As was posted recently here, the Ministry of Education had clearly expressed its position regarding this matter, that is, admission to schools will be based on citizenship alone, and that there will be no discrimination in the admission process based on religion. The Ministry went further by stating that it will accept children of Baha'is with (--) "dashes" in their documents.
The parents at the center of this controversy were unable to register their daughters to begin their formal education in a private elementary school because of their religious affiliation and the consequent administrative hurdles. They were referred to the Ministry of Education for an appeal. The Ministry, which had just publicized its position against discrimination, responded today with rejection of admission to the child. The reason given is that the child in question does not hold the newly issued computerized birth certificate, but rather presented them with the old "paper" birth certificate. None of the Baha'is were able to obtain the new computerized certificates (or ID cards) as had been mandated in the 29 January 2008 court verdict that allowed them to insert (--) dashes instead of their religious identification.
The handwritten response of the Ministry to the parent (in Arabic) is attached with this post. Its translation reads:
Governorate of Cairo
New Cairo Education Administration
In response to the request presented by the [student's] guardian, Wassim Kamal El-Deen Nosseir regarding the admission of his daughter, Hana Wassim, using a paper birth certificate. The paper birth certificate cannot be accepted and will not be used for that purpose. A computer birth certificate must be presented instead. The signature of the Director-General is taken [as a confirmation] to reject the student's paper birth certificate.
Mona Abd El-Aziz Abd El-Hafez
Director of Elementary Education
Based on this new development, the Ministry of Education has already abandoned its declaration of not discriminating based on religion. The Ministry has clearly stated that the only condition is "Egyptian citizenship." It did not make any mention of what kind of proof of identity is required, i.e. paper, computerized or any other form. The parents of this child submitted a proof of citizenship: an Egyptian birth certificate. Now the Ministry returns with rejection of this proof and requires that the certificate must be computerized. The Ministry knows very well that none of the Baha'is were able to obtain any of the newly-issued computerized documents, even though the court had ordered the Ministry of Interior to issue them such documents. The Ministry of Interior did not appeal the court's verdict, but has been slow to implement the ruling. Actually, so far, it did not issue any documents to any of the Baha'is of Egypt (including the individual litigants).
This current crisis requires immediate attention by Egypt's senior leadership. Depriving helpless children of their right to education can be seen as, yet another, serious violation of standard international human rights. This matter is now in the public eye...the facts are clear, and it cannot be ignored. There is no other choice but to issue the Baha'is of Egypt their identity documents. In the interim, the schools and other agencies must accept whatever documents these citizens currently hold.