In recent years, Egypt has witnessed an increase in cases of disappearance among Coptic girls. According to the Association of Victims of Abduction and Enforced Disappearances (AVAED), 500 cases were reported in 2012 and 10 already in January 2013.
In many cases, members of the Salafist movement declare that the disappeared girl has converted to Islam and married a Muslim man. Her family would be asked to stop searching for her despite that in many cases the girl would be underage and should enjoy protected rights under Egyptian law and the international Convention on the Rights of the Child.
In the case of the disappearance of Sara Abdel-Malik, who came to be known as the ''Dabaa girl," a 13-year-old girl was reportedly kidnapped in Matrouh last September. Several Salafists said Abdel-Malek was not kidnapped but that she made a decision to convert to Islam and marry. While her family considered her abducted, especially as she is underage, several Salafists argued she was mature enough to make life decisions and refused that she be returned to her family.
Such cases have Coptic activists worried about the state and future of religious freedoms in Egypt, especially after Sharia (Islamic law) has moved to the centre of public debate and taken a more prominent positition in Egypt's constitution. (Ahram Online)