Thursday, January 04, 2007

Egypt: US Reaction to the 16 December Verdict

Following the 16 December 2006 verdict of Egypt's Supreme Administrative Court verdict denying Egyptian Baha'is their civil rights, the United States Government has reacted to the ruling on two separate occasions.

The first was a statement made during the daily State Department briefing by Mr. Sean McCormack on 18 December 2006. The second was in the form of a letter written by two Congressmen on 22 December 2006 to Egypt's Ambassador to the United States.

The first statement can be found at this link, and a video of the briefing can be viewed at this link, with the specific reference to the Baha'i case beginning near the 45 minutes mark of the video.

It is also transcribed here:

QUESTION: Sean, one on Egypt. Do you have any reaction on the December 16 ruling by Egypt's Supreme Administrative Court that returned an April 4 lower court ruling which had affirmed the right of Egyptian Baha'is to receive government identity cards?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, it is certainly a ruling that flies in the face of stated Egyptian commitments to freedom of expression, freedom of religion. We would hope that the Egyptian Government would take steps that would allow people of the Baha'i faith to obtain these identification cards. Not being able to get a hold of these identification cards poses all sorts of difficulties for individuals in getting things done in daily life. So we would urge the Egyptian Government really to address this issue. It's really a fundamental issue of religious freedom.

The second reaction was in the form of a letter co-signed by the US Congress Representatives Mark Steven Kirk from Illinois and Tom Lantos from California. The letter was addressed to His Excellency M. Nabil Fahmy, Ambassador of Egypt to the United States.

An introduction to the letter by Representative Kirk and a link to the letter can be viewed at this link. The introduction states the following:

December 23, 2006

Religious Freedom for Bahai’s in Egypt

This holiday weekend serves as a reminder of the importance of our world’s religions to worship free from persecution. That’s why I became alarmed when I learned of the action the Government of Egypt recently took towards the small Egyptian Baha’i community. The Supreme Administrative Court of Egypt decided last Saturday to uphold the Egyptian government’s discriminatory policy of prohibiting Baha’is from obtaining a national identity card. The court’s ruling denies Egyptian Baha’is their rights as citizens of Egypt and would subject them to particular hardship in obtaining education, employment, and social services.

I joined with Rep. Tom Lantos (D-CA) to write a letter to the Egyptian Ambassador to the United States, expressing disappointment at the court’s decision and urging the Egyptian government to remedy the situation.

The letter is transcribed below:

Congress of the United States
Washington, DC 20515

December 22, 2006

His Excellency M. Nabil Fahmy
Ambassador Extraordinary & Plenipotentiary
Embassy of the Arab Republic of Egypt
3521 International Court, NW
Washington DC 20008

Dear Mr. Ambassador,

We are writing to express our disappointment upon learning of the December 16 Supreme Administrative Court of Egypt ruling against the Baha'i community. As you know, the court decision upholds the government policy which forces the Baha'is either to lie about their religious beliefs or to be prevented from obtaining state identification cards. Without identification cards, Egyptian Baha'is lose access to most citizenship rights, including education, financial services and medical care.

The Supreme Administrative Court ruling overturns a decision by a lower administrative court that Baha'is have the right to obtain government-issued identification documents which accurately state their religion. This decision was appealed by the government.

The Baha'is in Egypt do not ask for special treatment. They have offered to leave the religion space on the identification card blank, to make a dash, or to write "other." The government has denied each of these requests.

The Baha'is are Egyptian citizens. Egypt is a party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. The Egyptian Constitution stipulates religious freedom for all Egyptian citizens.

We urge the Egyptian government immediately--before the deadline of December 31, 2006--to take action to remedy this situation so that the Baha'is may be treated justly as Egyptian citizens. As the Chairman of the International Relations Committee and a member of the Foreign Operations Appropriations Subcommittee, we hope the issue of religious freedom for Baha'is in Egypt will not interfere with our important mutual priorities in the upcoming 110th Congress.

We look forward to your kind and prompt reply.


Mark Steven Kirk
Member of Congress

Tom Lantos
Member of Congress


  1. Of course Islamic Brotherhood followers will be made angrier and angrier over this example of American interference. I would guess they will look for Bahais to take their frustration out on them, however such a tiny number will be hard to find ;-) So they are waiting with angry faces and drunken eyes on what the Egyptian government will do.

    Edo River rising

  2. Yes, I have written something like this before earlier; to me it seems this is unintentionally building up more and more for President Mubarak's gov's international image. While internally I doubt if it ranks very high on the the average 65 million plus Egyptian's awareness of problems in society. Like all problems, if handled initially with skill and wisdom it would have abated but it wasn't and it won't.

    Edo River rising

  3. Internal politics may not be on the side of those that are made to be scapegoats, but truth is on their side. The government need not implicitly or explicitly recognize the Baha'i Faith or proclaim its truth. They can simply allow leaving the space for religion blank, place a dash, or allow 'other' as legitimate responses. Right is might. Denial of fundamental human rights of Egyptian Baha'is is a black mark on Egypt and its government at this juncture in history. The Egyptian government can and should protect its minorities from the onslaught of a rising fundamentalism that uses religion as a weapon rather than its true nature of understanding, peace, submission to God, and service to humanity.

  4. Edo River,
    The days when the extremists could intimidate others into silence are long gone! This is not about the west interfering with the east or whatever; it is about civil and human rights which have no geographical, political or ethnic boundaries.... This is simply about humanity, and when there are violations of rights, the entire human race should rise up against injustice, regardless of whom they are or where they are.

  5. of course theses psychopaths will be made angrier...what else do you expect...

    Should you be nice to a burglar and allow him to rob your neighbor?

    or do you call the POLICE to inform them of a burglary in progress?

  6. Nabil,
    Thank you for putting this into perspective, and for clearly defining the issues at hand.

  7. My question is about the deadline.

    What is expected to be accomplished after this deadline?

  8. Sam,
    After the deadline, the Baha'is are left with no official identity, and have no citizenship rights unless the government corrects the situation. Therefore, it is now in the hands of the government to ensure that a segment of its own citizenry have their citizens!

  9. Thank you Nabil and Bilo

    The Egyptian government can and should protect its minorities

    This appeal has already been written and sent out to the autorities of Egypt and elsewhere:

    Be vigilant, that ye may not do injustice to anyone, be it to the extent of a grain of mustard seed. Gleanings CXVII

    Edo River rising

  10. I would like to thank these two Congressmen for their communication with the Egyptian Ambassador. I am wondering if they have received any verbal or written assurances from the Egyptian authorities that the rights of Egyptian Baha'is to carry Egyptian ID cards without having to lie about their Faith will be protected. Without these cards, no birth certificates, marriage certificates, or death certificates can be issued, nor can these loyal Egyptian citizens enroll their children in schools, access public medical services, open bank accounts, obtain driver licenses, obtain employment or enter into business transactions. The Egyptian government bears responsibility of ensuring their safety, guaranteeing their freedom of Faith and access to normal citizenship rights. Denial of these basic rights constitutes violations of the Egyptian Constitution which protects freedom of worship, contravenes the UN Declaration of Human Rights to which Egypt is a signatory, and violates the true compassionate spirit of Islam.


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