Freedom House's Center for Religious Freedom has learned that two female Coptic Christian students were recently abducted in northern Sudan and are thought to have been forcibly converted to Islam. They are reportedly being held against their will in conditions of slavery or forced marriage.
The young women, from Omdurman, were reported missing by their families, who have been denied access to them. A case contesting the enslavement and impending forced marriage of one of the women, Dimiana Murad Nashid, who is reportedly now being held at the residence of the Governor of Omdurman, will be decided by a Sudanese court tomorrow, on November 9, her father told Center sources. She was abducted last week from her university.
The Center is urging that appeals for freedom for the two young women be made immediately to Khartoum's ambassador to the United States at the following address:
His Excellency Khidir Haroun Ahmed
Ambassador of Sudan
2210 Massachusetts Ave., NW
Washington, DC 20008
Tel: (202) 338-8565
Fax: (202) 667-2406
The following information about the young women was taken from the November 4, 2002, edition of Khartoum's Al-Watan newspaper, and confirmed to Center sources by family members and religious leaders of the victims:
- Dimiana Murad Nashid: Her family reported she disappeared in late October. After a weeklong search, including meetings with police, they were able to ascertain additional information on her whereabouts. Dimiana is a first year accounting student at Al-Neelain University in Omdurman. Her family became worried one day last week when she didn't arrive home within 15 minutes after her classes as she routinely did. The family searched their neighborhood and reported Dimiana's disappearance to police. Some of Dimiana's friends and colleagues informed the family that a Muslim man, identified only as "Ehab," had taken Dimiana from the university.
Dimiana's father, Murad Nashid, told Al-Watan that he thinks his daughter was kidnapped and was likely raped and/or coerced. Murad was devastated when the constitutional court in Kalakla (a small city near Khartoum) summoned him to attend his daughter's wedding. The father was informed that his daughter would be marrying Ehab.
A sheikh (religious leader) arrived at the court and claimed to be the father of the groom. The sheikh presented a marriage certificate. A lawyer also came to the court with a document allegedly signed by Dimiana stating that she has converted to Islam, and she wished to marry Ehab. Fearing that his daughter may have been raped or forced to convert to Islam, Murad convinced the court to postpone the wedding until November 10, 2002.
Murad told Center sources he fears his daughter was pressured to sign the conversion documents. He was able to meet briefly with her in the company of her captors a few days ago. She appeared to be drugged and her lips and eyes were swollen. She refused to answer personal questions and appeared under pressure, he said. He reports she is being held at the house of the governor of Omdurman and was told by officials that if he wanted his daughter back, he would have to convert to Islam since she was now considered a Muslim.
- Dimiana George Anwar: In mid August 2002, Dimiana disappeared shortly after attending a church service in Al-Masalma area of Omdurman. According to her mother, Dimiana was a third year computer science student. Hilana Alphonse, Dimiana's mother, reported to Al-Watan newspaper that she had heard that her daughter converted to Islam and was married to a Muslim. At the time of her disappearance, Dimiana was engaged to be married to Guirguis Hilal, who also attended her church in Omdurman.
"We consider these young women to have been abducted into slavery. These acts are not only barbaric, they are crimes against humanity under international law* that they are happening outside the conflict zone and within a few miles of Khartoum indicates that clearly no Christian or non-Muslim is safe anywhere inside Sudan. This will have grave consequences for the future of the nation. The government of Sudan must put an end to this atrocity, free the two young women immediately, and assure that all incidents of slavery both in Northern and Southern Sudan are ended," said Center for Religious Freedom Director Nina Shea.
*Article I of the international Slavery Convention of 1927 defines slavery as "the status or condition of a person over whom any or all of the powers attaching to the right of ownership are exercised."