Egypt last month, her husband said.
Plainclothes officers arrested Siham Ibrahim Muhammad Hassan al-Sharqawi on 22 November on the outskirts of Qena, 300 miles south of Cairo, according to an eyewitness. The reason for the arrest was not immediately clear.
The convert had attempted to leave a friend’s apartment building by a backdoor after realising that plainclothes policemen were standing at the entrance, the source said.
Officers intercepted Al-Sharqawi, 24, on the street and took her to Qena’s security police headquarters, where she was interrogated. Witnesses said that police treated the woman like a prostitute, calling her a “whore,” and threatening to beat her.
Sources gave conflicting reports about whether State Security Investigation officials used physical violence against Al-Sharqawi or limited themselves to only threats.
Many Egyptian Christian converts from Islam have been tortured at the hands of security police according to a recent report by Human Rights Watch (HRW) and the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights.
A Christian helping converts in Alexandria told Compass that in December 2006 police applied electrical shocks to his genitals and other sensitive areas of his body for seven hours.
A local source said that Al-Sharqawi was transferred from the station yesterday morning, but her destination remains unknown.
The convert’s husband fears that his wife will be transferred to her native Alexandria or Cairo’s Abbassiya security offices, where her full identity will be discovered. He said that he is not yet certain whether police are aware that she is a convert, because she was carrying neither her Muslim ID nor her forged Christian papers at the time of her arrest.
Al-Sharqawi’s husband and friends remain uncertain of the exact reason for the convert’s arrest. Apart from forgery, Al-Sharqawi may also be held for marrying a Christian man or insulting Islam.
Converts from Islam to Christianity in Egypt are unable to register the change on their national ID cards, which display the holder’s religion.
According to HRW, the Egyptian government at times prosecutes citizens who convert from Islam under Article 98(f) of the Penal Code, which prohibits “contempt of any divinely-revealed religion.”
“Officials have interpreted this article to proscribe conversion from Islam on the grounds that such conversion disparages Islam,” the 12 November report stated.
(Compass Direct News)
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