Social Action

Human rights, community development and the like

The Form, the Employees and Dr. Yousry el-Gamal

Late poet Fouad Haddad wrote a famous poem entitled "al-Istimara" [The Form]. It was recited by musician Sayyed Mekawi in an episode of the radio and TV program "el-Mesaharaty", which the two of them presented for many years during the month of Ramadan.

The poem mocks – with some bitterness – the bureaucratic complications that the Egyptians have had to cope so far with while dealing with the State's administrative organs.

In brief, the poem tells the story of a person who goes submitting a form and is said to go from one office to another and one employee to another with no one eventually taking this form. When this person eventually finds someone who does, the form remains forgotten in a drawer.

{josquote}...he could not submit his daughters' birth certificates as required because he was a Bahai and the Civil Status Authority was still refusing to provide Bahais with the ID card.{/josquote}

This week's form holder is a person called Wasim Kamal Eddin Nasir. He wanted to move his 6-and-a-half-year-old daughter Nur from the British elementary school she is enrolled in and to enroll her 3-and-a-half year-old younger daughter Hena to the kindergarten of the same school.

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Commentary from the Muslim Network for Baha'i Rights

TURKMENISTAN: Religious freedom survey, August 2008

In its survey analysis of religious freedom in Turkmenistan, Forum 18 News Service has found continuing violations by the state of freedom of thought, conscience and belief. Unregistered religious activity continues – in defiance of international human rights agreements – to be attacked. The government tries to control the extremely limited religious activity it permits, which often does not - even for registered religious groups - include the right to worship. Promises to respect human rights after the accession of President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov have not stopped the state's continuing actions to deny freedom of thought, conscience and belief to peaceful Turkmen citizens of all faiths, including Muslims, Russian Orthodox, Armenian Apostolic, Protestants, Jehovah's Witnesses, Catholics, Hare Krishna devotees and Baha'is. Officials appear to have no expectation that they will be held accountable for violating fundamental human rights such as religious freedom.

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"In court I will defend the Bahais"

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Following the baseless accusations thrown by Tehran’s deputy prosecutor, in which he alleged that the 7 arrested Baha’i leaders forged links with Israel, Shirin Ebadi - the famed lawyer, human rights activist and Nobel Laureate - made a brave decision to defend them before court. Shirin Ebadi has long been a thorn at the side of the Iranian authority, actively speaking out for the rights of the marginalized in Iran.

And now, Iranian state media has stooped to a very low level, attempting to smear Ebadi’s efforts through claiming her daughter converted to the Baha’i faith almost a year ago. The implications of such an accusation are dire; conversion from Islam is a crime that is punishable by death.

We at the Muslim Network for Baha’i Rights applaud Ms. Ebadi’s courage and willingness to stand up for her fellow citizens. Fear and distrust of the Baha’i minority is entrenched in Iranian society - an aftermath of decades of villification. We hope that Ms. Ebadi’s efforts will signal a new beginning in Iran, and allow more and more Muslims to voice their sympathy and concern for their Baha’i brothers and sisters.

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Kyrgyzstan: Where can the dead be buried?

Kyrgyz Protestants, Baha'is, Jehovah's Witnesses and Hare Krishna devotees have complained to Forum 18 News Service that the problem of burying deceased members of their communities is unresolved, especially in rural areas. Local administrations, local people and Muslim leaders often oppose the burial of non-Muslims or insist that they be buried according to Islamic rituals. Attempts to discuss the issue – including a meeting at the State Agency for Religious Affairs - have not led to a solution. Alisher Sobirov, the chair of Parliament's standing Commission on Religion, told Forum 18 that "no one outside the local administrations - including the Muftiate - has the right to make decisions on cemeteries." Asked what should be done, Sobirov claimed that it was not within Parliament's power to address burial issues. Asan Saipov of the Muftiate told Forum 18 that they had decided "not to allow the burial of non-Muslims in Muslim cemeteries" - even though these are run by local authorities and are usually the only local cemeteries. He insisted that villagers made the right decision in stopping the family of a 14 year old Baptist from burying him.

Members of religious minorities have complained to Forum 18 News Service that the problem of burying deceased members of their communities remains unresolved, especially in rural areas. Local administrations, local people and Muslim leaders have often opposed the burial of non-Muslims in local cemeteries or insist that they be buried according to Islamic rituals, regardless of the faith they belonged to. Religious minorities complain that attempts to discuss the issue – including a meeting at the State Agency for Religious Affairs in the capital Bishkek on 2 July - have not led to a solution.

{josquote}Generally, we do not have problems if we allow the local mosque to carry out their rituals. But of course, we are not happy with this situation. (Un-named Baha'i){/josquote}

Minorities say the meeting failed to resolve the problem that a fatwa [Islamic ruling] issued by the country's Muftiate (the national Muslim spiritual leadership) banning the burial of non-Muslims in "Muslim" cemeteries effectively denies members of religious minorities the possibility of being buried in cemeteries run by local administrations. These are often the only local cemeteries.

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Kamram Aqdasi - imprisoned for being a Baha'i

On 31 January 2008, the security authorities in Hamadan, Iran, went to the homes of Kamran Aqdasi and his mother and searched both residences for Baha'i materials. They confiscated all Baha'i-related documents and books. Mr. Aqdasi was arrested and imprisoned for eight days.

On 3 April 2008, the court ruling of a year sentence was conveyed to him. Mr. Aqdasi appealed this verdict to a higher court, but on 21 April, the ruling of the previous court was upheld.

The verdict was then appealed to Iran's Supreme Court and the case was fast-tracked. However later the file was put on back-logs and will not come up for a minimum of six months.

Meanwhile, Mr. Aqdasi has been in prison since 19 June on the charge of being a Baha'i.

You may read the documents in Persian here.

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