When the plane carrying Maher El-Gohary and his daughter, Dina Mo’otahssem, took off from Cairo International Airport last month, they both wept with joy. After spending two-and-a-half years in hiding for leaving Islam to become Christians, they were elated by their newfound freedom.
According to Compass Direct News (CDN), “They also felt secure that once they arrived in Syria, they would quickly obtain visas to the United States and start a new life. That hope soon proved unfounded. After spending more than a week and a half unable to obtain a visa to the United States or to any country in Europe, they realized they may have traded in the reality of being prisoners in their own country for being refugees in another.”
El-Gohary said, “I feel like we’ve stepped out of a prison cell and into a fire. My daughter and I divide the bottles of water to live, because there is no income.”
CDN went on to report that El-Gohary, 58, gained notoriety in Egypt after he sued the national government in August 2008 to gain the right to change the religion listed on his state-issued ID card. Both El-Gohary and his daughter were publicly branded apostates in a country where 84 percent of Muslims think those who leave Islam should be executed, according to a study released by the Pew Research Center.
“The same month the suit was filed in 2008, El-Gohary and his then-15-year-old daughter were forced into hiding. In December 2010, after a long legal battle, El-Gohary got a court decision ordering the Ministry of the Interior to allow him to travel, but he said it still took several weeks for the government to comply with the order; and the Jan. 25-Feb. 11 revolution didn’t hurt,” added the CDN story.
Dina said that although leaving Egypt was “like a miracle,” she is devastated by the prospect of having to spend more time with her life on hold. She said she is just as scared in Syria as she was in Egypt.”
She was quoted as saying, “We’re really, really tired of all this suffering. I’ve lost two years of my life. I want to finish school.”