The brother of an Egyptian Christian girl who has been missing for over a month says his family was attacked by Egyptian security officials while they were protesting for the release of his sister.
According to World Watch Monitor, 18-year-old Hanan Girgis, who is from the village of Esna in Upper Egypt, has been missing since Jan. 26 and the family has accused the police of being complicit in her abduction after a suspect who admitted to having a connection with Girgis' disappearance was released by authorities.
Rezeiky Girgis, Hanan's brother, told World Watch Monitor last week that he was recently told by Civil Status Authority at the Esna police station that his sister was issued a new identification card from National Security Services and that she was given a new Muslim identity.
The family's lawyer, Barsoum Wahba, told WWM that authorities "know where Hanan is and who kidnapped her."
After hearing that Hanan had been given a new ID, family members went to the security headquarters in Luxor and insisted that she be released. However, officials reportedly insulted them and denied they knew who was holding her captive.
Hanan's family and friends later gathered outside of the security building to protest and sing worship songs. Girgis claims that his family's demonstration was interrupted by security officers who came out and assaulted them.
"They broke the leg of my 23-year-old brother and wounded my older brother, Amir, who's 28," Girgis explained.
He also said the officers "dragged my mother and beat my three aunts." He added that two other relatives were hurt in the altercation.
In total, WWM reports that 20 people were arrested and five were released later in the day after church leaders intervened.
The beatings occurred after the Girgis family accused their Muslim neighbor, 27-year-old Ahmed Nubi Soliman, of abducting Hanan. According to WWM, Soliman even admitted to having a connection with the crime but the police did not take action against him and even released him from detention due to a lack of physical evidence.
Even though a national security investigation was ordered for Hanan's case, the family's lawyer, Barsoum Wahba, said there has been no progress with the investigation.
"There is a state of police indifference toward the case of Hanan," Wahba told WWM. "They did nothing to help the brothers. ...They said 'give us two days and we will bring her back,' but these are words without actions. They aren't serious even though they know they have the capability to know where Hanan is and who kidnapped her."
"Because the victim is a Christian girl we see inaction. It is a farce," he added. "We want people to deal with us as human beings and not deal with us as second-class citizens. We feel we have no rights."
Romany Girgis, another one of Hanan's brothers, told WWM that "they promised us many times that they would help return Hanan but they have done nothing."
"We don't know why they don't help us. Is it because we are Christians, or do they connive with kidnappers to take Christian girls to convert to Islam?" he asked. "We accuse them of apathy and complicity."
According to Open Doors USA's 2017 World Watch List, Egypt ranks as the 21st worst nation in the world when it comes to the persecution of Christians.
In the first three months of 2017, as many as 40 Coptic Christians have been killed in "targeted attacks" across the northeastern African country, according to Coptic Bishop Anba Angaelos, general bishop of the Coptic Orthodox Church in the United Kingdom.
"From the [Dec. 11] terrorist bombing on St. Peter's Coptic Church in Cairo that claimed the lives of 29 mainly women and children, to the murders of individuals across the country since, the one common denominator is that these innocent children, women and men have had their lives brutally and tragically ended for no other reason except that they are Christians," Angaelos said.
According to the human rights group Amnesty International Deputy Director for Campaigns in Tunis, Najia Bounaim, the Egyptian authorities "have consistently failed to protect Coptic residents of North Sinai from a longstanding pattern of violent attacks."