Bahais in Egypt

Egypt Plunges Deeper into the Abyss

A sad day for human rights: A sad day for Egypt

In the midst of media frenzy, Egypt’s Supreme Administrative Court ruled in favour of the Ministry of Interior’s appeal, and to reverse the lower court’s ruling of 4 April 2006 that favored the Baha'is right to being identified as such for the purpose of official documents. It also ordered the Bahá’í couple who had initiated the original lawsuit against the Ministry of Interior--demanding to be granted the right to obtain identification documents--to pay all court costs.

Present in and outside the courtroom were those who support the Bahá’ís in their plight. They were carrying large signs of blown-up old ID cards of Egyptian Bahá’ís—highlighting the word "Bahá’í" and the word "Egyptian" written on the cards. Another man was carrying a sign stating that he is a Muslim, believing in Muhammad, but that he also supports the rights of the Bahá’ís to be recognized and be granted equal civil rights. There were many bloggers, human rights activists and free thinkers who had come for a stand-in outside the courthouse in solidarity with the Bahá’ís.

Also present in and about the courtroom, were members of the extremist Muslim Brotherhood movement and their attorneys voicing their hatred and resentment of the Baha'is.

National and international major television and radio news agencies as well as all newspapers, and news service agencies were present in the courtroom filming, interviewing and reporting on this event.


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Test for Egypt religious freedom in Bahai verdict

CAIRO --  Ragi Labib, a young Egyptian university graduate, cannot find a job, buy a car, or open a bank account. By next year, he may not even be able to prove his identity. Why? Because he is a Bahai.

When the government announced four years ago that only Islam, Christianity, and Judaism were recognized as religions on official papers, the ID card on which he had scribbled the name of his faith became invalid.

"We don't mind omitting religion from ID cards altogether, or being allowed to insert 'other' in the religion field. But we don't want to lie about our religion on official documents," the 25-year-old said.

Now he fears that, despite being born in Egypt to Egyptian parents, his own children will not be recognized as Egyptian citizens.

Egypt's small Bahai community - fewer than 2,000, according to official figures - is eagerly awaiting a December 16 court ruling on the right of Bahais to obtain legal documents that state their religion.

In Egypt, carrying identity papers at all times is required by law and essential for access to employment, education, medical, and financial services.

The Bahai case gained local attention and sparked more than 400 press articles after an April ruling upheld Bahais' right to state their religion on their ID papers, but it is being appealed by the interior ministry.

Before April, most Egyptians had not heard of the Bahais, who are often registered by clerks as Muslims or Christians.

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Egypt: religion & ID Cards

TV interview with two Baha'is from Egypt regarding the inability of Baha'is to obtain ID Cards.

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Bilo, at the Baha'i Faith in Egypt blog, fills in the gaps:

On 13 August 2006, an interview with two Egyptian Baha'is was broadcast on Dream-2 TV Channel. Interviewed were Dr. Basma Moussa, a Professor of Oral & Maxillofacial Surgery at Cairo University, and Dr. Labib Iskandar Hanna, an Engineering Professor at Cairo University.

The following is an English translation of the interviews:

  1. Dr. Basma Moussa said that she is a Baha'i in Egypt and explained that there is a major problem: "we cannot obtain ID Cards, birth certificates or death certificates because we are Baha'is. After all, we are Egyptians first before being Muslim, Christian, Jewish or any other."

  2. Dr. Labib Hanna said: "we request from the Government not to force us to write-in any other religion. We cannot forge official documents when indicating religion. We can insert a line [dashes], omit religion on ID Cards, or write-in 'other', we have no objections to any of these solutions. Our problem is that we are being forced to choose another religion."

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Another Mighty Issue in Egypt

Much has been written about the current efforts of the Egyptian government to deprive Baha'is of access to national identification cards, thereby preventing them from gaining employment, education, medical and financial services, as well as freedom of movement and security of property. In April an administrative court ruled that the effort by the government to deny Bahá'ís access to identification cards was illegal. The government appealed this decision in May, and the Supreme Administrative Court of Egypt granted the appeal, suspending the lower court's ruling until it could hear the case on June 19.

As we await the June 19 hearing, it is worth pondering the following words of Shoghi Effendi, written in 1929 in the context of another court case in Egypt and a petition by the Egyptian Bahá'ís for formal recognition by the government of Egypt:
Whatever the outcome of this mighty issue--and none can fail to appreciate the incalculable possibilities of the present situation-- we can rest assured that the guiding Hand that has released these forces will, in His inscrutable wisdom and by His omnipotent power, continue to shape and direct their course for the glory, the ultimate emancipation, and the unqualified recognition of His Faith.

Read more: Another Mighty Issue in Egypt