In its yesterday's edition, the San Francisco Chronicle published an article on Egypt's refusal to recognize its minorities and its stance in refusing them their civil rights. The article is based on the recent comprehensive report of Human Rights Watch (HRW) which has garnered worldwide media interest following the press conference jointly held with the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR). The press conference was held in Cairo shortly after the release of the joint report prepared by these two human rights organizations; HRW is based in New York and EIPR is based in Cairo. The report was released on 12 November 2007, a day prior to Cairo's Court of Administrative Justice convened to rule on the Baha'is cases before it, as described in the previous two posts.
The article begins with the following:
San Francisco Chronicle
Egypt hindering religious freedom, human rights groups say
Steven Stanek, Chronicle Foreign Service
Friday, November 16, 2007
(11-16) 04:00 PST Cairo - --
The Egyptian government refuses to recognize minority religions and Christian converts in official state records, according to a report released this week by human rights activists who say the policy is a violation of Egyptian law.
New York's Human Rights Watch and the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights in Cairo said government officials are systematically withholding national identification cards and birth certificates from members of the Baha'i faith because it is not one of the three "heavenly" recognized religions - Islam, Christianity or Judaism.
Egypt has an estimated 2,000 adherents to Bahaism, a 150-year-old religion derived from Islam, but which considers the 19th century nobleman Baha'u'llah as the last prophet instead of Muhammad - a direct challenge to Islamic principles. It is the largest, and perhaps only, unrecognized religion in Egypt, according to the report.
There are roughly 70 million Muslims and 10 million Coptic Christians in Egypt. Experts estimate that a once-thriving Jewish community has dwindled to fewer than 200 people.
The 98-page report, "Prohibited Identities: State Interference With Religious Freedom," also criticized the government's refusal to change religious affiliation on identification cards issued to those who converted from Islam to Christianity, which is considered a sin under Islamic law but protected by the country's Constitution.
"Officials apparently believe that they have the right to choose someone's religion when they don't happen to like the religion that that person, him or herself, has chosen," said Joe Stork, deputy director of Human Rights Watch for the Mideast and North Africa. "It's a policy also that strikes at the core of a person's identity. It has far-reaching consequences ... for daily life." Read the rest here....
In addition to this coverage, several newspaper articles were published in Arabic in prominent Egyptian newspapers. Links to these publications can be found on Basma's blog in the following posts: 1, 2, 3, 4 & 5.
The Baha'i World News Service has also just published an article commenting on the Human Rights Watch report. It states the following:
Human rights groups issue report on Egypt
NEW YORK 16 November 2007 (BWNS)
Egypt should end discriminatory practices that prevent Baha'is and others from listing their true religious beliefs on government documents, said Human Rights Watch and the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights in a major report released this week.
The 98-page report, titled "Prohibited Identities: State Interference with Religious Freedom," focused on the problems that have emerged because of Egypt's practice of requiring citizens to state their religious identity on government documents but then restricting the choice to Islam, Christianity, or Judaism.
"These policies and practices violate the right of many Egyptians to religious freedom," stated the report, which was released on 12 November 2007.
"Because having an ID card is essential in many areas of public life, the policies also effectively deny these citizens a wide range of civil and political as well as economic and social rights," the report said.
The Baha'i International Community welcomed the report. Read the rest of the article here....