EGYPT: For Christian girls, the Arab Spring means more kidnappings, rapes, and forced conversions to Islam

Even worse, if they escape these forced marriages, they are not allowed to convert back to Christianity.

The Australian - One priest in Cairo estimates that since the uprisings, at least 21 young girls, many as young as 14, have disappeared from his parish alone. In most cases, when a Christian girl who disappears is found by her family, she has been converted to Islam and married. But a worse problem for these women is that their conversion to Islam is irreversible.

Religion is stated on Egyptian ID documents and even though secular law provides for reversions, under the growth of sharia they are very difficult, except for those affording legal advocacy. This situation is not unique to Egypt. There have been consistent reports of girls being coerced into Islamic conversion and marriage in India, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka.

Since the so-called Arab Spring, and the ensuing riots at Christian churches, the authors are trying to bring the subject of forced conversion and marriage to greater prominence. A high proportion of these women claim coercion, even rape, despite the shame that such a claim will cause if the girl wishes to return. Many claim they were kept as virtual slaves. Others who were able to leave could not bring their children. This is more than overt religious oppression, and amounts to “a form of cultural genocide”.

Even if Coptic women can obtain a divorce from their Muslim husband, those who wish to return to Christianity “meet with refusal and harassment from the Civil Status Department of the Ministry of Interior”. Under sharia law, reconversion is considered apostasy punishable by death.

An American Christian organization accused the Egyptian government of involvement in “raping and the coercive disappearance of Coptic girls and forcing them to convert to Islam” and accused Cairo of “trafficking Coptic girls and women in Egypt.” The International Christian Solidarity Organization, an American-based Christian group, sent a letter to American President Barack Obama demanding he intervene. (Obama has done nothing)

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