Sunday, August 31, 2008

Egyptian Media Questions the Treatment of Baha'i Children

The question of child education is hitting the headlines again in Egypt. As was previously reported, two young girls from a Baha'i family were finally admitted to a private school in Egypt. Conditions regarding their continued enrollment in school were stipulated however.

Cairo's prominent newspaper, Al- Masry Al-Youm, took keen interest in their case and has been providing extensive coverage of the progress of their drama. The last of which was in yesterday's edition, both in Arabic and English.

The writer of these articles, Salah Eissa, questions the sanity of how these little girls are treated, as has been handled by the Egyptian educational authorities. These girls' only current need is their right to education, just like any other child in Egypt. Their parents resorted to pay for private education simply because there was no way they could have enrolled them in public schools due to their inability to obtain computerized birth certificates as mandated by law.

The entire English translation of this eloquent article is posted below.


By Salah Eissa 30/8/2008

Approximately three weeks ago, I raised the issue of two children, namely 6-year-old Nour and 3-yeard-old Hana. The British School in New Cairo refused to move Nour from the kindergarten to the primary stage and to admit Hana in the kindergarten. The reason was that their documents did not include an electronic birth certificate, but only a paper one.

There is no solution to that problem because their father, Wassim Kamal Eddin, is a Bahai, but his religion is not officially recognized as a religion by the Civil Affairs Administration, which therefore refuse to issue a national ID number for its followers.

No officials offered a solution to Kamal's problem. Yet, they just had to accept a simple solution suggested by Kamal, namely that the two children should be admitted with the paper certificate till a court ruling recently issued by the Administrative Judiciary Court is put into effect.

The ruling says that a dash will be put in the religion space in the certificate for those who embrace a religion other than those recognized in Egypt.

Last week, I received a message from Kamal saying that after the efforts made by the Secretary General of the National Council for Human Rights Mokhles Qotb and the Egyptian initiative for personal rights run by Hossam Bahgat, Education Minister Yosri el-Gamal sent two employees from his office and the head of the Primary Education Directorate in New Cairo to the school.

After negotiations, the school administration decided to enroll Nour again in the school and to admit Hana to the kindergarten, provided that they study one of the two recognized religions. This was accepted by their father. The school stipulated that the father brings the electronic certificates before mid-December.

Although el-Gamal deserves appreciation for his intervention to save those two innocent children's future, the problem is still unsolved, not only because the two children could be dismissed in a few weeks' time, but also because the problem concerns several other Egyptian Bahais. Indeed, administrative bodies insist on not giving them any official documents recognizing their religion.

These organs offer them to write one of the three recognized religions in the religion space in their documents, otherwise they will have no official documents. The bodies had taken official documents away from them that recognized their religion.

The gross error made by governmental organs is that they deal with the issue of Bahaism as a religious issue and adopts their views and take their decisions on the basis of statements and opinions by Al-Azhar Grand Sheikh and the Islamic Research Academy regarding Islam's stance on Bahaism.

As far as the State is concerned, this is a civil and constitutional, rather than religious, affair.

Followers of any religion do not recognize other religions and ideologies; Jews do not recognize Christianity or Islam, and neither do Muslims and Christians with other religions.

The State does not have the right to favor followers of a certain religion at the expense of other religions. This means that it deprives the others of freedom of belief and persecutes them.
A national State basically includes citizens of different colors, races, religions and political ideologies. These citizens agreed on protecting each other's freedom of belief. They are equal in rights and duties.

Their constitution is based on these facts and they elected a government to enforce it. This government does not have the right to impinge on the rights of any individual simply because he or she embraces a different religion.

This is the issue or, so to speak, the farce. When we failed to understand it, we deprived two Egyptian children from the simplest citizenship rights, namely having a birth certificate; and the reason is that they embrace a religion other than the one we follow.


  1. The civil Affairs Administration, under the Ministry of the Interior determines the requirement for the new electronic Birth Certificate and ID card. The Ministry of Education, as other branches of government, consequently apply this requirement. The Primary Education Directorate further enforces this law and grants an extension to mid-December for the parents to comply. The Administrative Judiciary Court ruled in January of this year to grant Baha'is the new ID, yet implementation is still to be seen. There is no authority or capacity given to the parents to resolve what is clearly within the governments jurisdiction to coordinate and conclude. If mid-December is determined as a deadline, then that is to be addressed to the Civil Affairs Administration, not the parents.

    While deadlines are being set- though how they are determined is unclear- it may be asked what is the deadline for implementation of the January 08 ruling?

  2. Hopefully they might be preparing to issue ID cards and birth certificates before the December deadline!

  3. As a graduate of a British International School in another country, I find the collusion of the British instituion in this matter to be shameful. In a choice between respecting the fundamental rights of 3 and 6 year old children, and the machinations of a repressive authority, ignoring even the ruling of Egypt's own courts, the British school has capitulated to the forces of bigotry.

  4. In order to appease the authorities and to maintain their accreditation in Egypt,these international schools tend to be too conservative to the extent of even enforcing some arcane rules without giving much due process to the needs of their students. They appear to tiptoe on egg shells for the sake of conformity!

  5. I am Happy to see that there are voices of reason appearing in the Egyptian mainstream press...

    But at the same time these Bahá’ís are not having their rights protected by being allowed ID Cards so that they can live their lives in peace...

    It is my humble opinion that these international Organizations need to GROW A BACKBONE and stand up to the contrary winds of Bigotry Cynicism and Indifference

    Now lets suppose that you are among a group of people and you are witnessing an 8 year old child being attacked by wild animals.

    Do you…..

    [1] Admonish the wild animals for being wild animals
    [2] Do you grab a weapon and place yourself between the animals and the child and shoot the animals….


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