Kamilia Shehata

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Kamilia Shehata Zakher (Arabic: كاميليا شحاته زاخر‎; born 22 July 1985) is a schoolteacher in Deir Mawas, Egypt, and wife of Tadros Samaan, the Coptic Priest of Saint Mark's Church in Mowas Cathedral in Minya.[1] Her disappearance in July 2010 sparked protests and rumours of kidnapping and forced conversion to Islam.[citation needed] Her subsequent return to the Church inflamed sectarian tensions between Egypt's Muslim majority and Coptic Christian minority.


Shehata disappeared from her home in Deir Mawas on 18 July 2010 following a family dispute, according to a police report.[2][3] According to some reports the dispute was over her desire to convert to Islam.[4] Rumours of her forced conversion to Islam began circulating among Egypt's Copts after Shehata's husband and family initially claimed she had been kidnapped,[5] a claim discounted by police.[6] Ensuing Coptic protests in Cairo and in her home province of Minya demanded her return.[7][8][9]


Shehata was discovered on July 23 at the home of a friend[5] in Cairo.[3] She denied being kidnapped[5] and Church officials confirmed she had left her home of her own free will.[2] Differing accounts claim that after she was located, police either returned Shehata to her family[10] or turned her over to the custody of the Church.[11] Shehata herself has made no public statement with the exception of a video whose authenticity is disputed.[12] Her whereabouts are unknown and the Church claims she is under its protection,[2] saying she was "transferred from her family's home in Ain Shams in Cairo to a church guest house to keep her away from the tension."[1]

Shehata's return was met with rival protests by Egyptian Muslims[13][14] who believed Shehata had converted to Islam but had been forcibly returned to the Church. Images of a niqāb-clad Shehata[2] have been widely displayed in protests and on internet sites devoted to her supposed abduction and detention, although the authenticity of the images has been questioned. The Egyptian daily Al-masry Al-youm described them as "photo-shopped".[2]

In August 2010, Egyptian lawyers Nezar Ghorab, Gamal Tag and Tarek Abubakr filed a lawsuit against the Grand Sheikh of Al-Azhar Mosque and the Egyptian Minister of Interior,[3] asserting that they had colluded to prevent Shehata from converting to Islam, a claim denied by the Secretary General of Al-Azhar’s Fatwa Committee, who said that "Kamilia never came to Al-Azhar and we know nothing about her."[3] The lawyers filed a related suit against Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.[14]

Another lawyer, Mamdouh Ismail, submitted a request with the attorney-general that Christian places of worship be searched to ascertain her whereabouts, and filed an administrative suit against Coptic Pope Shenouda III that alleges Shehata is being held against her will and demands her release.[15]

Representatives of Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, an independent Egyptian human rights organization, also criticized the security forces for handing over an adult to the Church against her will, an act the organization says violates the Egyptian constitution.[2] EIPR director Hossam Bahgat characterized the actions of the authorities and the Church as a misguided attempt to avoid sectarian strife, telling Daily News Egypt that "Church leaders and police might think that they've suppressed the beginnings of a sectarian problem through 'delivering' a grown up citizen to her family like a piece of furniture, but the truth is that the whole society, including all its sects, loses when it gets involved in this flagrant violation of one of its citizens."[1]

In May 2011, Shehata appeared on a Coptic satellite television network, Al-Hayat, and stated that she was living with her husband and son and had not converted to Islam or been held against her will by the Church. She claimed that photos on the Internet appearing to show her in hijab had been fabricated.[16]

The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant used the incident to justify the 2015 kidnapping and beheading of 21 Coptic Christian fishermen in Libya in revenge.[17]


  1. ^ a b c Fadl, Essam (29 July 2010). "Priest's wife to receive counseling with church doctor". Daily News Egypt. Retrieved 21 September 2010. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f "The Camilia conundrum". Al-Ahram. 9 September 2010. Retrieved 21 September 2010. 
  3. ^ a b c d Fadl, Essam (16 August 2010). "Lawyer alleges Al-Azhar Grand Sheikh turned back runaway bishop's wife". Daily News Egypt. Retrieved 21 September 2010. 
  4. ^ http://www.aljarida.com/aljarida/Article.aspx?id=173732
  5. ^ a b c "Priest's wife found". Almasry Alyoum. 25 July 2010. Retrieved 21 September 2010. 
  6. ^ "Investigations exclude possibility of crime in disappearance of priest's wife". Almasry Alyoum. 24 July 2010. Retrieved 21 September 2010. 
  7. ^ Bayoumi, Amr (22 July 2010). "Copts stage protest over missing priest's wife". Almasry Alyoum. Retrieved 21 September 2010. 
  8. ^ Nafea, Saeed (21 July 2010). "Bishop ends sit-in over priest's missing wife". Almasry Alyoum. Retrieved 21 September 2010. 
  9. ^ Pakinam, Amer (5 September 2010). "Cherchez la femme: Priest's wife 'disappearance' stirs sectarian tension". Almasry Alyoum. Retrieved 21 September 2010. 
  10. ^ "Escape of Egypt priest's wife inflames sectarian tension" (PDF). Arab Times (Agence France-Presse). 26 July 2010. Retrieved 21 September 2010. 
  11. ^ "Religious disorder". The Economist. 10 September 2010. Retrieved 21 September 2010. 
  12. ^ Bayoumi, Amr (9 September 2010). "Priest's wife denies converting to Islam in questionable video clip". Almasry Alyoum. Retrieved 21 September 2010. 
  13. ^ Miller, David E (1 September 2010). "Egyptian cleric accused of incarcerating Muslim convert". The Jerusalem Post. Retrieved 21 September 2010. 
  14. ^ a b Hassan, Amro (30 August 2010). "EGYPT: President Mubarak sued in disappearance of priest's wife". Los Angeles Times Blog. Retrieved 21 September 2010. 
  15. ^ Pakinam, Amer (30 August 2010). "Court to hear lawsuit against Pope Shenouda for holding priest's wife". Almasry Alyoum. Retrieved 21 September 2010. 
  16. ^ Fadl, Essam (8 May 2011). "Kamilia Shehata confirms being Christian on Coptic TV". Daily News Egypt. Retrieved 15 February 2015. 
  17. ^ Raman Media network: "ISIS Video Shows Mass Beheading of Christian Hostages" by Rakash Raman, 16 February 2015.