A Coptic Christian woman who had been married for two weeks went missing from her school last Wednesday, sparking fears that she may have been kidnapped.
Her disappearance brings to eight the number of Coptic women in Egypt who have gone missing since April, according to research by World Watch Monitor.
Vivian Adel Youssef, 18, from the village of Dafsh in Minya Governorate, married her cousin Hanna Emad on 19 April and moved to his village in Minya. Prior to that, they had been engaged for two years, her husband Hanna told World Watch Monitor.
On 2 May, Emad drove Vivian to her secondary school of commerce (for 16-18-year-old students) in the city of Samalut, so that she could do some paperwork for her forthcoming exam, while Emad left to go shopping. He had arranged to pick her up later.
“After I finished my shopping, I called Vivian and asked her to wait for me in front of the school,” Emad said. “When I reached the school, I didn’t find her there. Her mobile phone was switched off. I searched for her everywhere – in her school, in the nearby streets, in the hospitals of Samalut – but I didn’t find her. I checked with her relatives and friends but none of them saw her that day.”
The next day, 3 May, Emad filed a report on his wife’s disappearance at Samalut police station, but has not received any information about her so far. In Egypt, a person cannot be reported missing unless his or her whereabouts have been unknown for more than 24 hours.
The woman’s disappearance follows a number of similar incidents, raising fears of a fresh spate of kidnappings of Coptic women that have sent fear through Egypt’s Christian minority communities.
“We love each other very much,” Emad told World Watch Monitor. “On the day of our wedding all of us were very happy. After our marriage we spent a very happy time – two weeks.” He said he did not believe she would have run away. “There wasn’t any dispute between us. I’m sure that Vivian was kidnapped.”
“She is very religious and has a very strong relationship with God, and she loves me very much,” he added.
The priest of Mar Girgis Coptic Orthodox church in Vivian’s village, Fr. Basilious Younan, affirmed Vivian’s husband’s account. “Vivian was one of the good members of our church,” he said.
The priest recalled a conversation Youssef had with him before she married Emad. “She told me before that she loved her fiancé Hanna very much, and said good things about him and [said] that she was very happy that she would marry him,” Younan told World Watch Monitor. He said he visited Youssef in her new home after the wedding, and said she appeared happy with her husband.
[UPDATE] Over a year after her kidnap – June 2019 – Vivian is still missing, and there has been no word from her at all to her husband and wider family.
In a separate incident, a 16-year-old Coptic Christian girl, Mirna Malak Shenouda, reported that she had been kidnapped by two women and a man in Aswan, Upper Egypt. She managed to escape her kidnappers, her father Malak Shenouda told World Watch Monitor. The girl’s family did not report her missing because she returned home within 24 hours.
Malak Shenouda said his daughter headed off in the direction of Anba Shenouda Coptic Orthodox church on 4 May, and when she did not return an hour later as expected, the family started calling her, but calls to her mobile phone did not connect. Priests and young people told Shenouda that Mirna had not been there on that day.
Mirna later told her family that two women and a man on a tuc-tuc, or an auto-rickshaw, sprayed strong anaesthetics on her face when she was on her way to the church. After kidnapping her and fleeing the scene, they took the train to Cairo. When Mirna awoke on the train, she pretended to be unconscious and made a plan to escape. When the train stopped at the nearest station, she quickly got off the train and left her kidnappers behind.
As Mirna’s phone was taken, she rang her family from someone else’s phone to inform them where she was, and they came after her.
Bishop Anba Hedra of the Cathedral of Archangel Michael in Aswan telephoned the family to congratulate them on Mirna’s safe return and invited them to the cathedral to celebrate her return together.