Tuesday, February 06, 2007

No ID = You Are Fired! Revisited

In a previous post entitled "Egypt: No ID = You Are Fired!" the case of a young physics teaching assistant, Basem Wagdy, was presented. He was hired and later fired by the German University in Cairo (GUC) because, as a Baha'i, he was refused to be issued the new national ID card.

Subsequently outraged German academics attempted to make the GUC reconsider its act of firing the Baha'i employee because he could not obtain an ID card. They appealed to the university's leadership and supporters and asked them for a statement on the case and on the steps they have taken to ensure that human rights are respected at GUC.

Consequent to these as well as to other efforts, an important development ensued, but before getting into this, Basem Wagdy's case will be revisited first as more information had become available.

In his own words, the following is an account of Basem Wagdy's dilemma:

1- I, Basem Wagdy, was officially appointed to position of Physics Teacher Assistant at the German University in Cairo on July 16th, 2006 (as per attached copy of the letter of appointment).

2- On September 6th, required documents were delivered to the Head of Human Resources Mrs. Amira Bassim as per employment regulations, except finger prints identification and social security document. At this time I was informed by her that these were the only further requirements.

* I officially began work on the same day.

3- I tried to open a bank account as per Finance Department requirements for salary dispersal, but was denied because I don't have a computerized ID card.

* Reported to Finance Department at GUC that I am unable to obtain computerized ID because of being a Baha'i, and informed them that this situation may take time to be resolved.

* At this point he [Finance Department] informed me I should write a letter to him with details of situation and meanwhile he would pay me through a check.

* On the same day, Mr. Ahmad Mahroos, responsible for GUC IDs came to my office accompanied by the Finance Department man and took my GUC ID and the ID of one other new staff member, stating that these two IDs need to be fixed. She received hers in 2 days time, but mine was never returned.

4- I delivered finger prints identification document on September 24th. My social security document was still being finalized.

5- On 26th September I received email dated 25th September, from the Head of HR [Human Resources] Mrs. Amira Bassim stating that GUC is terminating my employment on grounds that my legal documents are incomplete

6- On meeting with the Head of HR, I was informed that my employment is discontinued because my personal ID is invalid. I argued it is legally valid through the end of this year (2006) and that there is a court case regarding the issue of IDs for Baha'is and therefore there are no legal grounds for termination at this time.

7- At this point she made it clear, that this decision comes from "a higher authority." When I asked who, she said she didn't know but it could be national security and other higher authorities. She further stated that the University's position is sensitive and therefore they are unable to argue the decision. She also assured that this decision is not GUC's, and that the higher authorities did not approve my employment.

8- At the end of this meeting I was handed a pre-prepared letter of termination which I was asked to sign (see attached copy).

* These are the events that transpired to the best of my recollection and knowledge. Kindly take any actions that you see fit.

Best Regards,
Basem Wagdy.

Now back to the important development that occurred since:

a prominent member of the German Parliament, Mrs. Lale Akgün, issued a press release entitled "Lale Akgün: Angela Merkel [chancellor of Germany] shall engage for human rights of Baha'is in Egypt." Mrs. Akgün is originally from Turkey, she is the Islam Representative of the Social Democrats in Germany and well-known for her activism for women emancipation in Islam and for creating a modern face of Islam in Germany and Europe.

Chancellor of Germany Angela Merkel was scheduled to be in Egypt on a State visit early February.

In the press release Lale Akgün describes the case of Basem Wgady who was fired from GUC and the issue of ID cards in Egypt and challenges the chancellor to use her visit for this matter. She also says that equal treatment of members of the various religions in Egypt is also part of the peace process in the Near East.

The press release states the following (English translation):

The Cologne based Member of the Federal Parliament and Islam Representative of the Social Democrates is requesting the chancellor to engage during her travel to the Near East, among others to Egypt, for an improvement of the situation of the members of the Baha'i Faith.

As an example she forwarded information to the chancellor concerning a young physicist, who was dismissed from the German University of Cairo, because he was unable to present the required identity documents. The Baha'is are notoriously refused these documents, because religious affiliation is required, yet Baha'is are not recognized as religion.

In view of the just started German-Egyptian Year of Science the travel of the chancellor would be a good opportunity to discuss the situation of the Baha'is in Egypt.

"It is important, that also in Egypt the members of all religions receive equal treatment by the state and judiciary. A serious peace process in the Near East requires mutual acceptance and respect for other nationalities and religions in all concerned nations", says Lale Akgün, who is also deputy chair of the German delegation to the Euromediterranian Parliamentary Forum.

It is interesting to observe the reaction of German scholars and politicians to this injustice, particularly since it was perpetuated in a German institution located at another country. Egypt must realize however that violation of civil rights cannot be hidden, forgotten or tolerated as it has been in the past, and Egyptians must stand up for justice regardless of whether or not outside involvement is present.


  1. This is getting ridicules... there needs to be some sort of Ultimatum delivered by all the nations of the earth
    To the Governments of both IRAN and Egypt

    Either they allow all members of all faiths to FREELY practice their respective religions and protect the CIVIL RIGHTS of all inhabitants and citizens or face
    An ECONOMIC and CULTURAL EMBARGO.....I doubt that the members of the European Union has the GUTS to propose such a drastic action because now is the time for certain leaders to GROW A BACK BONE AND STAND UP FOR JUSTICE!!!!

    Or God knows what else can happen!!!

    Signed a concerned observer

  2. As sad the situation of the Baha'is in Egypt is, being denied their very existence let alone their freedom to worship without reprisal, there are many champions of freedom and supporters of the opressed! GUC's academics and administrators, the courageous parlementarian, and the President of Germany are such champions!

    May the light of justice shine over Egypt, and the light of knowledge emancipate it from the shackles of ignorance and intolerance! May Egypt become a model of understanding to the rest of the Islamic world!

  3. In the GUC website (www.guc.edu.eg/) under Academic Jobs, Section 2. states:

    2. Information about working at the GUC:
    The GUC is addressing highly qualified teaching staff from Germany, Egypt or other countries.
    Contracts are for three years with renewal perspective.
    Salaries are dependent on academic qualifications and professional experience.
    GUC is an equal opportunity employer.

    Further, under Section 4.
    4. Application procedure:
    Required documents:
     Detailed Curriculum Vitae
     Recent photo
     Copies of academic degrees and transcripts
     Statement of teaching interests (in few sentences please state the subjects you are interested in teaching and your teaching method)
     Statement of research interest (in few sentences please state your research interests)
     List of courses taught
     List of publications
     Reprints of not more than 2 publications
     Two professor references (name, title, postal and e-mail address, telephone number)

    No provision for national ID number is mentioned.

    The principal administrative positions are assigned to Egyptians; Chairman of the Board of Trustees, President of the University Council, and key University Patron, while key academic figures are of German nationality. There are also a number of somewhat vague designations occupied by Egyptian military and governmental entities. This is a common distribution whereby Egyptian authority and investments are defined and secured with disgard to professional or contractual provisions of affiliated institutions or conformance to common international convention. It may be doubtful that the final order to terminate Mr.Basem Wagdy’s employment originated from the internal administration of the GUC, however, with such a large number of Egyptian entities, many of whom have or are occupying governmental posts, there was definitely an instigator(s) who assisted or took the lead in carrying out this injustice. There are private companies and institutions that do not require the new ID card and some are sympathetic and particularly accommodating to those at a disadvantage. There are also a number of prominent German dignitaries noted as Patrons and are also on the Board of Trustees.

    This particular association between two separate (national) affiliated entities provides for a position whereby international jurisdiction may be effectively enforced. It is not an immediate process, however, if left to itself, Egypt will continue to degenerate and continue to find more intelligent ways to disguise its program of negligence and exploitation. The recent press release is an effective action on behalf of Mrs. Lale Akgun, and with additional effort specifically directed at the originators of the offence, the influence will weigh on the side of justice.

  4. Concerned Observer,
    Even though this may become the way things are done in the future, world governments are not ready to enforce such actions yet, but who knows...this may happen sooner than later!

    Optimistic Observer,
    It is promising indeed to see that there are people who have the courage to stand up for justice, even thoug the issues they are fighting for may not directly and personally affect them.

  5. R.A.,
    Thank you for your careful analysis of the facts.

  6. Thank you, Bilo, for sharing this important information.

  7. I hope you are correct because going to war is TOO EXPENSIVE of a price to pay for world order...

    I am hoping before it is too late that the worlds leaders realize that NOW is the time for some form of PLANET WIDE federal republic to bring order to the chaos that exists today

  8. Anonymous,
    Patience, wisdom and persistance...one needs to be careful not to be too hasty with such words....
    Remember this quote:

    "Not everything that a man knoweth can be disclosed, nor can everything that he can disclose be regarded as timely, nor can every timely utterance be considered as suited to the capacity of those who hear it."

    (Abdu'l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu'l-Baha, p. 269)

  9. Anonymous
    thanks bilo for reply to Anonymous & i am with u that we must keep hope in future & God always examine us & i consider that it is a great mercy to be for sometime under exame to start to think .: How i will continu my way ? how i can help other & how can i serve humanity althought all difficulties i faced in my life?, WE must be Patience & sure every thing will be solved & we will remember that in neer future. what we must to do now to melt the mountain of ice beteen us & the surrounding comunity. i hope to see the sun of truth shine ollaverthe globe

  10. Smile Rose,
    We can all learn a lot from your words and feelings because you are one of those who live in Egypt and you are the one who must deal with these unimaginable obstacles on a daily basis. May God continue to provide you with strength and patience....

  11. Hi Bilo,

    Late last night, I read the article regarding Basem Wagdy's case update. Today it is not in your blog. I wonder why.

    I thank you very much for your blog. It keeps me posted of what is heppening in my home country.

    I was fired twice when I lived in my country because I am Baha'i. My name was put in the black list so no employer would hire me. I had to immigrate to Canada. I had suffered and struggled to stay in my home country, but it did not work.

    I know how it feels to be dicriminated against because of ones beleif.

    My heart goes out to the Baha'is in Egypt and I pray for them, to stay strong, patient, united and to practice wisdom dealing with that harsh situation.

    As always, the crises are followed by victory. After the dark night, comes the dawn and the sun shines again. It just has to take the time set by the All-Mighty.

    We come out stronger after every test we go through.

    Basem, Shady and everybody else of the Baha'i friends in Egypt and Iran. I pray for you. Good luck.


  12. Nawal,
    The post you are referring to is back on.

    Thank you for your encouragement to the Egyptian Baha'is. Having gone through similar experiences, I know exactly how you feel....


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