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Two Christians Rearrested

17 December 2003

Two Christians from Alexandria originally detained in October have been rearrested. They were first arrested as part of a widespread sweep targeting converts from Islam and those who helped them obtain new identities.

Last night at 8.00pm local time, Aziz Zakher Sarkis and Sharif Kameel Nazer were taken back into custody. The two Christians were seized without a warrant. They are accused of helping Muslim converts to Christianity obtain new identities. Officer Sayed Zaki presided over the arrests and he is known for his particularly aggressive attitude towards converts. The two are being held without charge, and indeed no charges have yet been officially lodged against any of the original 22 arrested in late October, the rest of whom are still out on bail. In the wake of this latest development converts throughout Alexandria are now living in a state of dramatically heightened fear believing they could be next.


The 22 were originally arrested for falsifying official documents. A Christian who converts to Islam in Egypt can receive new ID papers with a new 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. Thus they will always be regarded as Muslims in the eyes of the law. This means that female converts to Christianity will be prohibited from marrying Christian men (also illegal under Egyptian law), 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 converts to follow their faith freely and safely whilst they retain an official Muslim name. Thus many converts feel compelled to apply for official papers using an assumed Christian name and thus lay themselves open to charges relating to the falsification of IDs.