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Back Activities Alerts Action Alert: Egypt – Enforced Disappearance of Camilia Shehata

Action Alert: Egypt – Enforced Disappearance of Camilia Shehata

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IHRC urges the Egyptian government to ensure the safety and wellbeing of Camilia Shehata who disappeared after converting to Islam.

Contents
1. Alert
2. Background
3. Action required
4. Sample letter


1. Alert

Six months have passed since Camilia Shehata, the 26-year-old wife of a priest, raised as an Orthodox Christian in Egypt disappeared after converting to Islam.

She fled from her home on July 18, 2010 and was found five days later by police. The police handed her over to the Coptic Orthodox Church.

According to the Egyptian Constitution, ‘no adult can be held against their will or returned to their family’ and ‘personal freedom is a natural and protected right’.

IHRC calls on the Egyptian government to find out the fate of Shehata and to ensure her wellbeing.


2. Background

Camilia Shehata, schoolteacher and wife of Tedaos Samaan, a priest in Mar Gerges Church in Deir Mawas, disappeared on July 18, 2010. Her husband and family accused Muslims of abducting her and converting her to Islam. Samaan also organised Coptic demonstrations in front of the Cathedral attended by hundreds of Copts who were calling for her return and condemning the Security Services for not helping them find her.

Al-Masry Al-Youm newspaper stated ‘the headmaster of Bani Salem Preparatory School—where Shehata worked—said she booked a 15-day vacation and took all her financial entitlements before she disappeared on Sunday afternoon’. ‘The head of the local Post office said Shehata withdrew 43,000 Egyptian pounds from her account before she went missing.’

Sheikh Moftah Fadel, who accompanied Shehata to Cairo, stated that she had converted to Islam a year and a half ago secretly.  She also celebrated her conversion to Islam with her Muslim colleagues at school according to Aljarida.com.

Sheikh Fadel went with Shehata to Al-Azhar in Cairo and was going to be a witness to her testimony to Islam. Shehata intended to certify and declare her conversion. Sheikh Fadel claims that the officials gave in to instructions from the security agencies and declined to complete the conversion formalities. On the next day, the police arrested her and she was forcibly returned to the church.

The church later announced that Shehata was not abducted by Muslims, and that she had left her home of her own free will.

Muslims have held many demonstrations calling for the release of Shehata. They have called on the church to let her appear in public as they were deeply concerned about her whereabouts and wellbeing. Demonstrators held pictures of Shehata wearing a black veil and signs bearing “I will die a Muslim”.

According to Al-Masry Al-youm newspaper church sources stated that: “The Pope would not permit Shehata to make any public appearances even if demonstrations were held daily.”

The church later announced that Shehata is currently under its protection and is receiving ‘psychotherapy sessions’;

The story of Shehata is  similar to that of Wafaa Constantine, wife of a preist who converted to Islam and was forcibly returned to the church by the police in 2004 but was never seen again.

The disappearance of Shehata is considered an enforced disappearance by the Church with the help of the Egyptian security agencies who forcibly handed an adult citizen, against her will, to the church. This is in clear violation of the Egyptian Constitution which stipulates ‘the personal freedom is a natural and protected right’. Her involuntary disappearance is also in violation of Article 2 of the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance which states that: “"enforced disappearance" is considered to be the arrest, detention, abduction or any other form of deprivation of liberty by agents of the State or by persons or groups of persons acting with the authorization, support or acquiescence of the State, followed by a refusal to acknowledge the deprivation of liberty or by concealment of the fate or whereabouts of the disappeared person, which place such a person outside the protection of the law.”

Freedom of religion is a basic human right. Egypt adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Right in 1948. According to Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that:

“Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.”

IHRC calls on the Coptic Church and Egyptian government to reveal the fate of Camilia Shehata who has been out of sight for six months now.

IHRC is deeply concerned about Shehata’s physical and psychological wellbeing. It calls on the Egyptian government to use its authority to insure the safety and freedom of Shehata and to impose pressure on the Coptic Church to release her.  Shehata was allegedly seen in a video aired on TV channels and the internet, however the authenticity of the video is disputed and it is believed that the person in the video is not Shehata.

IHRC urges all campaigners to write to UN Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances, Egyptian Minister of Interior and the Egyptian embassies to reveal the whereabouts and the fate of Camilia Shehata Shehata.
   

2. Action required

Contact the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances, Egyptian Minister of Interior and the Egyptian embassies in your localities via fax, email, post or telephone to urge the Egyptian authorities find the whereabouts of Camilia Shehata and request that she be shown to the public to ensure her safety and wellbeing. Contact details have been provided below for your convenience. It is preferable that letters be sent via post, or otherwise by fax and/or email.


As always, be sure to be polite and respectful while voicing your concerns via telephone.


4. Sample letters
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Sample letters are given below for your convenience. Please note that model letters can be sent directly or adjusted as necessary to include further details. If you receive a reply to the letter you send, we request you to send a copy of the letter you sent and the reply you received to IHRC. This is extremely important as it helps IHRC to monitor the situation with regards to our campaigns and to improve upon the current model letters. It is preferable that letters be sent via post, or otherwise by fax and/or email.

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a) Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances


[Your name]
[Your address]

[Date]


Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances
c/o OHCHR-UNOG
CH-1211 Geneva 10
Switzerland
Téléphone: (41-22) 917 9189
Fax: (+41-22) 917 90 06
E-mail: wgeid@ohchr.org

Dear [name],

Re: Camilia Shehata’s enforced disappearance

I am deeply concerned over the safety and wellbeing of Camilia Shehata who disappeared six months ago after converting to Islam.

Camilia Shehata, schoolteacher and wife of Tedaos Samaan, a priest in Mar Gerges Church in Deir Mawas, disappeared on July 18, 2010. Her husband and family accused Muslims of abducting her and converting her to Islam. Samaan also organised Coptic demonstrations in front of the Cathedral attended by hundreds of Copts who were calling for her return and condemning the Security Services for not helping them find her.

Sheikh Moftah Fadel, who accompanied Shehata to Cairo, stated that she had converted to Islam a year and a half ago secretly.  She also celebrated her conversion to Islam with her Muslim colleagues at school.

Shehata intended to certify and declare her conversion at Al-Azhar. Sheikh Fadel claims that Al-Azhar officials gave in to instructions from the security agencies and declined to complete the conversion formalities. On the next day, the police arrested her and she was forcibly returned to the church.

The church later announced that Shehata was not abducted by Muslims, and that she had left her home of her own free will.

Muslims have held many demonstrations calling for the release of Shehata. They have called on the church to let her appear in public as they were deeply concerned about her whereabouts and wellbeing.

The church later announced that Shehata is currently under its protection and is receiving ‘psychotherapy sessions’;

The story of Shehata is similar to that of Wafaa Constantine, wife of a priest who converted to Islam and was forcibly returned to the church by the police in 2004 but was never seen again.

The disappearance of Shehata is considered an enforced disappearance by the Church with the help of the Egyptian security agencies who forcibly handed an adult citizen, against her will, to the church. This is in clear violation of the Egyptian Constitution which stipulates ‘the personal freedom is a natural and protected right’. Her involuntary disappearance is also in violation of Article 2 of the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance.

I urge you to call on the Egyptian government to reveal the fate of Camilia Shehata who has been out of sight for six months now and to insure her safety and freedom

I look forward to hearing back from regarding these urgent matters.

Yours sincerely,


[Your signature]
[Your name]

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b) Egyptian Minister of Interior, Habib el-Adly


[Your name]
[Your address]

[Date]


His Excellency Habib Ibrahim el-Adly
Minister of Interior
25-al-Sheikh Rihan Street
Bab al-Louk
Cairo, Egypt

Fax: 01120 22796 0682
E-mail: moi@idsc.gov.eg

Your Excellency Habib Ibrahim el-Adly, Minister of Interior

Re: Camilia Shehata’s enforced disappearance

I am deeply concerned over the safety and wellbeing of Camilia Shehata who disappeared six months ago after converting to Islam.

Camilia Shehata, schoolteacher and wife of Tedaos Samaan, a priest in Mar Gerges Church in Deir Mawas, disappeared on July 18, 2010. Her husband and family accused Muslims of abducting her and converting her to Islam. Samaan also organised Coptic demonstrations in front of the Cathedral attended by hundreds of Copts who were calling for her return and condemning the Security Services for not helping them find her.

Sheikh Moftah Fadel, who accompanied Shehata to Cairo, stated that she had converted to Islam a year and a half ago secretly.  She also celebrated her conversion to Islam with her Muslim colleagues at school.

Shehata intended to certify and declare her conversion at Al-Azhar. Sheikh Fadel claims that Al-Azhar officials gave in to instructions from the security agencies and declined to complete the conversion formalities. On the next day, the police arrested her and she was forcibly returned to the church.

The church later announced that Shehata was not abducted by Muslims, and that she had left her home of her own free will.

Muslims have held many demonstrations calling for the release of Shehata. They have called on the church to let her appear in public as they were deeply concerned about her whereabouts and wellbeing.

The church later announced that Shehata is currently under its protection and is receiving ‘psychotherapy sessions’;

The story of Shehata is similar to that of Wafaa Constantine, wife of a priest who converted to Islam and was forcibly returned to the church by the police in 2004 but was never seen again.

The disappearance of Shehata is considered an enforced disappearance by the Church with the help of the Egyptian security agencies who forcibly handed an adult citizen, against her will, to the church according to Gamal Eid, Director of the Arab Network for Human Rights Information. This is in clear violation of the Egyptian Constitution which stipulates ‘the personal freedom is a natural and protected right’. Her involuntary disappearance is also in violation of Article 2 of the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance.

I urge you to call on the Egyptian government to reveal the fate of Camilia Shehata who has been out of sight for six months now and to insure her safety and freedom.

I look forward to hearing back from regarding these urgent matters.

Yours sincerely,


[Your signature]
[Your name]

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c) Egyptian Ambassadors in your locality: (http://embassy.goabroad.com/embassies-of/Egypt)


[Your name]
[Your address]

[Date]


Your Excellency Ambassador [name]

Re: Camilia Shehata’s enforced disappearance

I am deeply concerned over the safety and wellbeing of Camilia Shehata who disappeared six months ago after converting to Islam.

Camilia Shehata, schoolteacher and wife of Tedaos Samaan, a priest in Mar Gerges Church in Deir Mawas, disappeared on July 18, 2010. Her husband and family accused Muslims of abducting her and converting her to Islam. Samaan also organised Coptic demonstrations in front of the Cathedral attended by hundreds of Copts who were calling for her return and condemning the Security Services for not helping them find her.

Sheikh Moftah Fadel, who accompanied Shehata to Cairo, stated that she had converted to Islam a year and a half ago secretly.  She also celebrated her conversion to Islam with her Muslim colleagues at school.

Shehata intended to certify and declare her conversion at Al-Azhar. Sheikh Fadel claims that Al-Azhar officials gave in to instructions from the security agencies and declined to complete the conversion formalities. On the next day, the police arrested her and she was forcibly returned to the church.

The church later announced that Shehata was not abducted by Muslims, and that she had left her home of her own free will.

Muslims have held many demonstrations calling for the release of Shehata. They have called on the church to let her appear in public as they were deeply concerned about her whereabouts and wellbeing.

The church later announced that Shehata is currently under its protection and is receiving ‘psychotherapy sessions’;

The story of Shehata is similar to that of Wafaa Constantine, wife of a priest who converted to Islam and was forcibly returned to the church by the police in 2004 but was never seen again.

The disappearance of Shehata is considered an enforced disappearance by the Church with the help of the Egyptian security agencies who forcibly handed an adult citizen, against her will, to the church. This is in clear violation of the Egyptian Constitution which stipulates ‘the personal freedom is a natural and protected right’. Her involuntary disappearance is also in violation of Article 2 of the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance.

I urge you to call on the Egyptian government to reveal the fate of Camilia Shehata who has been out of sight for six months now and to insure her safety and freedom.

I look forward to hearing back from regarding these urgent matters.

Yours sincerely,


[Your signature]
[Your name]


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