WASHINGTON, April 19 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Eighteen Members of Congress, from both parties, expressed "concern over continuing reports of abductions, forced marriages, and exploitation of Coptic women and girls in Egypt".
Writing on the 16th of April to Ambassador Luis CdeBaca, Director of the State Department's Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Office, the Members noted that they had received disturbing reports documenting "a criminal phenomenon that includes fraud, physical and sexual violence, captivity, forced marriage, and exploitation in forced domestic servitude or commercial sexual exploitation, and financial benefit to the individuals who secure the forced conversion of the victim."
The Members concluded by urging the TIP Office to "investigate whether the cases of abduction, forced marriage, exploitation and other financial benefit to individuals who secure a forced conversion should be included in the forthcoming 2010 Trafficking in Persons Report."
The Congressional appeal follows publication of several reports documenting this element of human trafficking in Egypt. Among them is The Disappearance, Forced Conversions, and Forced Marriages of Coptic Christian Women in Egypt by Christian Solidarity International (CSI) and the Coptic Foundation for Human Rights. (csi-int.org/pdfs/coptic_report_master-final_report_pdf.pdf)
The pioneering report documents 25 cases, including that of a 15-year old Christian victim, identified as "M" for security reasons. M was drugged and raped in her hometown of El Menya, after which she gave birth, was forced to marry an older Muslim man, was physically scarred, converted to Islam, and forcibly prostituted.
In his Preface to this report, Dr. John Eibner, CEO of CSI-USA, called on human rights institutions, especially those whose mandate includes women's rights and trafficking in persons, to undertake further research into gender and religious-based violence against Coptic women and girls in Egypt.
Addressing reports of the disappearance, forced conversions and forced marriages of Coptic women, the late Grand Shiekh Sayyed Al-Tantawi of Cairo's prestigious Al-Azhar University, Egypt's highest Islamic authority, stated that "these actions are contrary to Islam and we hope to receive more information concerning alleged kidnappings and would like to have an open dialogue with our Christian brothers and sisters in this country."