Monday, June 25, 2007

Baha'is of Egypt: Update on One of the Lawsuits

Please see this post published on 2 July 2007 at "Seeking Justice" regarding the 3 July court case.

In a previous post, the case of the twin children of Dr. Raouf Hindy Halim was discussed in details. This case was on the court's docket on 7 May 2007 when it was postponed again to be heard in the upcoming 3 July 2007 administrative court session for a decision. The 14-year-old Egyptian twin children continue to try to thrive without Egyptian birth certificates.

The attached newspaper article, republished previously on this blog, states: ...the children's parents and grandparents are Egyptian. Even after the passing of more than three years of court battles, Dr. Raouf has not been able to obtain birth certificates for his children. Since Egypt’s Supreme Administrative Court has prevented Bahá’ís from documenting their religion as “Bahá’í” in the religion section on all official documents—in violation of citizenship rights to freedom of belief—Dr. Raouf in collaboration with a team of attorneys, was forced to amend his request to insert dashes or leave the religion section vacant on his children’s birth certificates.

Dr. Raouf Hindy said that this amended request was caused by the fact that he must not be forced to insert incorrect statements in official documents [that is if he enters one of the three allowed religions]...if he did so, it would have given rise to more forgers and liars in the society. He stated that his elder son (the brother of the twins) is in possession of an Egyptian birth certificate with a dash inserted in place of religion, that is why he is requesting that his twin children (Emad and Nancy) be treated in the same way.

Of note, children in Egypt that are not in possession of an Egyptian birth certificate cannot attend public schools.

The website of the Baha'i International Community, which provides up-to-date information on the Egyptian Baha'i case, stated the following in its May 2007 update:

Recent court rulings in Egypt have highlighted the dire human rights situation facing the Bahá'í community there. The rulings in turn have touched off a significant debate between human rights organizations and major Islamic groups about freedom of religion and belief.

Deprived of all rights as an organized religious community since 1960, Egyptian Bahá'ís are facing an immediate crisis over government efforts to deny them all-important identification cards. The ID cards are required by law and are essential for access to employment, education, and medical and financial services, as well as freedom of movement and security of property.
(View August 2005 Report by the Bahá'í International Community)

At the heart of the current situation is a government policy that forces Bahá'ís to either lie about their religion and illegally falsify their religious affiliation—or go without ID cards, which currently require that a person choose either Islam, Christianity, or Judaism, which are the three officially recognized religions in Egypt.

The crisis facing the Bahá'í community gained international attention after a 4 April 2006 ruling by a three-judge Administrative Court which held that Government efforts to deprive Bahá'ís of ID cards were illegal, and upheld the right of the Bahá'í plaintiffs to state their religion on official documents.
(View Court Ruling: English/Arabic)

While Egyptian human rights groups immediately hailed the decision, conservative Islamic organizations—including scholars at Al Azhar University and representatives of the Muslim Brotherhood—urged the government to file an appeal. Media attention on the case has been intense, and more than 400 articles, stories, commentaries and programs have appeared in the Egyptian and Arabic news media about the case or its fallout since the initial ruling.

On 16 December, the Supreme Administrative Court upheld the government’s position in the case, issuing an 11-page ruling that focused largely on the theology of the Bahá'í Faith rather than on legal issues surrounding the rights of Bahá'ís to be treated like other Egyptians citizens under international law.
(View the Supreme Administrative Court Ruling: Arabic/English)

The controversy promises to continue unabated, despite the Supreme Administrative Court’s ruling. A number of groups, inside and outside of Egypt, have continued to raise questions about the situation of Egyptian Bahá'ís. In March, for example, the US State Department released its annual human rights report, and the section on Egypt noted that members of the Bahá'í Faith have "experienced personal and collective hardship" in the absence of religious freedom for them.

As well, several other legal cases concerning ID cards for Bahá'ís are working their way through Egypt’s administrative court system. One such case, for example, concerns a twin brother and sister who have been denied birth certificates, necessary for enrollment in school, because their parents refuse to falsely identify them as Muslims. Lawyers working on their behalf have asked the courts for a ruling that would allow them merely to leave the religious affiliation field blank, or to adopt some similar measure. The next hearing on that case has been set for 3 July 2007.

Here follows a chronology of events since last April, when the ground-breaking ruling by the administrative court brought widespread attention to the situation of Egyptian Bahá'ís and their struggle for religious freedom. Cont....

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