Seventeen of the 22 Christian converts and their supporters who were arrested in Alexandria in late October have been granted bail; the five remaining in prison are still suffering degradation and abuse.
Between 21 and 24 October twenty-two converts to Christianity and those who had helped them were arrested in Alexandria. Whilst in custody they were all severely beaten, tortured and some were raped. Seventeen have now been released on bail with cases pending against them, while five others are still being detained.
Among them, Mariam Girgis Makar (one of the first to be arrested) is being held in the same quarters as prostitutes in an attempt to add to her degradation. An official informed her that had her crime been of a nature such as prostitution she would already have been released, but since she was a convert she would never get out. She has had great pressure placed on her to return to Islam and to have a tattoo of a cross on her arm removed; such tattoos are very common amongst Egyptian Christians. Mariam has also suffered serious sexual abuse at the hands of the police.
After having been released and then rearrested once, Mariam's husband, Yusuf Samuel Makari Suliman, is now one of those finally out of prison. He has revealed that on various occasions he was beaten and tortured. Once he was beaten in front of his wife by eight men wielding lengths of plastic cord in an attempt to force them both to return to Islam. Yusuf's former Muslim name was Muhammad Ahmad, a very common name. Police have scoured records of offenders in the area with the same name in order to find outstanding charges that they can pin against him.
The detention of the five remaining in prison comes up for review on 20 November when they will either be released or have their period of custody extended. Those released are being kept under close surveillance by the police in the hope of finding out the identities of yet more converts.
One of the 22 arrested reportedly died in police custody. Isam Abdul Fathr had high blood sugar levels and bowel problems before his arrest, and was clearly not well enough to survive interrogation and torture. Isam was a Muslim and had been implicated with helping to obtain false papers for the converts. All of the 22 have been indicted on similar charges related to falsifying official documents.
A Christian who converts to Islam in Egypt can receive new ID papers with a new adopted Muslim name within 24 hours. However, it is impossible for a Muslim who converts to Christianity to change their name to a Christian one at all. The arrests of the converts and their supporters in Alexandria have drawn attention to this example of discrimination by officialdom and Egyptian Christians pray that the government will now rectify the situation. The Christian Converts of Egypt took the brave and unusual step of issuing a Declaration to this extent on 26 October.Those arrested in Alexandria were all charged with falsifying official identity cards and papers. Whilst Egypt has no law against apostasy from Islam, in practice converts are actively punished by the police in this 90% Muslim country and often face imprisonment, beatings and torture on various pretexts in order to try to force them to return to Islam. As converts to Christianity cannot have their conversion officially recognised, female converts will be prohibited from marrying Christian men, as it is also illegal under Egyptian law for a Muslim woman to marry a Christian man. Any children will be treated as Muslims, and educated as such at school, and converts will have to be buried as Muslims. There are also a myriad of other matters making it virtually impossible for Christians to follow their faith safely and authentically whilst they retain a Muslim name and ID. As a result many converts are forced into a position where their only option is to apply for any official papers (such as passports) through the correct channels but using an assumed Christian name, which is technically not recognised by the state. If this is later discovered they are vulnerable to a charge of falsifying official documents which can be used as a way of punishing them for their apostasy.
Barnabas Fund is currently engaged in a major international campaign calling upon Muslim religious leaders to condemn the harsh treatment of converts. Please contact Barnabas Fund or visit the Apostasy Campaign pages on our website [Link] for further details.