Saturday, August 29, 2009

Egypt Protects the Rights of Displaced Baha'is

We vividly recall the events leading to the burning of the homes of the Baha'is in the southern Egyptian village of Showraniyah near the end of last March.

Even though there have been efforts directed at resolving the matter by the Egyptian authorities, these families have been displaced since that incident and have been temporarily housed in Northern Egypt. A couple of days ago Reuters news agency reported "Egyptian police arrested 70 villagers on Thursday who were protesting against the relocation of Baha'i families to their area after they were chased out of another village in southern Egypt, security sources said."

The story goes on to state the following:
About 150 people from Ezba and surrounding villages in Sohag province gathered outside regional government offices to voice opposition to the relocation of 25 Baha'i families to government-sponsored housing near their homes, the sources said.

Baha'is, who number between 500 and 2,000 in Egypt, call their faith's 19th-century founder a prophet -- anathema to Muslims who believe Mohammad was God's final messenger.

Rights activists say Baha'is face systematic discrimination in the conservative Arab country, which does not officially recognise the faith.

In April, Muslims attacked houses belonging to Baha'i residents of another village in Sohag over a period of three days, forcing 30 families to flee the mainly Muslim village of Shuraniya.

Some villagers from Ezba said the protesters had gathered from Wednesday after word spread that some of those displaced from Shuraniya had settled in the area two weeks ago.

However a rights group advocating on behalf of the Baha'i families said no permanent homes had been found for them.

Soha Abdelaty, the deputy director of the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, said the families were still negotiating with the government.

Baha'is, in an important ruling for members of unrecognised religions, last year won the right to obtain government identity papers so long as they omit any reference to their faith. But the faith is still vilified by some media, activists say. (Reporting by Mohamed Abdellah, Alastair Sharp and Maha el Dahan)
If what happened is indeed true and if it becomes confirmed through other sources, then this development would illustrate the seriousness of Egypt's commitment to maintain law and order and its determination to protect its persecuted Baha'i minority, who have been facing unjustified persecution by the ill-informed and the misguided. In fact, this would be the first time that Egyptian authorities take such a firm and decisive action in order to stop harassment of Baha'is on its land. A nation is often judged by its resolve to respect its weakest and its underprivileged.

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