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Egypt abductee appears on state television after damning report on disappearances

Image of Egyptian soldiers [Ashraf Amra/Apaimages]
Egyptian security forces [Ashraf Amra/Apaimages]

An Egyptian woman believed to have been forcibly disappeared by Egyptian authorities has appeared on state television following a damning report on disappearances in the country by the BBC.

An in-depth feature, “The Shadow Over Egypt”, released by the BBC on Saturday, documented the story of 23-year-old Zubeida Ibrahim who was last seen by her family in April 2017 shortly before her wedding. Neighbours reported seeing Ibrahim forced into a police vehicle by armed and masked men when her brother went to the pharmacy one evening. Security officials had also inquired about her several times at her home prior to her abduction.

This was the second time Ibrahim had disappeared; she had previously gone missing for 28 days in 2016 and on her return, signs of electrocution and rape were found on her body. Ibrahim and her mother had also been imprisoned when they passed a protest in 2014; both had experienced torture in prison.

The report, which highlighted various disappearance cases across Egypt, has caused controversy in the country, with the government of President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi dismissing the findings and calling for a retraction.

To prove that the report was mistaken, last night a woman claiming to be Zubeida Ibrahim appeared alongside Egyptian TV host Amr Adeeb on the “Kol Youm” show claiming that she had not been abducted, but had secretly married and eloped with another man, and was now living with her son in the Faisal neighbourhood of Cairo.

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Ibrahim denied that she had ever been forcibly disappeared in the past, and contradicted her mother’s testimony of enduring torture during her imprisonment. Although her mother had stated that they had no connections to the banned Muslim Brotherhood organisation, Ibrahim alleged that they had previously been part of the group and taken part in protests, but chose to leave it later on.

Ibrahim gave no reason as to why she has not been in contact with her family for the past year, but stated that she wanted to reconnect now.

Following the interview, the State Information Service (SIS) released a second statement citing Ibrahim’s testimony, demanding the BBC issue an apology for the report, calling it a “gross professional error” that resulted in “absolute falsification and fabrication”.

“The appearance of citizen Zubeida, in the manner shown, and her talk in ‘Kol Youm’ (Everyday) TV show presented by a renowned anchor Amr Adib in a family atmosphere, entirely disproves the authenticity of the BBC’s report on her enforced disappearance and torture,” the statement read.

Egypt has regularly denied incidences of enforced disappearances, despite several NGOs pointing to the substantial evidence of state abductions. Last week, Amnesty International condemned the escalating “human rights crisis” in the country in its annual World Report. It specifically mentioned the disappearances of hundreds of people on unknown charges.

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