Bahais in Egypt

Egyptian religious minorities: Patience Stretched

In 1925, Egypt became the first Muslim-majority country to recognize the Baha’i faith as an independent religion. However, almost 80 years later, Baha’is in Egypt continue to face heinous discrimination, due to their failure to obtain identity cards. Identity cards are the key towards gaining access to education, health care, and economic opportunities. Without them, Baha’is cannot exercise their full citizenship rights. (See our video for details.)

Although a landmark ruling in January decreed that Baha’is can obtain identification papers, the government has yet to implement the ruling, and recently, a lawyer for Egypt’s Islamic Research Council filed a challenge intended to stall the process.

…and in the meantime, thousands of Baha’is are left waiting.

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Egyptian religious minorities: Patience Stretched

In 1925, Egypt became the first Muslim-majority country to recognize the Baha’i faith as an independent religion. However, almost 80 years later, Baha’is in Egypt continue to face heinous discrimination, due to their failure to obtain identity cards. Identity cards are the key towards gaining access to education, health care, and economic opportunities. Without them, Baha’is cannot exercise their full citizenship rights. (See our video for details.)

Although a landmark ruling in January decreed that Baha’is can obtain identification papers, the government has yet to implement the ruling, and recently, a lawyer for Egypt’s Islamic Research Council filed a challenge intended to stall the process.

…and in the meantime, thousands of Baha’is are left waiting.

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How the internet is challenging Egypt's government

Although the general strikes of April 6 and May 4 drew limited public participation, they have revealed an important new political phenomenon in Egypt: political mobilization by young, second-generation internet users via blogs, YouTube, and Facebook. After two years of intensive government efforts to outmaneuver the opposition, this mobilization caught the regime flat-footed. It highlighted the possible role of interactive non-traditional media in bringing about political change in Egypt, just as the government's heavy-handed response to the strikes revealed its failure to find new forms of political control aside from the usual repression by the security apparatus.

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{josquote}Perhaps the most prominent examples are the blogs founded by members of the Bahai religion.{/josquote}

Another area of blogger activism is the state of religious minorities, an extremely sensitive issue in Egypt. During the last three years, some blogs have specialized in transmitting the views of religious minorities in Egypt, as well as forms of discrimination practiced against them. Perhaps the most prominent examples are the blogs founded by members of the Bahai religion. Blogs such as Bahai Misri (Egyptian Bahai) and Min Wijhat Nazar Ukhra (From Another Perspective) have become not only sources of information on the Bahai sect and their situation in Egypt, but also a way to mobilize support for their demands.

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Victory for Human Rights in Egypt: Baha'is Can Have ID Cards & Birth Certificates

{josquote}...the Egyptian Baha'is will now be able to enjoy all their rights of citizenship in their homeland.{/josquote}

Cairo's Court of Administrative Justice has just ruled now in favor of the Egyptian Baha'is, allowing them to obtain identification documents and birth certificates. The verdict opens the door for the Egyptian Baha'is to leave the religious classification section blank (enter dashes or "other") on all identification documents and other official documents including birth certificates, according to the court's ruling. The final choice between these allowed options will be determined later. In effect, the Egyptian Baha'is will now be able to enjoy all their rights of citizenship in their homeland.

This particular verdict involves the case of the 14-year-old twin children, Emad and Nancy Raouf Hindi who, until this date, were without Egyptian birth certificates. It also involves the case of the 18-year-old university student, Hussein Hosni Bakhit Abdel-Massih, who was dismissed from the university consequent to his inability to obtain a military postponement certificate required for the continuation of his education. Since he was not permitted the issue of a national ID number and an ID card because of being a Baha'i, he could not obtain the required military certificate.

These cases suffered six postponements before today's ruling. This verdict illustrates Egypt's willingness to move forward in her path towards progress and tolerance. It is also a testimony to the emerging independence of the judiciary. It upholds Egypt's commitment towards the enforcement of equal rights to all her citizens.

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Controversy over the Egyptian tourism ad continues

We were rather disappointed by the unexpected reactions from both Muslims and Baha’is to the Egyptian tourism ad video which simply aimed to spread awareness. By no means was this video intentionally insulting or offensive. Even if some people may disagree with its strong approach, the cases and the way in which it was presented was completely realistic and valid. Nowhere was it implied that Egypt was unworthy of touring; the ad was simply a creative way of reaching a wider audience to make the public aware of a continuing struggle of the Egyptian Baha’is.

We are glad that this video actually reached its aim in raising discussion concerning the struggles of the Baha’i minority in Egypt. Not many people are actively condemning these human rights abuses and this is exactly what we aim to achieve via this website: we put the issues on the table for them to be discussed and for people, especially non-Baha’is, to be aware of what Baha’is are going through and we cannot see this happening without the use of multiple media platforms: videos, podcasts, blogging which eventually do reach traditional media formats (newspapers, TV, radio, etc.) In other words, it reaches many different people regardless of whether or not they even read this website.

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