Case ends as Rifqa Bary turns 18

Runaway convert might become Christian evangelist

The Columbus Dispatch/August 10, 2010

The Rifqa Bary drama, which has played out in courts in Florida and Ohio for more than a year, ended quickly and calmly this morning in Franklin County Juvenile Court.

Today is Rifqa's 18th birthday, and Children Services terminated its custody of her as expected.

Magistrate Mary Goodrich granted her attorneys' request to dismiss an unruly complaint, although it will not be expunged from her record for two years.

Neither Rifqa, smiling and accepting "Happy birthday" wishes from Goodrich, nor her parents, solemnly sitting across the room, chose to speak during the court hearing.

Rifqa has decided not to talk to the media immediately, her attorneys said.

"She has suffered so much, and there have been so many traumatic events at this time," attorney Angela Lloyd said. "She's just not ready to make a statement."

Lloyd and Rifqa's other attorney, Kort Gatterdam, declined to provide details on where Rifqa will live or what she will do next.

But it appears Rifqa has missionary work in mind.

"She looks forward to 'preaching the word to all the nations,' " Lloyd said. "And those are her words."

She's "trying to be Rifqa Bary, the Christian evangelist who's ready to go out and change the world."

Gatterdam said he was ready for a trial with ample evidence to back Rifqa's accusations that her parents threatened and physically abused her from a very young age. He said authorities didn't find wrongdoing on her parents' part because the investigations didn't go far enough. He and Lloyd declined to comment on her immigration status or attempts to secure a visa.

Rifqa ran away to Florida in July 2009, saying her father threatened to kill her for leaving Islam for Christianity. Her parents have maintained their innocence, and investigations in both states didn't find credible threats to her safety.

Mohamed and Aysha Bary were in court with Rifqa's older brother, Rilvan.

After the hearing, they released a statement that said this to Rifqa: "No matter what has happened, you will always be our daughter, we love you, and the door will always be open if you want to have a relationship with us."

They expressed concern that Rifqa, who was diagnosed with uterine cancer, has chosen not to undergo chemotherapy. They criticized Florida Gov. Charlie Crist, saying he used the case to gain political benefit with "his extreme right-wing base of support" despite great damage to the family.

"The sad reality is that when our daughter's usefulness has been used up for the political agenda of xenophobia and religious bigotry, when they have moved on to other ways of putting Islam and immigrants on trial, then they will not care about Rifqa Bary anymore. But she will still be our daughter and we will be happy to reconcile with her and heal our broken family."

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