Egypt: Teacher accused of insulting Islam detained

May 18, 2013 by  
Filed under newsletter-asia



Demiana Ebeid Abdelnour

Demiana Ebeid Abdelnour

Egypt, May 14, 2013: A 24-year-old Christian teacher in Egypt detained over allegations that she defamed Islam during a school lesson has gone on hunger strike.

Demiana Ebeid Abdelnour, who teaches social science in Luxor, was arrested on 8 May after the parents of three children accused her of insulting Islam and Muhammad.

She was initially ordered to be held for four days, but this period was extended on Saturday (11 May) to a further 15 days. Demiana started a hunger strike on 10 May; she has not been allowed to be transferred from prison to hospital.

Amnesty International has called for the Christian’s immediate release and for the criminal case against her to be dropped. Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Deputy Middle East and North Africa Programme Director, said:

It is outrageous that a teacher finds herself behind bars for teaching a class. If she made some professional mistake, or deviated from the school curriculum, an internal review should have sufficed.

The accusations against Demiana, who taught at three different schools, were made following a lesson she gave at one school on 8 April about religious life at the time of the pharaohs. Two days later, she was told that she could no longer teach at this particular school because she had been accused of defaming Islam.

Demiana was questioned by three committees, to which she denied the allegations and was absolved. But the local education department nevertheless suspended her pending further investigation.

The teacher’s union has upheld her innocence and said that it has assembled a team of lawyers to defend her.

Since the Egyptian revolution, a number of Christians have been jailed for defaming Islam.

Makram Diab, a school secretary, was given double the maximum sentence for Defamation of Religion following a dispute with a Muslim colleague in February 2012.

Gamal Abdou Massoud (17) was jailed in April 2012 for three years for posting cartoons deemed insulting to Islam on his Facebook page. This followed a similar case in November 2011 involving 23-year-old Christian, Ayman Youssef Mansour, who was also sentenced to three years in prison for comments he wrote on his Facebook page that were considered derogatory to Islam.

Amnesty’s Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui said:

Any laws barring such speech violate freedom of expression, and are in breach of Egypt’s international obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

– barnabas team

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