Mum; your daughter is dead
This is the story of Dr. Maryanne Makram (23) and her friend Dr. Therese Ayad (23) of Al Fayyom in Egypt’s south.
Maryanne and Therese were in the process of finishing their final year in their medical degree when tragedy struck. They were both interns at the Fayyom university hospital, and it was their habit to contact their families if they had to stay back due to an emergency.
However, on February 28th, 2005 they were late, and there was no phone call. So their families contacted the hospital and were told that their daughters left on time. After an agonizing search and after reporting their daughter’s disappearance, the families learnt that Maryanne and Therese were at the National Security office and that they have converted to Islam. This came as a shock to the distraught families as there were no signs of either girl showing interest in conversion.
When news of this came out, people feared this was another kidnapping and forced conversion. The police weren’t saying or doing much to relieve the anxiety of the parents and the Coptic community. So thousands of Coptic youth came together to demonstrate at St George’s church. They were outraged at the injustice that often befalls their community and at the apparent cooperation of the police with the kidnappers.
The families of Maryanne and Therese wanted to meet with their daughters and talk to them. They were understandably hurt and bewildered. However their requests were initially denied. After a while they were allowed to see their daughters in the presence of heavy security….heavy ARMED security.
A brother of one of the girls is a pharmacist. When he saw his sister he noticed her pupils are dilated and her speech is slurred. He deduced she was drugged. Both girls were shaking and repeating the exact same words over and over again. They would say “Your daughter is dead…I am dead to you. It’s ok. I’d sacrifice myself for you. I love you and am afraid for you”. One of the girls embraced her mother and cried saying “please mum don’t leave me”. Then she looked up and saw the armed police around her, so she pushed her mother away screaming “leave me alone…leave me” A family member present in the room at the time noticed the policemen looking threateningly at the girls if they showed any signs of wanting to leave with their families.
In order to break up the demonstration at St George’s church, the police summoned two priests and informed them they can have access to a private discussion with the girls, as is stated in by law before a conversion is deemed official. The demonstrators went home but the fate of one of the girls is still unknown.
One of the girls is said to have returned to her family. It is suspected that this is a result of the girl’s uncle, who lives in Italy, and who submitted a complaint to the Vatican. However, this has not been confirmed. It’s worth noting that the police seized the families’ mobiles and warned them not to report the events to any party outside Egypt.
Questions that beg to be answered:
To those who claim that the Coptic girls are merely attracted to Islam and that’s why they abandon their church and families willingly:
1. Conversions usually take place at Al-Azhar. Why were these girls kept at the National Security office??
2. If they were willing converts, why were their families denied access to speak to them? (My humble opinion is that this was done to allow time for drugs and coercion to be effective)
3. Why didn’t the police call the priests and allow them time to speak with the girls as is demanded by the law? Are the police not supposed to protect the people and uphold the law?
4. What is the meaning of “I’d sacrifice myself for you…I’m afraid for you”??? It seems they were threatened that their families may be hunted down and killed if they didn’t convert. Many returned victims of kidnapping report they received threats of this nature.
5. Finally, if the girls wanted to run away and willingly convert, why didn’t they just run away that morning? Why did they turn up to the hospital and spend a normal day performing their duties then suddenly disappear at the end of the day? Fayyom is a small town and if they wanted to run away, they would have had to go to another city…possibly to Cairo. What difference was one more day at work going to make?