Few aspects of the Iraqi occupation of Kuwait have been as horrifying as the wholesale use of torture by Iraqi security services against Kuwaiti civilians, and particularly the use of the electric shock machines. Yet, how many American television viewers of the Gulf War were aware that during the very occupation of Kuwait by Iraq, three Arab Christians were being tortured by electric shock machines in a prison in Egypt, one of America’s coalition partners against Iraq?
The three, Mustafa Al-Sharkawi, 27, Mohammad Selam, 25, and Hassan Ismail, 21, are all Muslim converts to Christianity. Though the Egyptian constitution permits the free exercise of religion and the conversion from one religion to another, in practice conversion is only encouraged in one direction—from Christianity to Islam. Muslims who convert to Christianity suffer a double punishment: from family members, who frequently reject and threaten them, and from Interior Ministry authorities, who have been vigilant against evangelical Christian activity.
Some 7 percent of Egypt’s 55 million population are Christian, most of them belonging to the historic Coptic church, whose “ordinary” practice of Christianity is generally not interfered with.
In the case of the three imprisoned Egyptians, none had broken any Egyptian law, as a formal court hearing has confirmed twice in the past four months. No sooner had the three Christians been released last December, though, than they were rearrested on entirely unsubstantiated security grounds that the Interior Ministry is not legally required to demonstrate in court. According to Amnesty International, the three have been held in two prisons run by the State Security services and subjected to electric ...1
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