When an ID Card is a Life Sentence
- From: "Joe King" <jeffile@xxxxxxxxxxx>
- Date: Tue, 09 Jan 2007 01:45:25 GMT
By Sara Ghorab
The Specter of Christianity -
If you live in the States or the West, you may not understand why
Egypt's Copts sometimes hide their wrists in the company of Muslims. Why the
ones named "Mina" or "Bishoy" are sometimes less than forthcoming in
offering their name to a new friend named "Khadija" or "Ahmed." Why many of
them feel so passionately about having their religion so boldly printed on
their National ID Cards.
See, a tattoo of a cross on an Egyptian's wrist can mean he won't get a
desirable job, if any. And certain names-blatantly Christian ones-sometimes
make Copts the targets of violence, persecution, or even "garden-variety
But tattoos can be hidden, and nicknames given to draw less attention to an
Egyptian's Christianity. Unfortunately, there is no easy cure for having the
word "Christian" boldly printed on a person's ID. That doesn't mean that
people can, should, or do avoid getting this document that makes them a
For example, it wasn't too long ago that three cousins from Abo Kerkas-Jehan
Waneess Klada, Amani Maher Klada, and Theresa Edward Kamal-were on a mission
to get IDs, despite the fact that they were 14 and 15 years old.
Hassan, an employee of the Social Security office ("Segel el Madany")
promised the girls fake IDs. He came through for the young ladies, but the
cards erroneously said "Muslim."
When the local clergyman saw the false religious affiliation on the IDs, he
understood the ramifications of the "mistake," and hid the girls in a
convent for several days, in order to protect them. They were then released
into the custody of their relatives, who soon found themselves confronted by
a taxi and several armed men, including two called "Sheikh Ahmed" and
"Sheikh Ali," one of whom cussed them out, saying "Ya welad el kalb,
azebtoony wi dawakhtoony osboa alekom." (You sons of the dog, you made me
dizzy for a week, looking for you!)
The men took the three girls to a store selling Islamic dress, and clothed
the girls in the neqab, or the veil that covers the face. After this
branding of a sort, the girls were divested of the crosses tattooed on their
wrists, via acid.
The kidnappers took the girls to the village of Kodeska, and installed them
in a house for several days. While the denizens of the house were preparing
for a round of prayers, the girls were left alone, and Theresa went
wandering, in search of a bathroom. She instead came across a door leading
to the street, and fled the house. She was able to take a taxi and
eventually arrived to her uncle's house in Shobra (Cairo). She went online
to tell of her ordeal, and then went to the police and reported it to them.
A police officer took her back to the village, so that Theresa could
identify the house, but alas, what was meant as an informative trip was made
at midnight, confusing the girl. The police officer swore at her and slapped
her around a bit, and decried her a liar. But at least she was free.
Several days later-yesterday, in fact- the other girls were released, but
only on the condition that Theresa would retract her statements and
"confess" to not having been kidnapped.
While he didn't work his magic this time around (as far as I know), attorney
Saad el Adi and others have a whole operation ready to go, a streamlined
operation, if you will.
Such "involved citizens" have a whole network of evildoers who each take
part in an increasingly McDonald's-like assembly-line of skullduggerous
It all starts with the shill. For those of you unfamiliar with those
old-time carnivals with "the shell game" and other games of "chance," may I
tell you that a "shill" is the person who goes and plays a round or two,
then "wins," thereby making the audience think the game is either fair or
simple to win.
What the audience doesn't know, however, is that this person is in cahoots
with the person behind the counter, and his "wins" are orchestrated. So in
this case, the "shill" is either a seemingly innocuous Muslim girl who
befriends "the target," or a Muslim guy who sets about to make the target
fall in love with him. The shill will then gain the trust of the target,
with the express purpose of getting them alone, whether in their own town or
on a trip.
Then there's the Pick-Up Artist, whose specialty is picking up the target
from wherever the Shill has left them, and taking them to the place where
the trouble really starts.
Middle-aged women are often employed in this manner, since they're often
matronly and soft, or smartly-dressed and somewhat iconic to a young peasant
Finally, come the Tormenters, who may be the ones to drag a kicking and
screaming young girl to her temporary prison, or the ones to bonk her over
the head and drug her up so that she doesn't know what's going on.
There are various and sundry other people involved in these operations,
either by design, like, "Ok, you show up here and do this," or by default,
as in "What? You did what? Oh.. well, I didn't see anything, anyway."
This category may also include officials or State Security people who may
"turn a blind eye" to the atrocities that go on in front of them. Getting to
smack the random girl who's just appeared in front of him is merely a bonus
to these charming fellows.
Why the Saiid?
It must be said that this kidnapping operation does more frequently occur in
Upper Egypt and/or "the smaller villages," rather than the more cosmopolitan
cities of Cairo, Alexandria, or Port Saiid. This could be for several
· The rather anti-Copt atmosphere, which may lead to more instances of
wanting to "get" Copts.
· The fact that Saiidi girls are said to be among the prettiest in
· The fact that Saiidi families are said to be-and empirically are-the
Egypt, perhaps causing the daughters to rebel, or to want to rebel.
· The fact that Saiidi girls, by virtue of their being so sheltered, may
also be more innocent (and trusting) than the average Egyptian girl, thus
opening them up to more schemes, scams, and all manner of plans.
Why It Works
Very simply put, this ridiculous game has a remarkably high success rate
because the Muslims involved are clever enough to see what it is that their
target is lacking; for example, a sheltered girl with a tortured or romantic
soul may be seeking understanding, a few nice words or some physical
The poor student at the top of his class (and yes, there are guys who get
swindled into converting) may be in dire need of money, which the generous
And a teen who feels unreal-or who feels he's "been there, done that"-may
embrace the opportunity to try some white powder or a special cigarette that
will make him forget, or heighten his senses.
That's not to say that these quasi-conversions don't sometimes happen for a
noble cause, like being able to pay the bills, or being able to obtain a
medicine for one's ill child; in any case, though, I would consider these
conversions either false, coerced, or forced.
But the kidnapping or seduction of these sometimes-half-willing parties isn't
the end of the matter, and life may get even more difficult after the part
that one might consider "the worst part" is over.
Assuming that a girl didn't willfully run away in the name of "true love,"
or tyrannical parents, there is something that eclipses the horror of being
held down by the shoulders, bruised in unimaginable and
heretofore-unthought-of places, and savagely invaded in a searing and bloody
mockery of what should be a joyful and sacred initiation into womanhood; the
horror of being a non-virgin in a region of the world that measures family
honor by a little piece of skin that may be situated within a girl, but
which apparently belongs to everyone sharing her last name.
But some girls did actually choose to run away, believing that they and
their beloved would live out their days together, happy and unfettered.
despite their true love's status of "Muslim."
For many of these girls, the worst thing imaginable has nothing to do with
the sweet words and shy, soft kisses turning into hard, open-handed slaps
across the face, delivered by a wild-eyed rictus of someone they once
thought they loved.
Rather, a worse horror shows itself when the hubbub dies down, and the girl
imagines that she's overcome this sort of ordeal, and is finally able to
carry on with her life; she may get a degree, and she might even fall in
love with a nice Christian guy.
It's then, however, that she realizes that 1- she can't ever tell him what
happened to her (and expect to keep him), and 2- even if he forgives her for
being a non-virgin, he'll have a hard time blocking out the image of her
being taken by a Muslim.
"Couldn't she have fought harder?" he may ask.
"Maybe she was partially willing, or actually liked what was being done to
her," he might muse.
Egyptian men, it must be noted, aren't known for being forgiving and
level-headed when it comes to their property. I mean, their women. And, on
the off-chance that he could find it in his heart to forgive her, then he's
either a saint, or has a few "dirty little secrets" of his own, meaning he's
not as pure as he'd like his future wife to be.
How awful it must seem to be an Egyptian woman in the world of stern and
double-standard-issuing men, but that's the way it is, and discussing,
deconstructing, and dissecting the reasons "why" and thinking up "how to
change it all" is a whole other article.
So what's the answer, then? How can we prevent other cases of kidnapping in
the future? After all, thank God that Theresa got loose and provided this
eyewitness account, but the truth is that escaping from such a scenario is a
bit of a rarity.
In fact, I don't think I've ever heard of it happening before, although
another girl who was kidnapped earlier in the year-with an alarmingly
similar name, actually-was able to phone her aunt from within her captors'
apartment, and let her relatives know that she had been taken and had not
(Read more about Theresa Ghattass Kamal at
And so, until things are better for every Egyptian, until every Muslim is
pro-Copt and unequivocally stands with us against the horrible crimes of
kidnapping and forced conversions, all I can really recommend is that we
share these stories with the international media, make a big ruckus about
them, and educate our precious Egyptian girls about the manners, methods,
and models that the Muslims involved in these kidnappings commonly use.