Thursday, February 08, 2007

Egyptian Baha'is: No ID = No Passport and Catch-22

Here is another dilemma that is a direct result of the inability of an Egyptian Baha'i to obtain the new computerized ID card. A perfect example of the consequences of the laws governing personal status rights of this innocent minority in a homeland that continues to deny it its mere existence.

Shady Samir Sobhy Daniaal, an Egyptian citizen, has been unable to obtain a passport simply because he is a Baha'i. His old passport which expired on 31 December 1996, was issued to him only six months before that date.

The current situation is as follows:

To be issued a valid passport he needs an ID card. His old paper ID card would have been sufficient (until the end of 2006) except that it is worn-out and his third and fourth names are missing (ID cards must show the person's four names). Thus there is no way for him to prove that the ID belongs to him, i.e. Shady Samir Sobhy Daniaal.

If this was not enough, now here is the real catch:

His expired passport could have been used to prove that he is indeed the same person except that the profession in his old passport documents him as "Student." Since he is no longer a student, he must change the profession on the passport in order for it to be used to prove his identity. To change the profession on the passport he must be issued the new computerized ID card with his new profession stated on it, but we all know by now that Egyptian Baha'is have been denied their right to be issued the new ID cards.... To make matters worse, they will not accept anything else to prove his identity--even a birth certificate!

He filed a complaint with the National Council for Human Rights (NCHR) but the Council has not received any replies from Egypt's passport agency or the Ministry of Interior regarding Shady's complaint, which was filed over four months ago.

This is a law-abiding Egyptian citizen who is gainfully self employed (since he cannot obtain public employment without ID), he is married and the father of two daughters with a third child on the way. His old paper identity document is rapidly disintegrating before his eyes with two of his names had already vanished. He cannot travel because he was refused a valid passport. When his awaited child is born in a few months, he will not be able to obtain a birth certificate for him. Incidentally, he is also unable to renew his driver's license, and the list goes on....

It is time for Egypt to enforce its own constitutional guarantees for all its citizens!


  1. Where is the United Nations in all of this? The UN should enforce its Universal Declaration for Human Rights to protect the Baha'is of Egypt, this innocent minority that has been subjected to so much injustice, discrimination, and denial.

    Shady's dilemma and the troubles he has to put up with on a daily basis are only examples of what is happening in Egypt. Your blog sheds the light on this appalling injustice! Thank you for bringing these problems to the attention of many. Every single individual can make a difference in his or her own way.

  2. Even though I am familiar with the situation of the Baha'is in Egypt, I'm outraged once again by this story of a decent family man who is prevented from living a normal life as the result of utterly unreasonable decisions by the Egyptian government and by the courts in Egypt.

    I'm trying to imagine what I would do and feel if I were in that situation. Trapped? Angry? Resigned?

    The problem with Nabil's suggestion is that the UN has no power to enforce the Universal Declaration. As foundational as it is for human rights, the UDHR is not an International Covenant. It is not justiciable. However, Egypt is a State Party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the UN's Human Rights Committee (the treaty monitoring body) has called the Egyptian government to account over its treatment of the Baha'is over the years.

    Regrettably, as we see so clearly now, governments that abuse human rights can ignore the findings of the Human Rights Committee.

  3. the UN is useless the only thing that it is good for is a DEBATE society....nothing but words

    The most burning fire is to question the signs of God, to dispute idly that which He hath revealed, to deny Him and carry one's self proudly before Him.

    (Baha'u'llah, Tablets of Baha'u'llah, p. 156)

    The essence of faith is fewness of words and abundance of deeds; he whose words exceed his deeds, know verily his death is better than his life.

    (Baha'u'llah, Tablets of Baha'u'llah, p. 156)

    The source of all evil is for man to turn away from his Lord and set his heart on things ungodly.

    (Baha'u'llah, Tablets of Baha'u'llah, p. 155)

  4. Barney,

    I agree it is a problem when a government can ignore its own constitution, its own covenant with its people, its international commitments to protect the human rights of all its citizens, and its moral obligations to protect its minorities, and instead perpetrate and instigate hatred against a very small helpless minority who represents the best well-wishers of their fellow citizens, their government, and their country!

    The perpetrators have imagined their friends an enemy!

    So what is one to do to help in this situation?

    On another note, I thank Bilo for reporting on his visit with you and your family. He made readers get a sense of what it was like to meet you! Power to all Baha'i bloggers!

  5. Nabil and Barney,
    Thank you both for your wise comments. I can clearly sense the way you feel about this whole situation.

    Barney has also published a post on this matter expressing his strong personal feelings, in which he provides a link to an update on the situation of the Baha'is in Egypt published in the Baha'i International Community's website. To read the post, please click here, and to read the update, please click here.

  6. Anonymous,
    Thank you for your comment and for the quotes. I am sure that we can all learn from these sacred writings.

  7. I will be praying for you Shady. Allah'u'Abha.

  8. This is a typical example of the complications that individual Baha'is are facing in Egypt due to the enforcement of the new ID card requirement. As of January, 2007, all Egyptian citizens are being issued notices by mail and phone requiring that they report the new ID numbers to their financial institutions. This will eventually lead to the closing or deactivation of bank accounts that are not identified with the holders of the new ID. The ID requirement is also being enforced for issuance of utility services; registration of electrical meters (prerequisite as proof of residence/ownership) for applying for a phone line, natural gas connection, water meter. The receipt of the electrical bill is also required for the opening of a bank account, mortgage loan, car loan, driver's license application, school registration, business license/tax registration, and all and any other services where proof of address is required.

    The denial of the ID also prevents Baha'is from operating private business in place of employment denied them by the current restrictions. It is nothing less than the complete annihilation of an individual's functional existence. For Mr.Daniaal and the increasing number of others, the start of the day is met with the hope that one can return home without being stopped at any of the numerous police checkpoints.

  9. RA,
    With all this, the government remains silent! It is the government's primary responsibility and charge to secure the safety and rights of citizenship for all its people….

    This government will be held accountable for its wanton negligence--approaching crimes against humanity!

  10. The EG government should issue & process any formal documents to Egyptians as long as they are Egyptians regardless of their regligion, even if they do not have a religion.

    I am Muslim and I do not disgrace any religion since the person believes in it.

  11. Thank you Hesham for your sincerity and wisdom.


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