Sunday, January 14, 2007

Egypt: Recommendations of Human Rights Organizations

The Egyptian Union of Human Rights Organization [EUHRO] held its fifth annual convention in Cairo on 11 January 2007, to which the Baha'is were invited to make a formal presentation. The theme of the convention was entitled: "Freedom of Belief Between Shari'ah [Islamic jurisprudence] and the Constitution." The panel consisted of representatives from the media, the arts, the university, the ruling political party, Islam's al-Azhar University, and the Baha'i Faith. They were, seated from left to right: Mr. Amr Al-Leithy, editor of Al-khamees newspaper & programmer in channel-2 of the Egyptian TV; Mr. Wael Al-Ibrashi, Editor-in-Chief of Sawt Al-Umma newspaper & the TV program Al-Haqiqah [The Truth] of Dream-2 channel; Dr. Mahmoud Ashour, former Deputy Sheikh of al-Azhar University; Justice Naguib Ghobreial, the organization's president; Mrs. Ilham Shaheen, an actress & a movie superstar; Dr. Gihad Ouda, a university professor of political science & member of the political committee of the ruling party; and Dr. Basma Moussa, professor of Maxillo-Facial Surgery at Cairo University, representing the Baha'i Faith.

Dr. Basma Moussa made an elaborate PowerPoint slide presentation describing the crisis currently facing the Egyptian Baha'is. This presentation was a very well-received keynote feature of the convention, during which she used several quotes from the recent message of the Universal House of Justice to the Egyptian Baha'is.

Following its conclusion, the convention released its recommendations to the press and the Egyptian government. The following is a summary of its eleven-point recommendations:

1) The convention supports President Mubarak in his efforts to reform the constitution and in particular the principle of citizenship.

2) The convention affirms that the rights of citizenship in Egypt cannot be realized without the modernization of the State and the respect for all religious authorities in Egypt.

3) The convention recommends that the constitution must be freed from any reference to religious inclinations.

4) The convention recommends that the constitution truthfully declares the true meaning of Egyptian identity and the affirmation of the modernity and civility of the State.

5) The convention recommends the absolute guarantee of freedom of belief to all citizens regardless of their various religious congregations or beliefs.

6) The convention recommends that in case article-2 of the constitution [referring to the Islamic Shari'ah as the source of legislation], that it would be amended to state that "it will not interfere with the principle of citizenship, and would not influence the beliefs of others."

7) The convention recommends that the principle of "public order" be clearly defined and understood so that it does not get confused with any belief or religious understanding, and that "public order" be based on basic political and economic rules of the society.

8) The Convention recommends the elimination of religious classification from ID cards.

9) The convention recommends that all laws of the land must become devoid of any discrimination between its citizens based on religion, gender or race.

10) The convention affirms the necessity of enforcing all of Egypt's agreements to the various international treaties and declarations on human rights to which it has been a co-signatory, as well as all the agreements that became part of the Egyptian law as stated in Article-151 of the Egyptian constitution.

11) The convention recommends the elimination of any conditions or reservations that Egypt had attached to its ratification of any of the international treaties on human rights, while safeguarding the status of Egyptian citizenship & identification.


  1. The EUHRO is a lighthouse guiding those souls who are lost in the darkness of bigotry, misinformation, prejudice, and hatred to the shores of understanding, learning, compassion, and respect. All are brothers and sisters in humanity, and the EUHRO recommendations cement the foundations of national unity. May all the steps of EUHRO result in greater understanding and in an honorable and just society!

  2. 1) the first statement regarding "efforts to reform the constitution".. I am curious about what parts of the Constitution need reforming. As I understand it, the part that supports civil rights of citizens is fine and the issue is enforcement of what exists in the constitution. Are there other problems that possibly have a higher political prioirity for the President?

    2) Iwonder if they more carefully defined the word "respect for all religous authorities". We know the Qur'an mentions the BIG 3, So I wonder what the Jews and Christians get now in terms of "respect" from Egyptian authorities. "lack of harassment"? (my joke :-(

    3, This one (#3) seems like a biggie. What did Dr. Gihad Ouda think of this, I wonder?

    4. Points #5 and #2 seem fairly overlapping to me.

    5. This (#6) seems a compromise way for #3 to be realized.

    6. This (#7)seems the most clearly understood and measurable objective that can be put on an agenda within a parliment committee for proposals. I vote for this one.

    7. Yes (#8) has already been shot down once. but the issue isn't completely resolved. THis will be ignored by the gov. The way I think it will go is having "other" as a category.

    8. I am not clear on what Article 151 states.

    Nice Job as always Bilo,
    Edo River
    PS I wonder how Mrs. Ilham Shaheen was selected for this panel.

  3. Nabil,
    It reminds us with the Egypt we all knew!

  4. Bilo,
    Egypt has never been paradise, but there was more understanding, respect, civility, and compassion. I think the character of the Egyptian person has not changed. It is the politicization of religion that seems to have changed dramatically in the past two decades. The good name of Islam is at stake.
    I hope the Egyptian public will realize the degree of sincerity of Egyptian Baha'is. When they do, they will recognize that some bigots are using the name of Islam for personal political gain and are leading the country in the path of darkness. Most Muslims follow the compassionate spirit of Islam which is the path of truth.kiyfx

  5. Nabil,
    Yes, in fact this current crisis facing the Egyptian Baha'is is resulting in exactly "that," as you have put it very well: "the Egyptian public will realize the degree of sincerity of Egyptian Baha'is. When they do, they will recognize that some bigots are using the name of Islam for personal political gain and are leading the country in the path of darkness."

    The light is indeed emerging through the darkness, just like the beauty and serenity of early dawn....

  6. Edo River,
    Here are my comments on the questions you have raised.

    Point # 1
    Please refer to this link for details of the proposed constitutional reforms.

    Point # 2
    The Qur’an never mentioned the “Big 3.” It is unknown where this came from. Egypt’s so called recognition of only 3 divine religions has neither theological nor factual foundation.

    Point # 10
    Article-151 can be found at this link, and states:
    “The President of the Republic shall conclude treaties and communicate them to the People’s Assembly, accompanied with suitable clarifications. They shall have the force of law after their conclusion, ratification and publication according to the established procedure. However, peace treaties, alliance pacts, commercial and maritime treaties and all other treaties involving modifications in the territory of the State or having connection with the rights of sovereignty, or which lay upon the treasury of the State certain charges not included in the budget, must acquire the approval of the People’s Assembly.”

  7. Thanks Bilo, I read the links, now can I apply for Egyptian citizenship?

    I can't quibble with anything I read. I thought I could depend on judicial review until this recent court case, now even though this is a check or a balance on the power of the executive or the legislative as it is in the US, I wonder......why the ruling went as it did. You mentioned that there is no justification in the Qur'an for the exclusive position of Jews Christians and Islam, and I was surprised, but on further reflection I recall that there are many peoples mentioned from ancient times with a Book, but the most recent are the Jews Christians and of course Islam., Is this right? So the recent exclusion of other religous groups seems to be an example of what Nabil is saying, part of the politicization of Islam, would you agree?

    Edo River rising

  8. Bilo,

    What is the status of the Human Rights Commission that is or was headed by Dr. Boutros Boutros Ghali? No mention of them being a part of the EUHRO conference.

    In a previous posting, the EUHRO decided that they would pursue the option of allowing "other" in the designated space for religion, rather than push for eliminating the reference to religion altogether from official certificates. I thought the former was a more likely outcome than the latter.

    Would it be more effective to push for allowing "other" in the space designated for religious identification on the ID cards than to attempt to make Egypt a secular society overnight?

  9. dear nabil & bilo
    A young lady attended EUHRO from ENCHR just for monitoring the confernce.& in near future the report of NCHR will be online in their websit . i am sure u will found more than at least 70 complain from bahais to NCHR.

  10. Nabil,
    Additionally, there are now several human rights organizations in Egypt working in parallel, and with some coordination. When compared to the rest of the world, they are quite nascent as most have begun within the last 3-4 years. Their effectiveness to truly change policy and enforce the principles of human rights remains to be realized. It is quite a bit of progress though when considering the environment and the challenges.

  11. Smile Rose and Bilo,

    Thank you both for the clarification!

    Is there any way that the nascent human rights organizations in Egypt can receive support from their international counterparts? These groups are so essential to resolving the issue of human rights for the Baha'is and others who do not belong to the "big 3" religions.

  12. hi, first timer here.

    I am ashamed to say that i only found out about the baha'i faith only a little while ago and even more ashamed that i didn't know that there are Egyptian bahai's. I assumed most baha'is lived in egypt and have been brainwashed to think that Egypt only has christians, muslims, jews. And here we are having a pity party as christians when you guys must have heaps more discrimination. I heard about the demo recently with the id cards and getting official recognition- it was ugly. Credit to you for your perseverance

  13. *oops lived in iran, i meant!

  14. Nabil,
    My understanding is that they are independent, but they follow the commonly known practices, guidelines and principles of the rest of the global HR organizations. Egypt's NCHR [National Council for Human Rights] was formed as a result of a mandate from the Egyptian government, and I believe that its members are appointed accordingly.

  15. Dear egyptiandust,
    You are most welcome to this site, and thank you for your comment.

    There must be many others like you around the world with the same impression. The interesting fact is that this crisis has been producing enormous, in being farsighted we can realize that even as bad as things might appear to be, they have been a blessing and only the future will tell the magnitude of the resulting victories. For example, if it wasn’t for this crisis, you wouldn’t have been aware of the Baha’i Faith or of its global status.

  16. someone posted a Video of Congressional Hearings that occured on 30 June 2006....

  17. oh BTW of certain Musilims are concerned about how americans view ISLAM they need to watch "24" which is a Television Program produced by an American corporation

    I know that this is not going to help world unity but it will give everyone a perspective as to the dangers of assuming negative opions of your neighbor

  18. Anonymous,
    It is unfortunate that such programs reflect a great degree of bias...they contribute to fear, bigotry and instead of educating people, they end up inflaming their senses. Of course this is a worldwide phenomenon, and not merely restricted to this or that program, country or culture. The magnitude of the extremism, as you well know, will vary from one culture to another....

  19. Nabil,
    You can find more information on the status and history of Egypt's National Council for Human Rights (NCHR), which was formed 3 years ago and appointed by the government's Shura Council, at this link.

  20. Nabil,

    You can find the article on the NCHR here too.

  21. Bilo,

    Thank you for the link to the NCHR! Obviously its performance is disappointing to at least some of its own members!

  22. As we prepare for the court session for Emad and Nacy Raouf Hendy on Tuesday, let us be hopeful and remember the Sacred Words of His Holiness Baha'u'llah in Gleanings:

    "Be generous in prosperity, and thankful in adversity. Be worthy of the trust of thy neighbor, and look upon him with a bright and friendly face. Be a treasure to the poor, an admonisher to the rich, an answerer of the cry of the needy, a preserver of the sanctity of thy pledge. Be fair in thy judgment, and guarded in thy speech. Be unjust to no man, and show all meekness to all men. Be as a lamp unto them that walk in darkness, a joy to the sorrowful, a sea for the thirsty, a haven for the distressed, an upholder and defender of the victim of oppression. Let integrity and uprightness distinguish all thine acts. Be a home for the stranger, a balm to the suffering, a tower of strength for the fugitive. Be eyes to the blind, and a guiding light unto the feet of the erring. Be an ornament to the countenance of truth, a crown to the brow of fidelity, a pillar of the temple of righteousness, a breath of life to the body of mankind, an ensign of the hosts of justice, a luminary above the horizon of virtue, a dew to the soil of the human heart, an ark on the ocean of knowledge, a sun in the heaven of bounty, a gem on the diadem of wisdom, a shining light in the firmament of thy generation, a fruit upon the tree of humility."


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