Saturday, March 6, 2010

Obama-Eibner Copts

President Barack Obama

The White House

1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW

Washington D.C. 20500

November 10, 2009

Dear President Obama,

Today, Christian Solidarity International (CSI) is releasing a pioneering report entitled The Disappearance, Forced Conversions and Forced Marriages of Christian Coptic Women in Egypt.

The report’s findings are deeply disturbing. Interviews with victims, lawyers, priests, nuns and relatives confirm a widespread phenomenon that corresponds to international definitions of human trafficking – a crime defined by the UN as a “crime against humanity”. The pattern involves deception, sexual violence, denial of freedom of movement and compulsion to covert to Islam.

Trafficking of non-Muslim women and girls in Egypt is not simply an underworld criminal activity. This powerful report demonstrates that such violations of fundamental human rights are encouraged by the prevalence of cultural norms in Egypt - often rooted in Islamic traditions – that legitimize violence against women and non-Muslims. They furthermore appear to be abetted by the tacit complicity of the government as evidenced by its lack of willingness to adequately investigate allegations of rape, abduction and abuse or to reinstate crucial policies designed to protect Egyptians from coerced conversion by educating potential converts of the full implications of conversion.

Trafficking of Christian women in Egypt is not a new phenomenon. Pope Shenouda III of the Coptic Orthodox Church publicly protested against it in 1976, when he declared: "There is pressure being practiced to convert Coptic girls to Islam and marry them under terror to Muslim husbands.” But this problem has now reached boiling point within Egypt’s Coptic community, which views it as symptomatic of a much broader pattern of religious persecution. (see the 2009 Annual Report of the US Commission on International Religious Freedom.) As the Egyptian newspaper Al-Ahram Weekly noted at the beginning of September:

“It is the question of the alleged conversion and forced marriage of Coptic girls to Muslim men that elicits the greatest passions. In July [2009] alone three separate incidents received much publicity in the press. Pharmaceuticals student Rania Tawfik Asaad was ostensibly abducted in Giza and forced to marry a Muslim. [Several] other cases, those of Marian Bishai, Amira Morgan and Injy Basta, also hit the headlines.”

You delivered last June in Cairo an inspiring address to the Muslim world. It called for a new beginning in relations with the United States, and the need to uphold the rights of religious minorities and of women. Failure, as your message implied, would have dire consequences for the individual victims and for the broader strategic vision of improved relations between the West and the Islamic world.

Christian Solidarity International (CSI-USA)

870 Hampshire Road, Suite T, Westlake Village, CA 91361

(805) 777 7107 – tel; (805) 777 7508 – fax;

Christian Solidarity International stands together with the victimized Egyptian Christians and implores you, Mr. President, to encourage Egypt’s President, Hosni Mubarak to take credible measures to combat the trafficking of Christian women and girls, and the culture of Muslim supremacism that fosters a climate for their victimization. I also urge you to ask Secretary Clinton to place this important issue - which has grave human rights and strategic dimensions – high on the agenda of our country’s diplomatic relations with Egypt. The unhindered and unpunished trafficking of Christian women and girls in Egypt is a litmus test for the true state of relations between Muslims and non-Muslim minorities.

In Cairo you boldly declared: “I am convinced that in order to move forward, we must say openly things we hold in our hearts, and that too often are said only behind closed doors.” Our hope, and that of millions of Christians, Jews, Muslims and others of good will throughout the world, is that such honest, open, self-critical dialogue will challenge the culture of religious bigotry that blights the lives of so many non-Muslims in Egypt and works against fulfillment of the lofty hopes expressed in your Cairo address.

CSI wishes you well Mr. President as you keep human rights at the center of American foreign policy and strive to improve relations with the Islamic world on the basis of mutual respect and full civil rights for religious minorities.


Dr. John Eibner


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