Bahais in Egypt

Great news for Baha'is in Egypt - ID card conundrum solved at last

Today (14 April) the Egyptian law gazette published a Ministerial decree announcing that from tomorrow anyone who doesn’t belong to one of Egypt’s three official religions (Islam, Judaism, Christianity) can obtain official documents, such as birth certificates or ID cards, with a dash in the space for religion.

This is a triumph for the civil rights of many Egyptian citizens, including the Baha’is. The decree is a legal instrument and people applying for official documents are not required to go through the courts.

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Journalist launches fierce attack against Baha'i 'traitors'

The following video shows a journalist hurling death threats at Baha'i followers on an Egyptian talk show. Three days after the programme was aired, the homes of several Baha'i families in a rural village were burned down.

The Baha'i faith, conceived in the 19th century, rests its morals on the unity of god, religion and humanity. There's a large following in Iran and almost 2,000 Baha'is in Egypt, according to the US government's International Religious Freedom report of 2007.

Although the religion was recognized in Egypt in 1930, the Baha'is were stripped of the right to practice their beliefs in 1960 when president Gamal Abdel Nasser declared the recognition of only Islam, Christianity and Judaism. In 2006 the Supreme Court went a step further by insisting that they choose one of these three as their religion; if not, they are not officially recognized by the state.

Extract of the heated debate

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Rights Groups Urge Prosecutions for Assault on Baha'i Egyptians

Six Egyptian human rights organizations today urged the Public Prosecutor to initiate an immediate investigation into assaults committed against Baha'i Egyptians over the past several days in the southern governorate of Sohag. In a complaint filed this morning, the groups called for the investigation to include those responsible for the direct incitement to the assaults and asked that the matter be referred urgently to criminal trial.

"The heinous and unprecedented attacks on Baha'i Egyptians are a crime against all Egyptians,“ the rights organizations said. “We shall never allow the perpetrators of these crimes to benefit from the same climate of impunity that has marred the government's response to sectarian violence against Egyptian Copts over the last four decades.”

{josquote}Also participating in the program was Gamal Abd al-Rahim, a journalist at the state-owned al-Gumhouriya newspaper and a member of the board of the Press Syndicate, who, during the program, said referring to Dr. Basma, “This one should be killed.”{/josquote}

Preliminary inquiries carried out by the rights groups found that the attacks began on Saturday evening, 28 March, in the village of al-Shuraniya, located in the Maragha district of Sohag, when dozens of village residents gathered outside of the homes of Baha'i citizens in the village and began chanting, “There is no god but God, Baha'is are the enemies of God.” Those assembled then began pelting the houses with rocks, breaking windows and attempting to break in. Although police forces arrived in the village after being called by the victims of the attack, the police simply dispersed the assembled parties without arresting anyone involved in the crime. Similar, though less intense, attacks occurred on 29 and 30 March.

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Egyptians Face Trial for Incitement Against Baha'is

A screenshot taken from a film recorded with a mobile phone camera as a house is torched.

An Egyptian journalist and a member of parliament from the ruling party are being summoned to court for allegedly inciting against the Baha’i minority in the country.

The journalist, Jamal ‘Abd A-Rahim from the pro-government daily Al-Gumouriyya, and the MP, Muhammad Yusri from the ruling National Democratic Party (NDP), are being questioned about their role leading to the burning of Baha’i homes last week.

Residents of A-Shouraniyya, located in the Sohag governorate about 345 kilometers south of the capital Cairo, set fire to houses belonging to Baha’is last Thursday and forced them out of town.

Molotov cocktails were hurled at their homes and the water was cut off to prevent them from putting out the flames.

The police soon arrived and helped the Baha’i families flee the premises.

Twenty residents of the town who allegedly took part in the assault have also been summoned to court.

‘Abd A-Rahim is being accused of inciting against the Baha’i after he published an inflammatory article in which he described them as apostates who rejected Islam. Yusri expressed support for ‘Abd A-Rahim’s statements.

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