Thursday, June 28, 2007

Rising Interest in the Egyptian Baha'i Struggle

The award-winning "Global Voices Online" website has been following closely, in its recent publications, Egypt's Baha'i story.

It has been also reporting on several other pressing human rights issues in Egypt. This site is world-embracing and is hosted by several prominent media experts.

The most recent report can be seen here. Another story published by Global Voices Online regarding the banned documentary film on the Baha'is of Egypt can be seen here.

Also, the leading "Egyptian Blogs Aggregator" site now hosts a link on its Custom List section that includes several Baha'i blogs, links and official sites. This link can be seen here.

Another site named "ME Faith", which is sponsored by a diverse group of Middle East youth, has been following the Baha'i story with earnest. This group, of mostly youth of Muslim, Jewish and Christian backgrounds, promotes tolerance and acceptance. It also calls for peaceful resolution to all political, social, ethnic and religious conflicts afflicting the Middle East and holding back its progress. The site can be viewed here.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Baha'is of Egypt: Update on One of the Lawsuits

Please see this post published on 2 July 2007 at "Seeking Justice" regarding the 3 July court case.

In a previous post, the case of the twin children of Dr. Raouf Hindy Halim was discussed in details. This case was on the court's docket on 7 May 2007 when it was postponed again to be heard in the upcoming 3 July 2007 administrative court session for a decision. The 14-year-old Egyptian twin children continue to try to thrive without Egyptian birth certificates.

The attached newspaper article, republished previously on this blog, states: ...the children's parents and grandparents are Egyptian. Even after the passing of more than three years of court battles, Dr. Raouf has not been able to obtain birth certificates for his children. Since Egypt’s Supreme Administrative Court has prevented Bahá’ís from documenting their religion as “Bahá’í” in the religion section on all official documents—in violation of citizenship rights to freedom of belief—Dr. Raouf in collaboration with a team of attorneys, was forced to amend his request to insert dashes or leave the religion section vacant on his children’s birth certificates.

Dr. Raouf Hindy said that this amended request was caused by the fact that he must not be forced to insert incorrect statements in official documents [that is if he enters one of the three allowed religions]...if he did so, it would have given rise to more forgers and liars in the society. He stated that his elder son (the brother of the twins) is in possession of an Egyptian birth certificate with a dash inserted in place of religion, that is why he is requesting that his twin children (Emad and Nancy) be treated in the same way.

Of note, children in Egypt that are not in possession of an Egyptian birth certificate cannot attend public schools.

The website of the Baha'i International Community, which provides up-to-date information on the Egyptian Baha'i case, stated the following in its May 2007 update:

Recent court rulings in Egypt have highlighted the dire human rights situation facing the Bahá'í community there. The rulings in turn have touched off a significant debate between human rights organizations and major Islamic groups about freedom of religion and belief.

Deprived of all rights as an organized religious community since 1960, Egyptian Bahá'ís are facing an immediate crisis over government efforts to deny them all-important identification cards. The ID cards are required by law and are essential for access to employment, education, and medical and financial services, as well as freedom of movement and security of property.
(View August 2005 Report by the Bahá'í International Community)

At the heart of the current situation is a government policy that forces Bahá'ís to either lie about their religion and illegally falsify their religious affiliation—or go without ID cards, which currently require that a person choose either Islam, Christianity, or Judaism, which are the three officially recognized religions in Egypt.

The crisis facing the Bahá'í community gained international attention after a 4 April 2006 ruling by a three-judge Administrative Court which held that Government efforts to deprive Bahá'ís of ID cards were illegal, and upheld the right of the Bahá'í plaintiffs to state their religion on official documents.
(View Court Ruling: English/Arabic)

While Egyptian human rights groups immediately hailed the decision, conservative Islamic organizations—including scholars at Al Azhar University and representatives of the Muslim Brotherhood—urged the government to file an appeal. Media attention on the case has been intense, and more than 400 articles, stories, commentaries and programs have appeared in the Egyptian and Arabic news media about the case or its fallout since the initial ruling.

On 16 December, the Supreme Administrative Court upheld the government’s position in the case, issuing an 11-page ruling that focused largely on the theology of the Bahá'í Faith rather than on legal issues surrounding the rights of Bahá'ís to be treated like other Egyptians citizens under international law.
(View the Supreme Administrative Court Ruling: Arabic/English)

The controversy promises to continue unabated, despite the Supreme Administrative Court’s ruling. A number of groups, inside and outside of Egypt, have continued to raise questions about the situation of Egyptian Bahá'ís. In March, for example, the US State Department released its annual human rights report, and the section on Egypt noted that members of the Bahá'í Faith have "experienced personal and collective hardship" in the absence of religious freedom for them.

As well, several other legal cases concerning ID cards for Bahá'ís are working their way through Egypt’s administrative court system. One such case, for example, concerns a twin brother and sister who have been denied birth certificates, necessary for enrollment in school, because their parents refuse to falsely identify them as Muslims. Lawyers working on their behalf have asked the courts for a ruling that would allow them merely to leave the religious affiliation field blank, or to adopt some similar measure. The next hearing on that case has been set for 3 July 2007.

Here follows a chronology of events since last April, when the ground-breaking ruling by the administrative court brought widespread attention to the situation of Egyptian Bahá'ís and their struggle for religious freedom. Cont....

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Banned Film Gets Prominent Media Coverage in Egypt

Yesterday, 16 June 2007, AlMasry AlYoum Egyptian newspaper reported on the banning of a documentary film that has exposed the human rights crisis facing the Baha'is of Egypt.

The article, written by Muhammad Abd El-Khaleq Mussahel, states the following:

Banning of Documentary Film Regarding the Baha'is in Egypt

[State] Security authorities banned the release of a new documentary film regarding the Baha'is in Egypt. It prevented attempts of spreading its viewing and advertising it. The forbidden film is entitled "Identity Crisis Between My Religion or My Country: The Baha'i Quagmire in Egypt."

The Film's promotional clips, which were posted on the
"Baha'i Faith in Egypt" site, begin with a thickly bearded man, referred to in the film as one of the opposing Islamist lawyers, who was present at the 16 December 2006 session of the [Supreme] Administrative Court that issued a ruling against the Baha'is. This was when [he] was talking about the special punishment reserved for those that tarnish the land, requesting its application on the Baha'is, represented in death, Crucifixion, amputating their hands and legs, or exiling [them from earth].

Following the publication of this newspaper article, several sites reported on its content, including "U.S. Copts Association" and "Misryon [Egyptians] Against Religious Discrimination (MARED)."

The promotion for the film, produced by the independent documentary film maker, Ahmed Ezzat, which was posted previously on 6 June 2007, is included again below. As soon as the entire film becomes available, an announcement to that effect will be posted here.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Canada an Advocate for the Baha'is of Iran & Egypt

A recent article published on the website of "the Baha'i Community of Canada", on 30 April 2007, describes a recent meeting between two officials representing the Canadian Baha'i Community and the Honourable Peter MacKay, Canada's Minister of Foreign Affairs, regarding the critical situation currently facing the Baha'is of Iran and Egypt. The Canadian Community's website is linked here, and a copy of the article is reprinted below:

Bahá'í representatives meet with Foreign Affairs Minister on serious situation in Iran and Egypt

OTTAWA, ON, 30 April 2007 (CBNS) -- The Honourable Peter MacKay, Canada's Minister of Foreign Affairs, met with two Bahá'í representatives on 16 April 2007 to discuss the deteriorating situation of the Bahá'ís in Iran and Egypt.

Karen McKye, Secretary-General of the Bahá'í Community of Canada, and Susanne Tamas, Director of the Bahá'í community's Office of Governmental Relations, briefed the Minister on recent developments that point to systematic attempts on the part of Iranian and Egyptian authorities to suppress the rights of their countries' Bahá'í communities.

The meeting followed on efforts by local Bahá'í representatives in the past year to inform their Members of Parliament of the accumulating evidence of the Iranian government's strategy to slowly suffocate its country's largest religious minority.

Recent developments include actions on the part of Iranian officials to expel the few Bahá'í students registered to attend university this year (see story), the harassment of Iranian Bahá'í schoolchildren in classrooms (see story), and a ruling by Egypt's Supreme Administrative Court that makes it impossible for Bahá'ís to receive identification cards without lying about their faith (see story).

These development follow in turn on other indicators of increased persecution to the Bahá'í community of Iran, including short-term arrests (see story), the official listing and monitoring of Bahá'ís and their activities (see story), and a wave of spurious attacks on the Bahá'í Faith in government-controlled media (see story).

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Yet Another Documentary Film on Egyptian Baha'is

Al Fanar for Media Production, an Egyptian commercial film company has just completed a full feature documentary, in Arabic, on the Baha'is of Egypt. This objective film, entitled "Baha'is and Egyptians" deals with the principles of the Baha'i Faith, its origin, its history and introduction into Egypt, as well as all the challenges it faced in that land. It also investigates and reports the recent crisis facing the Egyptian Baha'is, being deprived of government-issued ID cards, with the punitive consequences affecting their daily living. The film also covers in great detail the Baha'i teachings for humanity, its laws and its independent distinguishing features.

An obviously somber short promo for the film is posted below. It depicts the sense of suffering and oppression currently experienced by the Egyptian Baha'is. In it, one can see some Egyptian Baha'is chanting a prayer in dignity, clips of interviews with individual Baha'is, with some who support them and with some of those who oppose and insult the Baha'is of Egypt. It ends with an Egyptian Baha'i praying in the privacy of his home.

In spite of the oppression, these citizens clearly remain firm in their belief and resolute in their determination to ultimately obtain all the rights due to them, according to the guarantees of Egypt's constitution.

As soon as information on how to obtain the full feature film (DVD) become available, it will be posted here.

The Promotional segment can also be seen here....

Monday, June 11, 2007

UC Berkeley: Resolution on Human Rights in Egypt

The ground breaking legal blog "Seeking Justice" has just published a post entitled "UC Berkeley Graduate Assembly Passes Resolution About Human Rights in Egypt."

The post reads, In May of 2007, the UC Berkeley Graduate Assembly passed a resolution expressing serious concern regarding the denial of basic human rights to religious minorities in Egypt. In a letter to the Ambassador of Egypt to the UN, the president of the Graduate Assembly, Mr. Joshua R. Daniels, writing on behalf of the graduate students, expressed its hope that “the government of Egypt, a signatory to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, will afford all its citizenry the basic civil rights all people deserve, including the right to education, irrespective of religion.” The text of the letter is included below:

Dear Mr. Ambassador:

I write to inform you that the Graduate Assembly at the University of California, Berkeley recently passed a resolution expressing its deep concern regarding the situation facing religious minorities in Egypt.

It has come to our attention that religious minorities in Egypt, due to their inability to obtain state ID cards, are denied access to rights of basic citizenship, including the right to education. Since Egypt requires all citizens to list their religious affiliation on state ID cards only offers three officially recognized religions—Islam, Christianity or Judaism—as options, members of religious minorities, including members of the Bahá’í community, are effectively forced to go without ID cards. These ID cards are the key to accessing most rights of citizenship such as education.

The Graduate Assembly, in support of all graduate students in Egypt, extends its hopes that the government of Egypt, a signatory to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, will afford all its citizenry the basic civil rights all people deserve, including the right to education, irrespective of religion.


Joshua R. Daniels, President of the Graduate Assembly

This is indeed a righteous and courageous call for justice issued by the graduate assembly of the University of California Berkeley, a preeminent educational institution that is known for its tradition of academic superiority and activism in favour of free and just society.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Just Released: Documentary Film on Baha'is of Egypt

An independent Egyptian film maker, named Ahmed Ezzat, has just released a documentary on the struggle of the Egyptian Baha'is. The film, banned by the Egyptian authorities, is entitled "Identity Crisis [My Religion or My Country]: The Baha'i Quagmire in Egypt."

Below is the promotional segment for the film. The fully bearded man at the start of the promo was one of the hostile Islamist attorneys present at the 16 December 2006 Supreme Administrative Court session which ruled against the Baha'is. Others in the promo, in addition to a couple of Baha'is, are: prominent sympathetic bloggers and human rights activists, and another Islamist calling for killing the Baha'is. Details as to how to acquire the film in its entirety will follow.

Award winning Global Voices Online picks up the story here....

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Egyptian Blogger & Activist Releases Video on Human Rights

The well-known Egyptian blogger and human rights activist Nora Younis has just published a video regarding human rights violations in Egypt (produced by free kareem campaign). The video also specifically referred to the imprisonment and torture of bloggers and the violation of religious freedoms of the Baha'is in Egypt, giving the example of Baha'is paying taxes but deprived of their rights. She published the video on this site and this site. You may also view the video here as well.