Hearing :: “Escalating Violence Against Coptic Women and Girls: Will the New Egypt Be More Dangerous Than the Old?”

Print




Commission on Security & Cooperation in Europe:  U.S. Helsinki Commission

Escalating Violence Against Coptic Women and Girls:  Will the New Egypt Be More 
Dangerous Than the Old?

Committee Members Present: 

Representative Christopher Smith (R-NJ)
Representative Robert Aderholt (R-AL)

Witnesses:

Michele Clark, 
Adjunct Professor, 
Elliott School of International Affairs, The George Washington University 

Katrina Lantos Swett, 
Chair, 
United States Commission on International Religious Freedom

Walid Phares, 
Co-Secretary General,
The Transatlantic Legislative Group on Counterterrorism

The Hearing Was Held From 2:00 To 4:00 in 210 Cannon House Office Building, 
Washington, D.C., Representative Christopher Smith (R-NJ), CSCE, Moderating 

Wednesday, July 18, 2012



Transcript by
Federal News Service
Washington, D.C. 
REPRESENTATIVE CHRISTOPHER SMITH (R-NJ):  The commission will come to order.  
And good afternoon and welcome to our hearing on the escalating violence facing 
Coptic women and girls in Egypt following the Arab Spring, including the 
outrageous crime of abduction, forced conversion and which the Egyptian 
government, both old and new, is doing all too little about, if anything at 
all.  It has now been almost a year-and-a-half since the revolution began in 
Egypt and Egypt is still in the foundry fires of transition, hopefully into a 
free and democratic state.  The Egyptians have elected a parliament but the 
Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, or SCAF, dissolved it with the support of 
the constitutional court.

As president, Mohamed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood was elected and installed 
but not before the SCAF, who seemed to be mostly secularists, curtailed 
presidential power over the military and given the military legislative powers. 
 The constituent panel, which was drawn from the now-dissolved parliament and 
has been boycotted by the Coptic Christians, began drafting work on Egypt’s new 
constitution.  Yet it may be disbanded any day by a pending court decision.
Order seems to hang by a thread and tensions run extremely high.  Though Egypt 
has avoided civil war, the revolution and ongoing unrest and social conflict 
have already left many casualties in the Coptic community which makes up almost 
8 percent of Egypt’s population.  Sadly, there are groups that would use the 
ancient Christian Coptic community as a way to build unity around a common 
enemy.
The SCAF was guilty of this on October 9th, 2011, when the military fired on a 
peaceful group of Coptic Christians in Maspero and ran them over with military 
vehicles while calling through the national news service for honorable citizens 
to defend the army against attack.  That is, the SCAF openly invited violence 
against the Coptic community.  Twenty-seven people were killed and more than 
300 injured.  Almost all of them were Copts.  The military claimed that one 
soldier was killed but it refuses to release his name.  Almost a year later, 
protestors are on trial for the incident and three soldiers have been charged 
with only misdemeanors.  
As we will hear today from Michele Clark and her new report on the 
disappearance, forced marriages and forced conversions of Coptic women, the 
vulnerability and abduction of Coptic Christians is not new.  Going back to the 
1970s, there were many accounts of Coptic women and girls being abducted by 
Muslims, forcibly conducted and forcibly married.  There are many such reports, 
no doubt.  Some of them were of women choosing to elope, marry across religious 
lines and cut off relations with their family.  But the claim of the Egyptian 
government that this is the story of every one of the thousands of disappeared 
women and girls absolutely defies the evidence.  The women and girls are found 
– who are found claim to have been drugged and kidnapped or kidnapped with 
violence.  They often report human rights abuses including forced conversion, 
rape, forced marriages, beatings and domestic servitude.  
Alarmingly, since the revolution, cases of – since the revolution, cases of 
reported disappearance have increased while recovery of the women and girls 
have decreased.  Those women who are found and returned to their families face 
many obstacles including government refusals to change their identity cards to 
reflect their return to their Christian faith, which seems to sanction forced 
conversions.  Nor are we aware of any case before or after the revolution in 
which an abductor has been prosecuted.  
President Morsi in his first speech as president envisioned Egypt as being for 
Muslims and Christians.  This must mean true justice for Copts. Copts must be 
given equal protection under the law.  Secretary Clinton was in Egypt over the 
weekend facing protestors with signs that said, quote, “Obama, don’t send your 
dollars to jihadists.”  Congress sent the same message with the 2012 
Consolidated Appropriations Act which required the secretary to certify that 
Egypt was making improvements in religious freedom before we released the $1.3 
billion in aid.  
An unnamed senior State Department official reported to Reuters that on the 
basis of American national security interests, she – meaning Secretary Clinton 
– will waive the legislative conditions related to Egypt’s democratic 
transition, allowing for the continued flow of foreign military financing to 
Egypt.  “The move reflects,” the quote goes on to say from the unnamed 
official, “the move reflects our overarching goal to maintain our strategic 
partnership with an Egypt made stronger and more stable by a successful 
transition to democracy.”  
This is democracy? My response is simply this.  Unless Coptic women and girls 
are protected and free to live their lives without fear of abduction, forced 
conversion and other gross abuses of their human rights, Egypt will not be 
strong, will not be stable or a successful democracy.  
I’d like to begin now with our first witness. We have – and we thank her for 
being here today – Dr. Katrina Lantos Swett, who is an expert on human rights.  
She received a B.A. in political science from Yale, her J.D. from the 
University of California Hastings College of Law and her Ph.D. in history from 
the University of Southern Denmark.  She has worked extensively with the U.S. 
Congress to advocate for human rights, particularly while serving as deputy 
counsel to the criminal justice subcommittee.  
She teaches human rights and American foreign policy at Tufts University, 
serves as the president and CEO of the Lantos Foundation for Human Rights and 
Justice – named after her very distinguished father, who we all deeply miss – 
and was recently elected as chair of the U.S. Commission for International 
Religious Freedom.  Dr. Lantos Swett, welcome, and please proceed as you would 
like.

KATRINA LANTOS SWETT:  Thank you so much, Mr. Chairman.  And I want to say 
before I go into my prepared remarks that you are one of the colleagues my 
father admired most.  Literally one can’t number the times that the two of you 
were in the trenches side by side battling on behalf of human rights for people 
in every corner of the world.  
And my father would often cite you to me and to others as an example of the way 
in which people who might be in very different places on some political issues 
could come together and have really no daylight between them on the most 
fundamental issues of human dignity and human rights.  And so it’s a real 
privilege and an honor for me to be here before you today.  And thank you for 
the excellent work that you’re doing.
My testimony is going to focus more broadly on the challenges and threats to 
the Coptic community in Egypt and I know subsequently you’ll be getting some 
very powerful testimony  more specifically on the issue of abduction. 
Thank you for the opportunity to testify today before the Helsinki Commission 
on the topic of “Escalating Violence Against Coptic Women and Girls:  Will the 
New Egypt be More Dangerous Than the Old?”  I have been asked today to give an 
overview about the general status of and conditions for religious freedom in 
Egypt, especially for Coptic Christians, and I request that my statement be 
entered into the record.

REP. SMITH:  Without objection, so ordered.

DR. LANTOS SWETT:  Since its inception nearly 15 years ago, USCIRF has been 
deeply engaged on Egypt and for good reason.  For our entire existence, and 
indeed, prior to our creation, religious freedom conditions, including those of 
Egypt's Coptic population, have been extremely problematic. This situation 
continues into the present and with the election of Mohammed Morsi, the first 
freely elected president of Egypt, on June 30th. The Egyptian transitional 
government continues to engage in and tolerate systematic, ongoing and 
egregious violations of freedom of religious freedom.
Discriminatory and repressive laws and policies remain that restrict freedom of 
thought, conscience and religion or belief. Given these concerns, and for the 
second year in a row, USCIRF recommended in its 2012 annual report, which I 
have here, by the way, and I’d be delighted to leave with you for the 
commission – USCIRF recommended that Egypt be designated a country of 
particular concern, or CPC, under the 1998 International Religious Freedom Act. 
 I also request that USCIRF's 2012 annual report chapter on Egypt be entered 
into the record.

REP. SMITH:  Without objection.

DR. LANTOS SWETT:  Thank you.  From the evidence we have seen, the biggest 
problem faced by the Copts, who comprise 10 to 15 percent of Egypt's 80 million 
people, continues to be one of impunity. Simply stated, for decades, Egypt's 
government has fostered a climate conducive to acts of violence against Copts 
and members of other minority communities. It has done so in at least two ways. 
First, Cairo's long history of restrictive laws and policies – from blasphemy 
codes to an emergency law to across-the-board discrimination– has drawn 
unwelcome attention to religious minorities, further marginalizing them and 
leading to violent words and deeds launched by intolerant individuals as well 
as by radical religious groups.
Second, the government's continued failure to protect innocent people from 
these attacks and to convict those responsible has served to encourage further 
assaults. For years, President Mubarak's government tolerated widespread 
discrimination against religious minorities and disfavored religious groups, 
from dissident Sunni and Shia Muslims to Baha’is, as well as Copts and other 
Christians, while allowing state-controlled media and state-funded mosques to 
deliver incendiary messages against them. The consequences of the climate of 
impunity are especially apparent in Upper Egypt. 
After Mubarak's departure, a breakdown in security and a rise in sectarian 
violence made 2011 one of the worst years for Copts and other minorities. Last 
year alone, violent sectarian attacks killed approximately 100 people, 
surpassing the death toll of the previous 10 years combined.  
As during the Mubarak regime, Copts were the primary target, and most of the 
perpetrators still have not been brought to justice.  Perpetrators have not 
been convicted or alleged perpetrators have been detained for short periods, 
but eventually released without charge. While USCIRF's 2012 annual report 
chapter on Egypt includes a list of some of the most tragic acts of violence 
committed against the Coptic Orthodox community, I do want to note the 
following significant incident, which you also referred to.
Last October, Egypt's state media falsely accused Copts of attacking the 
military when Muslim and Christian protestors marched toward the state 
television station.  Following the state media's call on civilians to counter 
this imaginary threat, on October 9th, in downtown Cairo, armed men attacked 
peaceful demonstrators, killing at least 26 of them, most of them Copts, while 
injuring over 300 more. 
Responding to the violence, Egypt's military used live ammunition and also 
deployed armored vehicles that deliberately crushed and killed at least 12 
protestors.  In addition, reports in recent years support claims that there 
were cases of Muslim men forcing Coptic Christian women to convert to Islam. 
The State Department has asserted that such cases are often disputed and 
include, quote, "inflammatory allegations and categorical denials of kidnapping 
and rape."  For example, there were credible cases in which Coptic girls did 
voluntarily convert to Islam to marry Muslim men, and subsequently, when the 
relationship failed, sought to return to Christianity, as is their right under 
international law.  Nevertheless, during the reporting period, experts and 
human rights groups have found that there were also credible cases where Coptic 
Christian women were lured deceptively into marriages with Muslim men and 
forced to convert to Islam. According to these reports, if a woman returns or 
escapes from the marriage and wants to convert back to Christianity, she faces 
the same legal hurdles in changing her religious affiliation on official 
identity documents as discussed.  
In recent years, in response to sectarian violence, Egyptian authorities have 
conducted, quote, “reconciliation sessions” between Muslims and Christians as a 
way of easing tensions and resolving disputes.  In some cases, authorities 
compelled victims to abandon their claims to any legal remedy. USCIRF has 
stated that reconciliation efforts should not be used to undermine enforcing 
the law and punishing perpetrators for wrongdoing. 
In recent years, the State Department concluded that reconciliation sessions 
not only, quote, "prevented the prosecution of perpetrators of crimes against 
Copts and precluded their recourse to the judicial system for restitution,” but 
also "contributed to a climate of impunity that encouraged further assaults, “ 
and how ironic it is that something so benignly termed as a reconciliation 
process should be used actually to strip people of their legal rights and a 
means of vindicating those rights.
For all Christian groups, government permission is required to build a new 
church or repair an existing one, and the approval process for church 
construction is time-consuming and inflexible.  Former President Mubarak had 
the authority to approve applications for new construction of churches. 
Although most of these applications were submitted more than five years ago, 
the majority have not received a response. Even some permits that have been 
approved cannot, in fact, be acted upon because of interference by the state 
security services at both the local and national levels.
In 2005, former President Mubarak devolved authority to approve the renovation 
and reconstruction of churches from the president to the country's governors. 
Several years later, some churches continue to face delays in the issuance of 
permits. Even in cases where approval to build or maintain churches has been 
granted, many Christians complain that local security services have prevented 
construction or repair, in some cases for many years. 
In addition, local security services have been accused of being complicit in 
inciting violence against some churches undergoing routine maintenance or 
repair. In recent years, the government repeatedly has pledged, most recently 
in October of 2011, to adopt a new law that would apply to all places of 
worship. 
In June, after consulting with religious leaders and other experts, the SCAF 
released publicly a draft version of the law. The draft was criticized widely 
by Muslims, Christians and Egyptian human rights groups. While a subsequent 
version has not been made public, some reports have indicated that the revised 
draft law covers only churches and not other places of worship.
Now, this is not to say there has been no progress since the end of the Mubarak 
regime. To be sure, we have seen some hopeful developments. Last year, the 
Grand Sheikh at al-Azhar began several initiatives expressing support for some 
aspects of freedom of religion or belief. In May of last year, the government 
began to reopen more than 50 churches that had been closed, in some cases for 
years. 
Last July, the Supreme Administrative Court ruled that reconverts to 
Christianity could obtain new national identity documents indicating their 
Christianity but not their former Muslim faith. And following the October 
violence, the transitional government took steps to reduce discrimination in 
Egypt's penal code.  
Yet despite this progress, the bottom line is this:  Copts need to be 
protected, Copts aren't being protected and Copts must be protected, along with 
every other member of Egyptian society, from attacks on their right to order 
their lives and practice their beliefs in dignity and peace.
As long as Copts and other religious minorities aren't being sufficiently 
protected, USCIRF will continue to spotlight the problem and recommend that the 
U.S. government take strong action in support of religious freedom. Our 
recommendations to the United States government are as follows.  
First, the United States should press Egypt to improve religious freedom 
conditions, by repealing discriminatory decrees against religious minorities, 
removing religion from official identity documents, abolishing the blasphemy 
codes and passing a unified law for the construction and repair of places of 
worship.
Second, the United States should urge Egypt's government to prosecute 
government-funded clerics, government officials or any other individuals who 
incite violence, while disciplining or dismissing government-funded clerics who 
preach intolerance and hatred.  
Third, the United States should increase pressure on Egypt to bring to justice 
those who have committed violence against fellow Egyptians on account of their 
religion.  
Fourth, the U.S. Congress should require the departments of State and Defense 
to report every 90 days on the Egyptian government's progress pertaining to 
religious freedom and related rights.
Fifth, until genuine progress occurs, USCIRF renews its call for the United 
States to designate Egypt a country of particular concern as one of the world's 
most serious religious freedom abusers.  
Sixth, if Egypt demonstrates a commitment to progress on freedom of religion 
and related rights, the United States should ensure that a portion of its 
military aid to Egypt is used to help Egypt's police implement a plan to 
enhance protection for religious minorities, their places of worship and places 
where they congregate.
And finally, Washington should press Cairo to ensure that a new constitution 
has robust protections for the right to freedom of religion or belief 
consistent with international human rights law, including recognizing the 
universal right to the freedom of thought, conscience and religion or belief 
for every individual and every religious or belief community.  Recognizing that 
each person’s freedom to hold and to manifest any religion or belief or to not 
hold any religious belief should not be limited aside from the narrow 
exceptions delineated in international law.
Three, affirming that the right to freedom of religion or belief includes the 
right to have, adopt or change one’s religion or belief without coercion and to 
manifest it publicly as well as to persuade others to change their beliefs or 
affiliations voluntarily.  
Ensuring that the rights and benefits of citizenship are not limited to 
individuals belong to particular religious communities and ensuring that all 
persons are equal before the law and are entitled to the equal protection of 
law regardless of religion or belief and that guaranteeing all persons equal 
and effective protection against discrimination on religious grounds.
Today, as Egypt confronts the rigors of democratic transition, will it uphold 
the rights of Copts and other religious minorities? The world is watching, the 
Helsinki Commission is watching and USCIRF is watching, too. Thank you again 
for this opportunity to testify.
REP. SMITH:  Dr. Lantos Swett, thank you so very much for your very eloquent 
testimony and the large number of recommendations, insights that you and the 
commission have provided and have done so for since the inception of the 
commission, so thank you for it, especially as its chair, for taking your 
tremendous leadership.  
I do want to note we’ve been joined by Robert Aderholt – Commission Aderholt – 
and I think it’s worth nothing and celebrating that at the most recent OSCE 
parliamentary assembly, Mr. Aderholt was elected vice president of the OSCE PA. 
 So congratulations to you.

DR. LANTOS SWETT:  Congratulations. Thank you so much.

REP. SMITH:  And if I could just ask a couple of quick questions?

DR. LANTOS SWETT:  Yes, of course.

REP. SMITH:  I know you’re on a tight – just briefly about the – one of your 
recommendations is that the – Egypt ought to be designated as a country of 
particular concern.  By way of historical reminder, Congressman Frank Wolf’s 
bill, the International Religious Freedom Act, which was vigorously opposed by 
the State Department – John Shattuck, who was then the assistant secretary for 
democracy, labor and human rights, testified before my committee repeatedly 
against the bill.  
But one of the geniuses of that legislation was that it established this 
independent voice to speak truth to power without worrying about the problems 
that are associated when you talk to dictatorships or authoritarian regimes 
which often muzzles our voice as a country, especially on human rights issues, 
and religious freedom being at the top of that list.  You’re kind of like the 
GAO of –

DR. LANTOS SWETT:  Exactly

REP. SMITH:  – religious freedom.

DR. LANTOS SWETT:  I like that description.

REP. SMITH:  And you do a wonderful job.

DR. LANTOS SWETT:  But we don’t go on wild trips to Las Vegas, I’m happy to 
say.  (Chuckles.)

REP. SMITH:  But you know, with regards to CPC, if you could maybe elaborate a 
bit on the frustration that the commission has had with getting the 
administration to so designate – it’s a two-step – first designate based on 
what the record is and then decide what if, if any, of the 18 prescribed 
remedies or penalties that can be meted out to a country – in this case Egypt – 
might be used.  China has been on that list.  
Unfortunately, we rarely use any of those sanctions that are included.  But 
it’s important to first get the designation and then take the second step.  
What do we do with that designation?  
Secondly, if I could ask you with regards to – you know, you talked about the 
reconciliation sessions in your testimony.  And while they sound benign and 
look like, you know, there’s something good and wholesome about it, they also 
carry with it a very dangerous aspect where people who have created heinous 
crimes under pressure of a reconciliation session might be allowed to get away 
with it, whether it be rape or assault.  And so, what kind of actions are often 
brought to these reconciliation sessions.  
And thirdly, if you could, I mentioned in my opening about how hard we worked – 
Mr. Aderholt, Mr. Wolf, Trent Franks, Kay Granger, who was the key person as 
chairwoman of the foreign ops appropriations committee – to put very specific 
language into the foreign ops bill for this year on religious freedom.  It was 
opposed by the administration.  As a matter of fact, it was very vigorously 
opposed.  And yet, now it’s been waived, just shunted aside as if religious 
freedom doesn’t matter.  
And when statements are made about strategic partnership with Egypt to make it 
stronger as a democracy, religious freedom is the first human right.  It’s at 
the core of it.  if we won’t insist upon it, who will?  So if you can speak to 
that very briefly.  
And then finally, for years when President Mubarak would come here, I and 
others would meet with him and I would bring up two issues every time – the 
gross abuse of his media to attack Israel and use caricatures and very, very 
horrible statements about – that were anti-Semitic, and the second was the 
attack on the Coptic Christian community and church.  
But as you point out, there has been a breakdown in security and a rise of 
sectarian violence that makes 2011 one of the worst years for Copts and other 
minorities.  What would you recommend we do because, you know, we would get a 
pushback from Mubarak.  He would say, talk to Boutros-Ghali where, who was 
always with him when these issues would come up. And we would give names.  We 
would raise specific instances of violence against Coptic Christians, burning 
of churches and the like.  But he at least was responsive to some.  What kind 
of response are we getting? What would be your recommendation as to with the 
SCAF especially and with the president?  Are we insisting on it with this 
administration?  Are they insisting on religious freedom and protection of 
Copts?

DR. LANTOS SWETT:  Well, thank you for those excellent questions and I’ll try 
to address each of them in turn.  First, as it relates to the CPC designation, 
we share your frustration.  It was a stroke of genius, I believe, that USCIRF 
was created as an independent body because we have, if you will, the luxury of 
being able to have a single-minded focus on our mission which is the 
advancement and promotion of international religious freedom.
And as such, you know, frankly we believe that we see this issue with greater 
clarity.  The State Department is always in the process of weighing various 
interests.  And we understand that that’s a necessity given the magnitude of 
the issues that they have to deal with.  And yet, it is our firm conviction 
that, as you have said so often and so eloquently, religious freedom is a 
threshold issue.  
And the implications – the broader implications for a society that fails to 
provide an environment of robust protection for tolerance, pluralism and 
religious freedom are very grave.  The evidence is now out there and it’s 
overwhelming that the positive correlations for societies that do provide this 
kind of religious freedom protection are phenomenal. They are more stable.  
They are more prosperous.  
They have – the women in those societies have infinitely higher status, 
infinitely better circumstances.  They are more democratic.  And of course, 
they are more peaceful.  And so, this is really not a sidebar issue.  I would 
also say that, as you know, Mr. Chairman, the conduct of a country needs to be 
egregious and persistent in order to qualify for that CPC designation.  And we 
approach our monitoring function at USCIRF always in a sort of strictly factual 
way.  You know, it’s nothing but the facts, ma’am.  
We go in there looking at what are the facts on the ground, what are the actual 
circumstances and then we make our recommendations based on that.  And so, you 
know, all I can say is that we will continue to forcefully advocate with the 
State Department that they take that next step vis-à-vis Egypt.  The facts, we 
believe, warrant it.  The circumstances warrant it.  And I think the evidence 
is the country doesn’t want to be designated as a CPC with good reason.  
And so, you know, when a country is obviously against their wishes given this 
badge of certainly concern, of particular concern, it can serve as a motivation 
for them to actually get serious about addressing the issues.  And as you point 
out, CPC designation is not an automatic trigger for any particular set of 
consequences.  So that issue can be viewed sort of as part of a separate 
discussion, what are the appropriate sanctions.  But we strongly feel that the 
CPC designation is warranted.  
We feel that it is an important tool to hold up for the world to see what the 
practices are of a country and it can be a tool for, you know, finally forcing 
a country to get serious about addressing some of these issues.  You brought up 
the issue of the reconciliation sessions.  
You know, we have had now over the last several decades societies in which a 
truth and reconciliation process has played an enormously valuable role in 
trying to help societies that were riven and torn apart in the most profound 
ways by war, by apartheid, by, you know, decades of sort of saturated abuse in 
the society to find a way to move beyond that.  And so, there are obviously 
circumstances in which that kind of a process is very, very appropriate. The 
situation I think we have in Egypt that is of concern is that you are really 
sort of seeing these reconciliation processes in some instances used not to try 
and sort of heal the deep societal-wide wounds but to bully victims into 
abandoning their pursuit of justice for very specific ills done against them by 
very specific perpetrators. 
And that’s clearly a perversion and an abuse of a process and sort of putting a 
very attractive and appealing name on a process which we feel feeds into the 
culture of impunity.  As you know, in my remarks I address that that’s sort of 
the overarching problem, if we want to put a big tag on what we feel lies at 
the heart of religious freedom in Egypt.  It’s this impunity, this culture of 
impunity created by government policies and by government lack of vindication 
of the rights of their citizens.  
And so in that context, this reconciliation process is another piece of that 
impunity problem.  You know, you mention the specific language that you had 
battled so hard to get into the foreign operations bill.  And I don’t, you 
know, know that I have huge insight to bring to bear on that.  I do know that 
it is important from the perspective of USCIRF that whether it’s the president, 
whether it’s the State Department, we want to see more than inconsequential lip 
service to the issues of religious freedom.  
You know, nobody is going to stand up and speak out against religious freedom.  
And we can all go to the record and find, you know, well-meaning and moving 
words spoken.  But there needs to be more than that.  And there needs to be a 
prioritization of religious freedom.  I don’t need to tell you, you know better 
than I do, that religious freedom is really implicated in some of our nation’s 
greatest challenges right now, including some of the national security threats 
that we face.  
 
Again, societies where robust religious freedom is a reality tend not to be 
societies where the sort of violent religious extremism takes root that can 
then visit our shores in the form of terrorism and can implicate our national 
security interests around the globe.  So it’s not a minor issue.  It’s not a 
nice sidebar topic that makes us all feel good and we can kind of, you know, 
smile and say nice words.  This goes to the heart not only of American values 
but of American security in the world.  And so in that sense, you know, we 
would obviously be advocating for our State Department and this administration 
and the Congress to ensure that religious freedom is central to the way we 
approach our dealings with foreign countries.  
And finally, you know, it’s interesting the last issue you brought up were your 
meetings with Mubarak and how you would bring up two issues – the treatment of 
the Copts and the use of official media to spew out, you know, vitriolic and 
vile anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial. 
Just earlier today – and I’m now going to momentarily put on a different hat.  
As you mentioned, I’m the president of the Lantos Foundation for Human Rights 
and Justice.  And one of our first acts after establishing the foundation 
following my father’s passing was the creation of the Lantos Archives on 
Anti-Semitism and Holocaust Denial, a collaborative project that we do with the 
Middle East Media Research Institute.  
And that archive documents on an annual basis the degree to which so much of 
the media, the preaching, the teaching, the public discourse in much of the 
Arabic world, the Muslim world, the Farsi-speaking world is saturated with a 
degree of overt and vitriolic and hateful anti-Semitism that I really think 
would make most people’s hair stand on end if they were to be exposed to it.  
and part of what we try to do through the archives is bridge the language gap 
because when these examples take place in a language not easily understood, you 
know, it’s easy for it to pass under the radar screen.  
And so, one of the goals of the Lantos Archives is bridge that language gap, 
bring to the attention of policymakers like you, the media, educators, thought 
leaders what’s really going on because we do believe that shining a bright 
light on that is at least one step that we can take.  But again, the quality of 
a culture – what is the language that is accepted, that is put forward, that is 
out there, what are the sorts of slurs against religious communities, against 
the Copts, against the Jews that are accepted as just part of the normal 
discourse.  
Unless we change the fundamental nature of what is acceptable in these 
countries around the world, we cannot get at some of the deep, deep, 
intransigent problems that need to be solved for, you know, the peace and 
stability of the whole world.  And so, I commend you for raising these issues.  
I think we need to be more vigilant as ever as we see Egypt and other countries 
attempting to make a transition to more democratic rule.  
Democracy can have a big hole in the heart if it is not accompanied by 
rigorous, vigorous, constitutional protections for the sorts of fundamental 
human rights that we take so for granted in this country. And in that regard, 
I’ll also mention that another initiative that USCIRF has been involved with is 
a study of constitutional reform processes and trying to, you know, provide 
some help and some insight to many of the countries in the Middle East that are 
now in the process of drafting new constitutions.  
And we know that those constitutions won’t look exactly like ours, although 
unlike some people in public life I think our Constitution is not a bad example 
to hold up around the world.  It’s done a pretty good job for this great 
country for more than 200 years.  But democracy must be accompanied by strong 
and honored constitutional protections for fundamental rights.  Otherwise, 
democracy can easily degenerate into the 
most dangerous sort of mobocracy.

REP. SMITH:  Dr. Lantos Swett, thank you so very much.  I yield to the good 
friend and colleague, Commissioner Aderholt.

REPRESENTATIVE ROBERT ADERHOLT (R-AL):  Thank you, Mr. Chairman.  And I’m going 
to have to slip out shortly.  But I do have some questions I’d like to submit.  
I’d like unanimous consent to submit those for the record.  Thank you for being 
here.  Thank you for your testimony.

DR. LANTOS SWETT:  Thank you.

REP. ADERHOLT:  This issue regarding Coptics has been an issue that I’ve 
followed for over a decade now.  One thing that I do want to – I would like to 
get your opinion on and just your thoughts – when it comes to the severity of 
the issue that we’re here discussing today, what do you think are some of the 
key issues or perceptions that – so many in the international community from 
understanding really what the problem really is and why they have not acted 
more strongly on the issue?

DR. LANTOS SWETT:  Specifically on the issue of religious freedom or –

REP. ADERHOLT:  Or – and minority women, but just in general.

DR. LANTOS SWETT:  Well, you know, I think that for many years there was sort 
of this notion that that world of religious belief and religious freedom 
related to kind of an older period in human history and that as we move forward 
into the modern world, some of those old, old notions of what’s important fall 
away.  And I think if recent world events have shown us anything, they have 
shown us how untrue that is.
Societies that protect these fundamental rights of belief and conscience – and 
sometimes those take the form of religious beliefs but not always – sometimes 
that takes the form of the freedom not to believe.  Societies that are vigorous 
in protecting people’s ability to express their transcendent views, their views 
about that which is transcendent in life, in fact are the societies that are 
the best equipped to deal with the many challenges that we face.
But I do think that you’re right.  There has been a certain resistance to 
embracing the advocacy of these issues other than in sort of a sidebar 
rhetorical sense.  But as I say, you know, I’m really very encouraged by some 
of the new, you know, very concrete research and social science evidence that 
is coming forward to show the correlation and the interrelation between 
protecting some of these most fundamental rights and building successful, 
prosperous, stable, tolerant societies.
And so, you know, we take some comfort from that and hope that as, in a way, 
science and faith and practice and tradition come together, there will be a 
more vigorous community out there ready to stand up in defense of these most 
fundamental rights.  They cannot be ignored.  They cannot be set aside.  They 
cannot be dismissed as sort of relics of another era.  They are at the heart of 
how we build a decent and a safe world going forward.  And you know, that is 
certainly central to the mission of USCIRF and something that we’re very 
passionate about.

REP. ADERHOLT:  Thank you.  And you know, just going back to the fact that a 
lot of people I think are not even sure exactly – it’s not really focused on 
some of the human rights issue about what the Coptics are all about and how 
some of the issues that they have to deal with.  So again, I apologize for 
having to slip out.  But like I said, I do have some questions for the record I 
would like to submit.  So thank you very much.

DR. LANTOS SWETT:  Thank you for your question.

REP. SMITH:  Thank you very much, Commissioner Aderholt.  And thank you, Dr. 
Lantos Swett, for your testimony, your insights and recommendations.  And thank 
you.

DR. LANTOS SWETT:  Thank you for having me and thank you for holding this very 
important hearing.

REP. SMITH:  I’d like to now welcome our second panel to the witness table, 
beginning first with Michele Clark, an adjunct professor at the George 
Washington University’s Elliott School of International Affairs.  She’s an 
internationally renowned expert on human trafficking.  Ms. Clark was appointed 
director of the Anti-Trafficking Assistance Unit at the OSCE in 2005 and 
developed the groundbreaking publication “Working Papers on Combatting 
Trafficking in the OSCE Region.”  
She has received multiple awards and fellowships in recognition of her 
remarkable anti-trafficking work.  And just several months ago was here before 
this commission with some groundbreaking testimony, insights into the abduction 
of Coptic girls in Egypt, really laid out a challenge for us and especially for 
the executive branch.  And I look forward to hearing what she has found since 
and she will explain that of course in her testimony.  
We’ll then hear from Dr. Phares – Walid Phares – who is a professor at the 
National Defense University and he serves as an advisor to the Anti-Terrorism 
Caucus and co-secretary general for the Transatlantic Legislative Group on 
Counterterrorism.  Now, Dr. Phares frequently testifies before the U.S. 
Congress, the European Parliament and the United Nations Security Council on 
matters pertaining to international security.  In addition, he provides 
expertise for a variety of domestic and international media sources and has 
published several books, including his most recent, “The Coming Revolution:  
Struggle for Freedom in the Middle East.”  
Then, our next witness, and we will just call her Anne, is a victim and needs 
to maintain anonymity for the safety of her family, who are still in Egypt.  
She is a Coptic Christian woman but recently obtained asylum here in the United 
States based on an attempted abduction that she endured while in Egypt.  I 
would ask that each of your respect her privacy and not attempt to photograph 
her, even though she is behind us.  We do have Capitol Police on hand to ensure 
that there are no disturbances.  Her words will be translated by Carolyn Doss, 
who has been here before.  And I thank her for that translation.  If we could 
go first to Michele Clark and then to Dr. Phares?

MICHELE CLARK:  Thank you, Mr. Chairman.  It’s a real honor to be invited to 
testify once more.  Thank you.  It’s an honor to be invited to testify once 
more on this most important issue of the disappearances, forced conversions and 
forced marriages of Coptic women and girls. I’d like to express my thanks to 
the commission for holding this hearing and for launching our new report.  It’s 
a real honor that you’ve accorded us.
I would also like to express my appreciation and my thanks to Dr. John Eibner 
of Christian Solidarity International for championing this issue and sponsoring 
the research and writing of the report.  I would also like to express my thanks 
to my coauthor, Nadia Ghaly, for her invaluable collaboration. She’s not able 
to be with us today.  I have submitted written testimony along with the newly 
released report and would like these to be included in the permanent record of 
the hearings.

REP. SMITH:  Without objection, your full statement and that of Dr. Walid and 
all statements will be made a part of the record.

MS. CLARK:  Thank you.  My introductory remarks will be brief, highlighting the 
principle conclusions and recommendations.  But I’d also like to address some 
of the challenges raised by individuals and organizations who would seek to 
downplay the seriousness of the issue.  First, a little bit of context and then 
the challenges.  This report builds upon our previous work from 2009 in which 
we documented the disappearances of Coptic women and girl.  Many were lured 
into false relationships through fraudulent means or forcible abductions.  
These women were coerced into converting to Islam and married to their 
abductors against their wills.  Our report was based on interviews with women 
who had been abducted, the lawyers who represented them and family members of 
women who had not yet returned.
But the report was greeted with some mixed response.  We’re grateful to you and 
to this commission, which one year ago, as you mentioned, sponsored a hearing 
on this important topic to raise the visibility of violence against the Coptic 
women in Egypt.  Other U.S. government bodies were not so receptive.  In 2010, 
the Office to Combat and Monitor Trafficking in Persons referenced our study in 
their annual report although referring to our findings as allegations.  
Findings of our current report were not referenced in the 2012 TIP report.  The 
2010 Department of State’s International Religious Freedom Report also refers 
to our work, once again using the word allegation.
There have been some interesting traction in other areas. And for the first 
time, we’re beginning to see stories in the mainstream media.  In 2010, just 
before the Christmas holidays, the BBC aired a documentary film on attacks 
against Christian minorities in Europe, featuring a family whose daughter had 
been abducted. They based their research in large part on our first report.  In 
July 2011, the New York Review of Books featured and article by journalist and 
writer Yasmin el-Rashdi referencing the disappearance of Coptic girls.  And in 
October 2011, the European Parliament issued a statement condemning violence 
against the Copts in Egypt and expressed particular concern about girls who 
have been kidnapped and forced to convert.  So we’re seeing a little bit of – a 
little bit of positive response.  
So why doesn’t the issue have more traction?  Mr. Aderholt asked a very 
important question.  I’d like to talk about this just a little bit before I get 
into the finding of the reports.  I’ve been, as you say, in the 
anti-trafficking world for a long time and there are many parallels.  We know 
enough now from years of studying recruitment strategies of human traffickers 
that one main way of luring young women into an exploitative relationship is 
under the guise of a romantic partnership.  We also know that if a marriage is 
forced, it sets up a controlling and coercive environment which can be nothing 
short of exploitative.
Claims that all disappearances are the result of impulsive behavior reflect a 
deep and potentially dangerous misunderstanding of the use of force, fraud and 
coercion that are characteristics of the relationships between the young Coptic 
girls and their captors.  Both my coauthor Nadia Ghaly and I recognize that not 
all disappearances are the results of abduction. Not all marriages are forced.  
But, and notwithstanding the ambiguity of many situations we encountered, we 
claim that it’s not possible to dismiss each case in our 2009 report on the 
grounds that girls willingly left their families.  We will contend the same 
thing for the report that we present to you today.  These are not all cases of 
romance gone bad.  
So concerned with the escalating violence against Copts in Egypt and 
dissatisfied with the lack of response from the U.S. government, Christian 
Solidarity International commissioned a second report which we are launching 
here today.  
This new report substantiates our earlier findings.  In addition, we have 
observed changes in trends and patterns which reinforce the premeditation of 
captors.  The goal of this report is straightforward – to continue to support 
the claims of disappearances, abductions, forced conversions and forced 
marriages of Coptic women in Egypt and to continue to challenge the use of the 
term “allegation” in U.S. government reports.
So how did we get our information?  Well, the findings are based on several key 
factors.  First of all, we interviewed four Egyptian lawyers who provided us 
access to claims filed on behalf of Coptic women who had disappeared as well as 
young women who had returned from a forced marriage and conversion and were 
attempting to regain their Christian identities.  As we’ve already heard, the 
withholding of one’s original religion is a repetitive pattern.  
We also interviewed representatives of civil society organizations.  We spoke 
with family members of young women who have disappeared.  Some of these 
individuals were represented by attorneys.  Many cannot afford an attorney and 
therefore come themselves.  We reviewed Internet sites reporting disappearances 
of Coptic girls but we considered only those cases with appropriate 
documentation, especially police reports.
And we interviewed women who have returned from forced marriage and conversion. 
 All of our interviews were conducted from November 16th through November 25th, 
2011, in and around Cairo, Egypt.  Only verifiable cases are included in our 
report.  Each of these cases is verifiable through attorneys’ files, personal 
interviews and police reports.  The names of young women and their family 
members and other identifying details are not published to protect their 
identities.
So what did we find that was a little bit different?  We went in not quite 
knowing.  We wanted to see if the political climate had changed anything.  We 
wanted to see if the two years since our previous report had affected the 
situation in any way.  We noticed some similarities and some marked 
differences.  
The first key finding is that the number of disappearances and abductions 
appear to be increasing.  Each of the attorneys that we interviewed for this 
report indicated an increase in his caseload since January 2011.  Four 
attorneys collectively reported a total of over 550 cases of abductions, 
disappearances and petitions to restore Christian identity following 
abductions, forced marriages and forced conversions over a five-year period.  
Furthermore, one attorney interviewed for this report indicates firsthand 
knowledge of over 1,600 cases of Christians petitioning to have their 
conversions to Islam overturned in recent years.  Sixty percent – over 900 
women – 900 of these cases are women.  
Data collection, as in the trafficking world, remains a challenge.  There is no 
systematic data repository within the Coptic community documenting the 
disappearances of young women.  Priests or bishops keep records of activities 
within their churches and communities sometimes. Attorneys maintain their own 
caseloads.  Activists maintain different websites but there is no 
cross-referencing with other data sources.
Furthermore, families of victims don’t report all cases.  The police do not 
register all complaints filed by family members.  In many cases, family members 
of missing young women reported that police would not file a report until a 
lawyer intervened.  In other cases, families don’t file reports because they 
don’t believe the claims will be taken seriously or because they fear 
retribution by the authorities.  Not all families are financially able to 
secure the services of an attorney, and while not a guarantee of result, at 
least the presence of an attorney enables the filing of a legitimate claim.  We 
personally spoke to family members who would go to up to five or six different 
police stations before some police officer would finally agree to file a claim. 
These were dismissed for all of the reasons that we’ve mentioned above.  
We’re also noting that fewer girls appear to be returning to their families.  
Our 2009 report focused on young women who had returned from forced marriages 
and conversion and were struggling to regain her Christian identities.  They 
report instances of abuse and forced domestic servitude.  One woman reported 
being prostituted by her captor.  Since then, there has been a discernible 
change in the dynamics of the disappearances of young Coptic women.  Attorneys 
handling such cases report that fewer women are being returned to their 
families.  There is speculation that the young women might be trafficked 
overseas but attorneys and activists have not yet been able to document this 
finding and we recommend that this trend be followed more seriously.  
We note that increasingly social media is being used to inform families about 
their daughters’ conversion.  One mother we spoke to told us that after looking 
for over six months to find news of her daughter, she happened to stumble upon 
a videotape of her announcing her conversion on a website of new converts to 
Islam.  
Another deeply disturbing finding is that minors and mothers of young children 
are being targeted – are being increasingly targeted.  In addition to 
disappearances of single young women over the age of 18, lawyers report and 
increase in the abductions of mothers with young children.  While the age of 
consent to convert to a different religion is 18 in Egypt, there are increasing 
reports that children of mothers who are forced to convert are also 
subsequently registered as Muslim.  Even if a mother returns to her community, 
the children are considered by law to be Muslim and will remain Muslim.  So in 
forcibly converting one young woman, all of her children will be automatically 
considered Muslim as well.  
  The disappearances are organized and planned.  We’ve seen this before but 
we’ve received more corroborating evidence.  Attorneys, social workers and 
members of the clergy interviewed for this and the previous report all attest 
to organized and systematic planning in the cases of missing Coptic women.  
Tactics to lure young women into relationships follow similar patterns.  One 
lawyer interviewed for this report stated that the same man's name occurred in 
multiple police reports.  He married five Christian women who subsequently were 
forced to convert to Islam.  So he would marry one, take her away, go back, 
work on another, get her converted, go back, work on another and systematically 
pursue a number of forced conversions.  Family members report that their 
daughters or sisters were befriended by a schoolmate, a neighbor or another 
mother – an older mother figure over time.
Lawyers indicate that their clients benefitted materially.  Frequently, family 
members were provided with new apartments or furniture, and unemployable young 
men were given jobs among the abductor families.
Abductors target vulnerable women and girls, and girls in vulnerable and 
unprotected moments.  The concluding observations of the U.N.'s Commission on 
the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women for Egypt 
expressed concern at the very limited information and statistics provided about 
vulnerable groups of women in Egypt.  Certainly, Coptic women and girls are 
vulnerable in many ways.  They are members of a religious minority.  They come 
from closed, insular communities.  Their minority status is the basis for legal 
and social discrimination.
Captors sever contact between victims and their families.  The first task of 
the captor is to come between a young woman and members of her family.  They 
can do this by force, by taking away her phone, by denying her any contact with 
her relatives.  They lock her up.  They deny her mobility.  They threaten her, 
telling her that if she runs away, her family will never accept her, that they 
will punish her, that they will put her in a monastery. 
Eventually a young woman is brainwashed and believes that she will be safe only 
with her Muslim captor.  Ultimately, she will be truly safe only if she 
converts to Islam. There is no obligation for a Christian woman who marries a 
Muslim man to convert to Islam.  So many attorneys claim that this conversion 
is the ultimate goal of captivity.
Captors make use of measures involving force, fraud and coercion.  A young 
woman consents to a glass of sugarcane juice and the attention of a man whose 
words promise a life of love, ease and provision. Another woman shares a drink 
of water with a woman – with another mother who also waiting for children after 
school.  A third seeks friendship and escape from a harsh and sometimes abusive 
home environment.  
Victims who have not literally been abducted nevertheless did not consent to 
being ripped from their family without ever seeing them again.  They did not 
consent to being forcibly converted to a religion other than their own. They do 
not consent to a life of captivity within one small apartment, every outing 
supervised by a member of her new husband's family.  They said yes to the 
things that young women say yes to.  They say yes to friendship, to romance, to 
hope, a future, safety and security. It is reasonable to accept that most young 
women would respond in precisely the same way as many Coptic girls responded to 
these offers of friendship and romance which proved to be highly destructive of 
their own lives.
Now, about our recommendations, in developing these recommendations for this 
report, we consulted with attorneys and civil society actors in Egypt in order 
to assess what government actions might support their efforts to protect Coptic 
women from falling into captivity and, as a result, into forced marriages and 
conversions. There was considerable consensus among those that we spoke to.
First, they would request that local police stations will take seriously and 
file all reports on all claims of disappearance of Coptic women and girls and 
that all claims will be investigated and family members kept appraised of the 
progress of each of these cases.  The Egyptian national government will request 
an annual accounting of all cases of disappearances including open and ongoing 
cases as well as any prosecutions that resulted from these local investigations.
The Egyptian government will create a registry to document the disappearance of 
minors.  Children of parents who convert will retain the religion of their 
birth until they are 18 years old.  Laws which penalize discrimination based on 
religion in the areas of education, employment and the media will be enacted.  
To the Coptic Church, the activists would like to suggest that the church 
maintain a central registry documenting instances of disappearance, abductions 
and forced marriages and conversions that is laid out according to a rigorous 
methodology which can document the instances without sensationalism.
The Coptic community will educate families and young women on the recruitment 
and deception patterns that lead to captivity.  And for the international 
community, the recommendations are that a legal defense fund will be created to 
enable Coptic families to secure the presence of an attorney, which as we 
indicated is frequently the only way to get a case legally registered as a 
disappearance.  International or national agencies assessing the situation of 
Coptic women in Egypt will recognize that coercion and fraud are represented in 
most cases of disappearance, forced marriages and forced conversion, all of 
which obviate the consent of the victim.
And finally, my last – the recommendation that ended my last testimony to you, 
Mr. Chairman, that international organizations and our government will 
recognize both the scope and the scale of the problem and no longer refer to 
such cases as allegations.  I don’t think that anyone will refer to the witness 
who we’ll hear later as an allegation.  Mr. Chairman, and members of the 
commission, I thank you for your time and interest in this very important 
matter.  I look forward to answering your questions.

REP. SMITH:  Ms. Clark, thank you so very much for your incisive testimony, for 
undertaking this extraordinary human rights project, to report, to investigate 
and for doing it yourself.  So thank you so much for the bravery that that 
surely exhibits.  Dr. Phares, please proceed.

WALID PHARES:  Thank you.  Mr. Chairman, members of the commission, I would 
like to thank you very much for extending this invitation to me to address this 
very dramatic issue of persecution and of abduction of girls and women in the 
Coptic community in Egypt.  I have titled my paper, my presentation as “The 
Strategy of Subduing a Community by Terrorizing its Women.”  And thank you, Mr. 
Chairman, for including the full text of my testimony in the records.
What I would like to do for the sake of time is to summarize the following.  
First, from a strategic perspective, what are the findings of our colleagues.  
This year and last year in this body, in Congress and also in the European 
Parliament, if I may, have been telling us what are the major points that we 
can respond to.  From there, I’d like to ask five questions and answer them.  
That would allow the commission and therefore members of Congress and our 
government in general terms to respond to the challenge.
The violence against Coptic women in Egypt, as many experts have already 
testified before this prestigious forum over the past few years, and last year 
in particular, these acts of violence against Egyptian Coptic women both 
individually and collectively have been unrelenting, repetitive and directed 
almost exclusively at young, single women and who are at the age of marriage or 
just about.
This violence, which is described in several reports already submitted to your 
commission, to the Congress in general, to other legislative bodies around the 
world, have – can be summarized as follows.  
A, the attacks have been ongoing for more than three decades, with peaks in 
some years.  
B, the victims have primarily been young Christian women.  
C, Egyptian security and judicial authorities have not helped in general terms 
the families of these girls and have not actually conducted an investigation, a 
thorough national investigation of who is that network in Egypt that basically 
has been perpetrating those attacks for the last five years at least 
documented.  
D, an overwhelming majority of the kidnappings and violence have been carried 
out by individuals and groups who claim to be acting on their ideology, on 
behalf of their ideology, a doctrine, a set of fundamental beliefs known as 
Salafism or Jihadism which they claim is the strict implementation of sharia 
laws.  
E, an overwhelming majority of these crimes have been dismissed by government 
security and justice institutions, and the radical factions have been 
protecting many of these perpetrators, assigning essentially blame to the 
female victims and their families.  
F, violence against young Christian women in Egypt has continued after the 
downfall of the previous regime, and formation of the current alternative 
government and its institutions.
These findings, Mr. Chairman, prompt the following questions, five of them.  
A, have the attacks been widespread and consistent over time, so that we can 
deal with the argument of this is just a reaction to a love affair or a social 
situation gone bad?  Is the history of these attacks reflective of the legal 
and security status of the Coptic Christian community at large?  
Two, is the violence committed by an organized movement or by individuals who 
claim to be acting on behalf of an ideological movement?  
Three, does the attitude of government security, judicial and political 
institutions reflect cooperation with the attackers, or just neglect for the 
protection of a segment of Egyptian society?  
Four, what are the consequences of the continuous attacks against Coptic 
females, and thus the Coptic community, despite the regime change of government 
change and rise of new institutions in Egypt, which I feel is a key element in 
our discussion today.  
And five, what can and should the United States government, specifically the 
administration, do to put an end to these violent practices against the women 
of the Christian Coptic community?  
Answering those questions or attempting to do so will equip members of the 
commission and thus of Congress with the perspective needed to understand the 
exact nature of the crisis and make informed recommendations regarding possible 
new legislation and alternative policies for adoption by the executive branch.  
Point number one, the nature of these attacks – according to prior research 
submitted to your commission and to other congressional committees, targeted 
attacks against Coptic Christian women are not unrelated and isolated acts of 
violence. 
On the contrary, kidnapping and forcing captive women to convert to Islam has 
been documented for decades, revealing hundreds of victims each year. Research 
and Coptic sources claim that violence against Coptic women has been practiced 
since even before the rise of modern Egypt.  But current research is confirming 
that this abuse was documented for at least the last half a decade, or decade, 
especially in the last five or three years. Therefore, the first characteristic 
of the crisis is its longstanding history.
This means that any solution to the problem must address its historical roots 
and scope of the violence.  This violence against Coptic females took place 
before and after the Arab Spring, before and after 9/11, before and after the 
end of the Cold War and before and after World War II.  We are dealing with a 
threat that has the dimension of an attitude by either a movement or an 
ideology with regard to the Coptic community.
Now, with regard to the perpetrators, while research over the past five years, 
I must admit, has not revealed a well-designed structure that openly and 
officially takes responsibility for these attacks against Coptic Christian 
women, it has shown, however, patterns and statements that indicate the 
existence of a movement that hails from a well-publicized ideology, namely, 
Salafist, namely Islamist fundamentalists, or also known as Jihadism. 
In almost all cases, Mr. Chairman, the kidnappers argued that their actions 
were legitimized and inspired by Salafist and jihadist principles. One central 
tenet that most of my colleagues have mentioned already this year and last 
year, one central tenet of those principles is that individuals – in this case, 
females – who convert from Christianity to Islam cannot revert back to their 
original religion, must accept their, quote, unquote, “forced marriages,” and 
in some cases, families of the victims were asked to pay a tribute to recover 
their daughters.
The reference to jihadist views, applicable to Christian Copts in general and 
women and girls in particular, shows that the acts perpetrated against them and 
their communities are ideologically and politically motivated.  
Government failure and collaboration – we also detected that based on reports 
by human rights groups as well as the Coptic community and liberal Egyptian 
NGOs, that local Egyptian police and security forces, national security 
agencies, including the now-gone state security agency Amn al-Dawla, are or 
were either covering up the attacks, or protecting the perpetrators. 
Therefore, when we look at the historical timeline of security collaboration 
with the perpetrators or, at a minimum, non-support of the victims and their 
families, this coincides as well with the timeline of similar aggressive 
behavior against the community as a whole.  Coptic activists and NGOs – 
including the Washington, D.C.-based Coptic Solidarity International – have 
accused Egyptian security services under the Mubarak regime of using Salafists 
to conduct attacks against Coptic targets to maintain the community under the 
protection of the government. 
Coptic and liberal Egyptian NGOs have argued that the new security agencies 
formed after the collapse of the Mubarak regime, after the latest legislative 
elections, continue to allow these practices or help the perpetrators.  
Consequences of attacks against Coptic women, which I consider one of the most 
important key analyses in our discussion – if the aggression targeting 
Christian Coptic women continues and widens, without a determined and 
aggressive intervention by the Egyptian government to put an end to this 
practice, there will be serious consequences on Egyptian Christian women, their 
own communities – Christian Coptic community – but also on Egyptian women in 
general, leading to a weakening of civil society and a dramatic setback to 
freedom, to human rights and democracy in Egypt. 
The chief consequence of unchecked aggressions against Coptic women and the 
terror – is basically the terror it is instilling in the hearts of Christian 
women who count for at least half of the 15 or so million Christian Copts in 
Egypt. The hundreds of repetitive attacks against Coptic women send a clear 
signal to millions of young women in Egypt who feel targeted by the jihadists 
and Salafists, compelling them to limit their movement, to narrow their social 
circles and to separate them from Muslim communities.
So violence against Coptic women leads to a de facto gender apartheid in Egypt, 
where Christian women will be increasingly deterred from finding jobs, from 
expressing their opinion, from wearing their own preferred outfits and 
circulating in public spaces.
The effects on Coptic women will also extend to the entire Christian community 
as half of its members are increasingly intimidated by acts of violence 
committed on hundreds of young women. When one segment of community is 
terrorized, it reverberates throughout their families and communities, forcing 
the collective into mental ghettos and therefore emigration. 
Rape, abduction and forced conversion are among the root causes of a general 
sentiment among Copts that pushes thousands of them to flee the country – the 
country of their ancestors. Outside the community, the attacks against Coptic 
Christian women and their results will bring other consequences, Mr. Chairman, 
to bear on secular Egyptian women in general, meaning Muslim secular Egyptian 
women in general, both liberal and conservative. 
By failing to protect its Coptic citizens, the Egyptian government will be 
perceived as incapable of protecting other segments of the population also 
targeted by the Salafists and the jihadists. 
Muslim liberal and secular women, who already fear the strict implementation 
and enforcement of the jihadi-viewed sharia law, will be under increased 
pressures by the most extreme elements of the Islamist movement to wear the 
hijab and later, the full niqab. The attacks on defenseless Coptic women are a 
mere prelude to a wider campaign to impose its ideological agenda, clearly seen 
in the Salafist movement as early as 2011.
The role of the U.S. government, finally – the United States government has an 
international responsibility in addressing the situation in the same way our 
U.S. foreign policy has addressed mass scale abuse of human rights around the 
globe for the last 20 to 30 years.  We recommend for the Helsinki Commission to 
adopt the following steps as a way to help protect Coptic women and girls in 
Egypt from abuse, and defend their universal rights.
One, reaffirm the conditions on global U.S. foreign aid to Egypt, despite all 
the debate that has been taking place in Washington about it, of a 
constitutional provision announced by the drafters of the new Egyptian 
constitution, that the practices of abducting, torturing and forcing 
conversions on Coptic women or any element of society is a terrorist act which 
is punishable by law.  This is not an infringement of their liberties.  It is a 
terrorist act.  Kidnapping in Colombia is a terrorist act.  Kidnapping in any 
part of the world is a terrorist act.
Two, make a congressional declaration that crimes against Coptic women inspired 
by extremist ideologies targeting communities will be considered crimes against 
humanity punishable under international law.  There are no differences between 
rape and aggression against women in Egypt and what happened in Yugoslavia or 
in Bosnia or in Kosovo.  
Three, partner with Coptic and civil society NGOs, extending financial support 
directly to these entities as part of the global U.S. aid to Egypt.  If you 
want to send foreign aid to Egypt, if you want to send hundreds of millions of 
dollars, we also need to earmark part of that air to the NGOs that are 
representative of the weakest elements of the Egyptian society, that will be 
women and minorities.
Four, ensure that the educational and informational system in Egypt, 
particularly state-supported institutions, which we are funding, by the way, 
isn't used to propagate the ideology or precepts used by the perpetrators of 
the attacks as a way to legitimize violence and discrimination against Coptic 
women and encourage acts of violence against them.  
Mr. Chairman, what happened in the classroom in Egypt is the beginning of the 
process of the development of a radical educational and also cultural policy 
that ends up convincing the perpetrators that what they are doing is the right 
thing to do.  So we need to also be sure that educational and informational 
system in Egypt are reformed – are adapted to international standards of human 
rights.
And lastly, number five is to conduct an international investigation.  It would 
be U.S.-led, and I’m sure that the European government would be very interested 
in joining.  But an international investigation of this mass abuse of human 
rights that is targeting a segment of an Egyptian society, because we cannot 
rely on the Egyptian justice system at this point in time.  We could help that 
justice system.  We could equip them with advisers.  We could begin by sending 
a commission to Egypt to begin that investigation.
I would end by saying that the current situation in Egypt presents us with a 
historic opportunity.  Now that elections have taken place, now that a 
president has been elected, it is very important to our administration, to our 
executive power to engage in a discussion – in an open discussion, not in a 
discreet discussion.  
The perpetrators in Egypt must know from the media, from public discussion that 
our officials are demanding from the president of Egypt, are demanding from the 
future elected or the current parliament that these issues would be at the 
table, that the constitutional committee that is looking at the future 
constitution will take consideration of these elements.  Thank you, Mr. 
Chairman.  Thank you, members.

REP. SMITH:  Dr. Phares, thank you very much for your extensive testimony and 
your leadership for so long on these issues.  I’d like to now ask a woman who 
has been victimized by abduction – as I indicated earlier, recently got asylum 
here in the United States.  And as we all know, getting asylum is no easy 
business. There needs to be proof.  An administrative law judge needs to be 
convinced.  There is a whole process that needs to be followed.  Her 
information seems to be absolutely credible.  So we welcome her to the 
commission and ask her if she would now proceed. 

MS.:  (Via interpreter.)  I am a Coptic Christian from Egypt, from Alexandria, 
and on January 5th, 2011, I was at my mother’s and it was about 7 p.m. at 
night.  I had left my mother’s home and I was carrying my daughter because she 
was asleep.  
I was getting onto a microbus and when I had taken the first step, I felt 
myself falling backwards onto my back.  I didn’t know what was going on.  All I 
felt was that someone was picking me up off the ground.  I was asking him, what 
do you want, what are you doing.  And he said, you’re coming with me.  You’re 
going to get into this taxi.  I didn’t know what to do.  I was just trying to 
hold on to my daughter because I was afraid she would fall. I was screaming.  I 
didn’t know what he wanted.  I had no idea why he was doing this.
People started to look and wondering what was happening and he just started 
yelling, this is no one’s concern, she’s an enemy of Islam, this is no one’s 
concern, she’s an enemy of Islam.  I didn’t know what to do.  He was dragging 
me and people were just watching.  And then he got me to the taxi.  He kept 
trying to shove me into the taxi by holding me from the back of my head.  I 
kept trying to resist and push back but he just kept trying to shove me into 
the taxi by holding me from the back of the neck.
As he was trying to shove me into the car, my daughter’s eye hit the corner of 
the door of the taxi.  I didn’t know what to do.  She was screaming.  I didn’t 
know how to fight back.  I wasn’t sure what I should do.  Suddenly, the guard 
from my mother’s building started hitting him and he pulled me away from him.  
The guy jumped into the taxi.  There was a driver in there and they drove away. 
 The man who helped me was only concerned about helping me and taking care of 
me.
He took me back to the home.  I was crying.  I couldn’t process what had just 
happened.  I couldn’t understand why did this happen, what just happened to me. 
 My daughter was crying.  I looked and I noticed that her eye was red and it 
started to swell.  The man who saved me hit the intercom button and called my 
parents down.  My parents came down and saw me in a hysterical state.  He 
called my husband and told him to come immediately.  He came and he took us 
both to the hospital.  When we got to the emergency room, they told us not to 
worry.  It was just a superficial injury and they gave us some medication to 
treat the injury and then we started home.
On the way home, I started to feel terrible pain.  I was in my second month of 
pregnancy and I started to feel like I was bleeding.  My mother contacted the 
doctor and he told her to have me come to the clinic immediately.  My mother 
took my daughter home and my father, my husband and I went directly to the 
clinic.  The doctor there informed me that I had miscarried and I had to 
perform a procedure to remove the baby.
They performed the procedure for me and after that I returned home with my 
father and my husband.  I was in a very bad emotional state as was my daughter. 
 I was terrified.  I was terrified from everything.  I was afraid to leave the 
house.  I was even afraid to hear the doorbell ring.  I kept asking myself what 
if this man hadn’t saved me, where would I be now, what would have happened to 
my daughter.
Until today, when I think about it, I thank God that I was saved.  But then I 
wonder about the others that weren’t saved, what happened to them.  I try and 
imagine what about those people, what about the others, the other victims.  I’m 
here today so I can tell you what happened to me.  I try and imagine and think 
what would – where would I be, where would my daughter be, would I ever have 
seen my husband again, my family again.
We live in Egypt and we experience a lot of persecution.  But we try and live 
with it.  But the deaths and the kidnappings, that is too difficult to bear.  
For a child to live without a mother or a mother to live without her child, 
what did they do, what did they do to deserve this.  What would have happened 
to my father?  What would have happened to my husband?  They take women because 
they know the shame that it will bring to the family.  How can they survive?  
Thank you.

REP. SMITH:  Thank you very much for bravely coming here and telling us of what 
is an absolutely gut-wrenching and terrible experience.  And I think you help 
to bring for all of us what it was like to be in the beginning stages of an 
abduction.  We know others who have been abducted for long periods of time. 
Michele Clark has spoken often about that, especially in previous testimonies.  
So thank you so much for your courageous witness before this commission today.
I would like to ask a few questions of our witnesses, beginning first with Dr. 
Phares.  The name of your testimony, the headline, the title of “The Strategy 
of Subduing a Community by Terrorizing its Women,” – we just heard a terrorized 
woman talk about how being a victim has the potential of bringing shame to 
herself and to the family which I think is precisely and the absolutely wrong 
way of looking at it.  
But that be as it may, I would argue, and I know you would agree, that this 
kind of terrible targeting of women, terrorizing women brings shame not only to 
those who engage in this barbaric behavior but also those who enable it by 
indifference, by their silence, by their looking askance, looking the other 
way.  
And I want to ask you – and I mean this very sincerely and I hope if you have 
information, we will write – I will write a letter asking if this was brought 
up.  Before I get to that, after our first hearing, when Michele Clark 
testified and told us it is no longer a case of saying these are allegations 
but these are facts on the ground that women are being abducted, they are being 
forced into marriages, they are being abused.  This is a despicable treatment 
of women.  And it’s not just an allegation.  It needs to be really combatted.  
And it needs more chronicling.  
Certainly the United States government has the capabilities, the wherewithal 
and the knowledge as to how to do it.  In direct response to that testimony, 
Congressman Frank Wolf put your statements, Ms. Clark, in the hands of Anne 
Patterson, who was actually meeting with him right upstairs in this office – 
his office.  And I put it in the hands of Michael Posner, the assistant 
secretary for democracy, human rights and labor.  
I would ask you, if you could, do you have any knowledge as to whether or not 
Assistant Secretary Michael Posner has done anything with this damaging 
information?  I would point out for the record so there’s absolute clarity on 
this, when we had a phone videoconference with Anne Patterson, I asked her 
directly with others sitting there listening as to whether or not she had acted 
upon this terrible human right abuse being meted out on women in Egypt and 
whether or not, you know, we had deployed Foreign Service officers, the human 
rights person in the embassy to follow-up and to look into this and do their 
own report.  
You have gone to Egypt, Ms. Clark.  You took time out of your schedule to do 
this.  We have people on the ground who are eminently capable and knowledgeable 
and know how to do this kind of reporting.  And Ms. Patterson told me – 
Ambassador Patterson – no, she had not gotten around to it.  And we had a very 
spirited exchange.  I asked her to do it.  To date, I know of no investigation 
undertaken by the U.S. embassy in Cairo.  
Added to that, we just had our secretary of State, Hillary Rodham Clinton, meet 
with the president of Egypt, and I’m wondering if any of you could tell us or 
if we have any reason to believe that the secretary of State has raised this 
issue anywhere and at any time and specifically has she raised it with the SCAF 
and/or – not and/or, but and has she raised it with the president of Egypt.  Do 
you have any information?

MS. CLARK:  Thank you, Mr. Chairman.  I read the transcript of the hearing in 
which you spoke to Secretary Posner.  I was not able to be at that hearing on 
November 16th of last year because I was actually getting on a plane going to 
Egypt that very afternoon.  So I remember the date.  What I can say is that no 
one from his office has contacted me to find out or the coauthor of this 
report, to find out information about our cases.
The cases have been disputed.  The cases – people have gone publicly on record 
saying that no one has been able to substantiate these cases, that they are 
inflammatory – they contain inflammatory allegations but without 
substantiation.  The only way they could be substantiated is by asking me who’s 
involved because the identities have not been published and no one has 
approached me from Secretary Posner’s office to ask me about follow-up on the 
report.

DR. PHARES:  Mr. Chairman, I would like first of all to take the opportunity to 
thank you for what you do for the community and for engaging the community not 
just in inviting witnesses to testify in front of this prestigious committee 
but actually for yourself, for the second or third year to go to the community, 
to their leadership and engaging them, sitting with them for hours and hours.  
And yourself acting as an investigator of the human rights abuses of the 
community, that is the example that we in the world of NGOs would like to see 
you and your colleagues and also the State Department and the administration 
engaging in.
And the term engagement has been used by the administration for the last four 
years repetitively.  But unfortunately, among the recipients of the engage, we 
didn’t see a representative of the Copts.  We saw many delegations from the 
Muslim Brotherhood, before and after the Arab Spring.  We are now seeing 
possibly Salafist delegations heading to the State Department or to the embassy 
or maybe beyond that.  
But we haven’t seen delegations from the Coptic leadership going or being 
invited actually to our administration and being asked about that issue.  My 
esteemed colleague mentioned the issue of alleged.  I mean, in international 
law, if one incident is alleged, if 20 incidents are alleged, if 500 incidents 
over five years are alleged, then what is alleged at the end of the day?  
To answer you more specifically your question about do we know about any 
discussions that took place between the secretary and the president of Egypt, 
well, what we have are open resources and open sources and also the responses 
from the NGO – the Coptic NGO.  The issue of the Coptic community as such – and 
I would like to mention – take advantage also of my time to mention the 
direction of the narrative of the administration, which is very important.  And 
that could help the narrative of Congress.  
When we talk about religious freedom, we put all our efforts to make sure that 
religious freedom basically is the freedom of the religious community.  It’s 
not just to go to church on Sunday.  It is not that hour-and-a-half or three 
hours from home to church and back.  Unfortunately, the narrative that we’ve 
heard over the past three years, and significantly this year, is that religious 
freedom is now being perceived by the executive branch as freedom to practice 
faith individually.  
That is not religious freedom because you may well go to church while the 
entire community is suppressed or driven to jails or even outside the country.  
What needs to be done is a re-discussion, first in Congress and then in 
dialogue with the administration, that the Coptic community has to be 
recognized as a community.  
These are not just individual Egyptians who happen to be Christian who are 
struggling to go, you know, every Sunday and pray at church, which means that 
this community basically has to be received, has to be basically recognized in 
the same way we see representatives from the Kurds of Iraq or from the people 
from Darfur or from the Palestinians, for that matter, or even from East Timor. 
 This is a community that has rights.  It happened that it is Christian.  
In Bosnia, they were Muslims.  In other places, they are parts of different 
religion.  So unless we see a change in the narrative of the administration 
that would recognize the Copts as a community, that would start to receive them 
at the highest level of our government as such and listen to their issues, I 
don’t think that there is a recognition of the problem that exists as a 
collective problem in Egypt unfortunately.

MS. CLARK:  Thank you, and I’d like to really support what my colleague has 
said.  In the early says of the trafficking – anti-trafficking community, as 
you know so well, the State Department required a minimum number of cases. A 
country would be put on the TIP report only if a minimum number of cases were 
proven.  That makes sense.  You don’t want to issue a scathing report based on 
allegations.  These were provided.  Countries were rated.  I know this because 
I was involved in designing a lot – several of the methodologies used to count 
these numbers.  What are we waiting for in this particular area?  How many more 
young women will it take who come and say they endured a miscarriage because 
they were wrenched into a bus with their baby whose eye gets – is wounded next 
to a car holding onto the mother.  
The instances of Copts seeking asylum since the collapse of the Mubarak regime 
has escalated, including a large number of women on these same claims.  So 
we’re seeing one aspect of our government that is recognizing the truth of 
these instances.  Our immigration courts are saying yes, that you were almost 
abducted, that you returned from an abducted situation, that you fear 
abduction.  These are reasons for granting asylum.  
I think it’s time to create a bit of harmony in this – in our policy in this 
area.  I was a witness myself in a federal immigration hearing a year ago for 
asylum on the basis of fear of abduction and that in that case it was also 
awarded.  So enough is enough, really.  How many more times do we have to sit 
here and bring voices and bring stories and talk about parents who agonize?  
They have imagined – as a parent, your daughter doesn’t come home from work, 
you don’t see her for two months, three months, nine months.  You hear nothing 
and maybe if you’re lucking you’ll then hear her – you’ll see her face covered 
in a veil announcing her conversion in muffled terms on a YouTube video.  But 
worse, maybe you’ll hear nothing, absolutely nothing.  
The silence now, the abductions, the disappearance followed by nothing is so 
disturbing because something is happening to those young women.  They haven’t 
been raptured.  They haven’t disappeared into thin air. Something has happened 
to them.  What?  We need to find out.  We need to require an accounting.  We 
need to find out how many there are and we need to start investigating what is 
happening to these disappeared women.  

REP. SMITH:  I should make a note for the record at this point we had invited 
Assistant Secretary Jeffrey Feltman from the administration to come here to 
take questions and to give testimony, of course.  But apparently, they chose 
not to come.  
I would say for the record as well, we will reissue the request and that would 
include Assistant Secretary Michael Posner to come and give an accounting.  
It’s not like – and especially the women who are being victimized – are being 
impatient.  This information was physically – I actually put it into his hands. 
 It wasn’t sent by courier or anything else and we still have had no response, 
which I find appalling.  If not the United States, then who?  
Thankfully the European Parliament has shown even more interest than the United 
States government has and I think that’s unfortunate.  We should have both be 
equally interested when women are being exploited and abused in such a horrific 
way.  You noted, Ms. Clark, in your statement that the number of disappearances 
and abductions appear to be increasing.  
And just four attorneys, as you pointed out, collectively a total of 550 cases 
of abductions, disappearances and petitions to restore Christian identify 
following abductions, forced marriages and forced conversions over a five-year 
period – four lawyers and I’m sure there are hundreds, if not thousands of 
lawyers, but certainly hundreds who would have vital knowledge of this issue.  
Do you have any sense yet as to the scope of this grotesque human rights abuse? 
 And secondly, with regards to this, where is the U.N.?  You know, Egypt is a 
signatory since 1982 of the International Covenant for Civil and Political 
Rights.  Article VIII of that makes it very clear – it forbids slavery and 
servitude.  Forced marriage certainly falls under the rubric of that.  
So my question would be, you know, where – you know, I know – you know, there 
was a periodic review back in I think it was 2010.  But at any time, any 
country can bring – and we are members in good standing of the Human Rights 
Council – can bring an action before the Human Rights Council to engage in 
debate and investigation.  To the best of my knowledge, the United States has 
said nothing.  I’m not sure if the European members who are part of that 
commission have said anything.  But it would seem to me that would be an avenue 
to raise this – again, this grotesque violation of women’s rights in Egypt 
which is the equivalent of rape.  When you abduct someone, force them into a 
marriage, by any other definition that is rape.  And why have we been so 
silent?  If you can speak to that issue and those couple of questions?

MS. CLARK:  Thank you, Mr. Smith.  There is an increasing – the challenges I 
mentioned in my testimony of data collection are manifold for two reasons.  The 
authorities are most of the time unwilling to file a disappearance report.  
If a Coptic father or relative goes to a police station in the district where 
just after a daughter disappeared or was abducted, many, many times that parent 
gets – or family members gets a runaround – well, they’re here or well, we 
don’t know, maybe she’s just run away again, why are you reporting her, she 
probably went off with her boyfriend.  And so, often the only way a Coptic 
family fan file a case of disappearance of abduction is if they have a lawyer.  
Many – because many of the disappearance and abductions take place in rural 
communities or communities where individuals have less disposable income, they 
can’t afford a lawyer.  And many of the attorneys that we spoke to actually 
take these cases completely pro bono and it ends up becoming a major part of 
their caseload.  So they work – they’re very heroic in that they put in a great 
deal of long hours to take these cases.  
So, which is why one of our recommendations was to try to enable some kind of 
legal defense fund among the civil society actors to make sure that the lawyers 
are compensated and continue to go on making their living.  So scope, I’m 
really – it’s very hard-pressed.  Five lawyers are saying that they are seeing 
over a hundred cases a year and these are four lawyers, it can go anywhere.  I 
know some people are partial to extrapolation.  I tend to be wary of 
extrapolation.  It’s a lot.  It’s a lot.  
Perhaps Dr. Phares has more understanding – understands more.  And the U.N., no 
– we were able to – in researching this second report, we looked high and low 
for evidence that the U.N – the Commission on the Elimination of Discrimination 
Against – All Forms of Discrimination Against Women – whether they were doing 
anything.  No, we have not been able to find any references among the U.N. or 
agencies directed towards the Coptic issue.

REP. SMITH:  So the panel of experts that seeks to implement and admonish 
countries – that’s CEDAW – only makes that vague comment that you put into the 
report?

MS. CLARK:  Yes, that’s was as much –

REP. SMITH:  And they have done nothing more than that?

MS. CLARK:  Nothing more than that that we have been able to find.

REP. SMITH:  Let me ask you, your trend lines were important and again, number 
of appearance – disappearances and abductions increasing, fewer girls appear to 
be returning.  And you know, with every statement you’ve made, disappearances 
are organized and planned.  The trend line is bad and getting worse.  
What do you think it will take for the United States government and for other 
governments and hopefully Islamic countries and especially the country of 
Egypt, the government of Egypt to understand the outrage and the shame and 
dishonor this terrible human rights abuse brings to Egypt?  How do you shout 
out loud enough to say these women are being abducted?  What if it was your 
daughter or your sister or your mother?

MS. CLARK:  The calls for justice need to come and they need to come louder.  
It needs to be brought up by our embassy in Egypt.  There has to be an 
accounting.

REP. SMITH:  Have they?  Have they brought this up?

MS. CLARK:  To my knowledge, I think you and I are on the same page as far as 
what we know.  Dr. Phares, would you –

DR. PHARES:  Yes, Mr. Chairman, thank you for asking this question.  I would 
insist again on the fact that the administration or any administration should 
change direction in dealing with the Coptic issue.  This is not about 
individual problems with other individual, you know, perpetrators.  This is an 
issue of community.  
Before the Arab Spring in Egypt, the Egyptian government of Hosni Mubarak, our 
ally, despite repetitive demands by the Congress to look into the issue, their 
representative in the Human Rights Council in Switzerland has blocked – has 
been blocking the issues.  Now, we need to come to President Morsi, the 
democratically elected president of Egypt and ask him to instruct his own 
representative, his own ambassador in Geneva at the council to actually raise 
the issue.  
We want the Egyptian government themselves to raise the issue so that we would 
basically come and help them.  But more important, as my colleague has 
mentioned, there should be actual physical legal acts on our behalf and on 
behalf of the international community.  We can certainly write to the Arab 
League.  You, Mr. Chairman, mentioned the issue of shaming them.  
 Well, they are members of the Arab League and when the Arab League took a 
decision to have an intervention – a collective intervention in Libya because 
of abuse of human rights, Egypt voted for.  So now, yes, we’d like to send a 
letter, Congress could, the administration should, to the Arab League to look 
into the issue.  And you could go higher than that, as you just mentioned, to 
the Organization of the Islamic Conference.  These are institutions with whom 
we have relationship.  
The administration has an ambassador basically that goes to the Organization of 
the Islamic Conference.  We should enable that ambassador to go and talk about 
the specific issue.  Egypt is a member of the OIC.  So we need to engage in a 
dialogue with the administration to convince them to use every tool at their 
powers.  It’s not just a discrete discussion between a secretary of state and a 
president.  It should be an open issue.  
And last, if I may say, if it comes to that level, our embassy should simply, 
you know, grant visas to the victims and bring them to Congress or your 
European counterparts should bring them to the European Parliament.  Make it 
into a public debate, a public issue.  That would basically put a lot of 
pressure on the government of Egypt.

REP. SMITH:  Michele – Ms. Clark, you mentioned in your testimony that mothers 
with young children are increasingly targeted for abduction.  And we heard from 
the victim just a few moments ago when she said, what would happen to my 
daughter if she – if the abductor had succeeded.  My question to you is, is 
this a new trend or are we just getting more information on that?  You know, 
what happens to those children?  Are they compelled to become Muslim as well?

MS. CLARK:  Yes, they are.  If the mothers – if the mother is forcibly 
converted, then all children take on the dominant religion, which is Islam.  
When we were there on our last trip, we spoke to a number of families where the 
mother – the children were kept from – were not – were caught between two 
worlds because the families were continuing to – in cases where mothers had 
been able to come back, where the children – or if the mother is abducted, even 
if the children are not with her, the children are still converted 
automatically according to practice.  
So the children are caught between two worlds because they are from a Christian 
community but their documents would indicate that they have been converted 
because of the conversion of one parent.  And so, they become trapped.

REP. SMITH:  Let me –

MS. CLARK:  Yes, the trend is more.  We encountered a greater number of 
families where abductions actually included a mother and several children or 
targeting a family, a mother was abducted on her way to Cairo to visit her 
mother in the hospital and then this woman’s daughter was at the same time 
being lured in through a fraudulent relationship away from her studies at a 
university. 
And so the whole family was targeted in different locations.  It was actually 
very strategic, to use Dr. Phares’ words.  There was a plan behind this to 
literally co-opt the entire family.

REP. SMITH:  Let me ask you, Dr. Phares, have any – you talked to strongly 
about violence against women, which this is, and terrorizing women.  Are there 
any of the women’s organizations taking a stand in favor of Coptic Christian 
women and spoken out?

DR. PHARES:  Mr. Chairman, to my knowledge, from public narrative posted or 
printed, we haven’t seen a significant statements or policy papers issued by 
prominent national organizations dealing with women’s issues both in the United 
States or dealing with those issues abroad. There have been mention, of course, 
of these issues but we haven’t seen, for example, major NGOs dealing with women 
raising the issue of persecution of Coptic women.  
And if I may take advantage of the answer to mention that the third branch of 
our government, I have testified for the last 18 years to many courts, like you 
have, dealing with political asylum.  Judges’ first question to us, to most of 
the experts who are dealing with the Coptic issue and with other persecutions 
as well is, is there a country condition?  
It’s not just about the person.  Are you testifying on that person or on a 
country condition?  And they would not grant permission, they would not grant 
political asylum unless the expert would explain to them that of course the 
community is persecuted.  So that’s – you have with you the third branch 
logical question about this issue so that we could communicate this to the 
executive branch.

REP. SMITH:  Do imams countenance this and affirm or in any way embrace this 
abuse of women?

DR. PHARES:  In Egypt, regarding the position of the clergy, one must recognize 
that the highest authorities in al-Azhar have had several positions condemning 
any act of violence.  The problem is that we would like to see them condemning 
the network that is perpetrating these acts of violence.  And we’ve seen this 
across the Middle East.  
Islamist authorities have been, you know, candid enough to condemn terrorism or 
to condemn acts of violence against minorities should it be in Syria or in 
Lebanon or in Egypt and specifically in Egypt.  What we need them to see – to 
direct themselves to is to condemn the actual networks that are conducting this 
and the actual ideology that the networks are using in perpetrating their acts.

REP. SMITH:  Let me just ask our victim who, again, we’re so grateful she’s 
here, all of us – I’m sure even the panel feels the same way.  Before you were 
abducted, did you have any fears of abduction?  Is abduction something that is 
discussed among your friends?  And have any of your friends had any similar 
experiences?

MS.:  (Via interpreter.)  Before this attempted kidnapping, many times we would 
be spit on in the street, cursed at, acid water sometimes thrown on women.  It 
hasn’t happened to me but it’s happened to others.  I was afraid.  Even after 
the event, after the Saints Church, I was even afraid to take my daughter to 
preschool.  We are afraid for ourselves.  We are afraid for our children.  In 
the last two years, a lot of bad things have been happening right after one 
another.

REP. SMITH:  Let me just ask our panelists if they have any final closing 
comments that they would like to make.  I would note that the recommendation 
for or the suggestion of a letter to the OIC I think is an excellent one and to 
others.  We will undertake that and follow up.  I plan on doing a follow-up 
letter to the secretary of state asking what, how often, where has this 
barbaric practice and the effort to combat it been raised with the secretary of 
state and others.  
So I do hope that’s a good news story, that this has been robustly engaged and 
they’re fighting back.  And that would include with the SCAF, whether or not 
they are, you know, ever focused on – you know, the economic or I should say 
the military aid of $1.3 billion which is a huge amount of money and so it 
seems to me that they need to be engaged even at least equally with the 
president.  
I would ask you if you might want to comment whether or not an amendment 
requiring or linking the government’s efforts to combat this egregious practice 
and linking it to the billion-three (dollars) that goes to Egypt will be a wise 
decision in the foreign ops bill.  Yes, we know that the administration, as 
they did with the religious freedom part, could simply waive it and I hope they 
wouldn’t.  In good faith, I hope that they would not waive it or perhaps deduct 
a portion of the aid as a penalty.  If there’s no penalty and if it’s not even 
being brought up, why do we expect any kind of positive movement?  And so on 
the amendment issue, if you might want to touch on that, and then any 
concluding comments that you might want to make.

MS. CLARK:  Thank you, again.  I want to thank you, Mr. Smith, for holding this 
hearing and Christian Solidarity International, for being so persistent and 
publishing not one but two reports to make sure that the information is brought 
to those who are decision-makers.  
Women need to be able to pick up their children from school without fear of 
being abducted.  Young girls need to be able to go out and have cups of coffee 
without their friends without fearing that the brother lurking in the 
background is perhaps going to be raping them.  Young women need to be able to 
come and go and have lives without looking over their shoulder 24 hours a day 
wondering if they’re going to end up forced into a taxi, thrust into al-Azhar 
to be forcibly converted, married to someone that has deceived them about the 
nature of the relationship and living in a coerced situation as a domestic 
servant or potentially trafficked outside of their own country. 
To not address this issue is to say that we don’t care.  And that we cannot 
say.  So should there be an amendment to the foreign aid bill?  Absolutely 
because we’re talking about one of the rights that is just so fundamental to 
all of us here as Americans.  It’s at the heart of what our country is.  
Because of fear of abduction, they now feel that these women feel that they 
have no movement.  They can’t come and go.  
The parameters of their daily lives are increasingly entrenched around survival 
and safety.  This is no way to live.  The suffering of parents who haven’t 
heard from their daughters for months and years and the silence continues is no 
way for a family to live.  The sense of marginalization of the young children 
who are converted because their mother was forced into conversion and living in 
a no man’s land of not being accepted by their own community, that’s not a way 
for anybody to live.  
Mr. Smith, it’s time that we require acknowledgement of this issue as a bona 
fide violation of human rights, as a violation of religious freedom, as a cruel 
instance of exploitation against women, as a case of human trafficking and 
something that must end.  Thank you.

DR. PHARES:  Mr. Chairman, I am for an amendment that would link foreign aid to 
Egypt to the human rights abuses and the measurement – a clear measurement of 
these human rights abuses and the behavior with the Christian women in Egypt 
should be part of this measurement.   However, we could help the State 
Department and the executive branch by suggesting that they would organize a 
conference here in Washington, D.C., so that the American public, who is 
basically funding this foreign aid at the end of the day, can hear and see 
directly from the victims and from all other political parties in Egypt.  

Namely, I would like to see a conference that would invite the Muslim 
Brotherhood, the Salafists, those who in Egypt are claiming that persecution 
does not exist on the one hand and Coptic and women and other minorities, NGOs 
under the auspices of the State Department to just have C-SPAN and have the 
American public, realizing what is the real relationship and what are the 
problems.  
And last, I would also like to make a recommendation for our foreign policy 
when we meet with President Morsi to make sure that he understands that the 
United States do consider those issues as part of international law, as part of 
our international commitment.  And lately, President Morsi, in order to make us 
feel comfortable and the intentional community and make those communities feel 
comfortable said that he would be willing to appoint a vice president who would 
be a Copt, another vice president who would be a woman.  
Well, the response came from the Coptic community a few weeks ago, from Coptic 
Solidarity International Convention in Washington.  They actually told 
President Morsi, thank you for your suggestion.  We don’t want anybody to be 
appointed.  We would like to elect our representative and serve as your vice 
president.  So let’s see what his response is going to be.  And thank you very 
much for inviting me.

REP. SMITH:  And for the final word, the woman who bravely has come here to 
testify about her ordeal.

MS.:  The last thing is I wish I could have filed the police report.  But my 
father advised me, who is an attorney, that if we go, we won’t get any of our 
rights.  In all likelihood, we would be transferred to Egyptian state security. 
 Thank you.

REP. SMITH:  Thank you.  Thank you all for your tremendous witness.  And the 
commission will follow up.  Thank you for the many recommendations.  The 
hearing is adjourned.

(END)