Thursday, September 06, 2007

Egypt: the "Other" Lawsuit that Got Postponed

Cairo's Court of Administrative Justice dealt with another lawsuit regarding a Baha'i youth on the 4th of September. It, too, had the same fate as the twins' case: it got postponed until the 30 October 2007 court session.

This second lawsuit (no. 12780/61) was filed by the the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR) last February on behalf of Hosni Hussein Abdel-Massih, born in 1989, who was suspended from the Suez Canal University's Higher Institute of Social Work due to his inability to obtain an identity card because he is a Baha'i. It is quite common now for Baha'i students in post-secondary education in Egypt to face suspension or expulsion because of their failure to obtain ID cards or military service postponement papers.

Hosni Hussein had already passed his final examinations after completing his first year at the university but was not promoted to the second year, as he is entitled to, and was suspended from the university. In order for Egyptian students to complete their university education without interruption, they are required to produce a military draft postponement document that would permit them to complete their education. One cannot obtain a military draft number without being issued a national ID number and a national ID card. Since this Baha'i student, and many others, are being denied a national ID number because of their religion, they are unable to obtain a military draft number, thus cannot continue their university matriculation. The only option they have left is to lie about their religion and enter one of Egypt's recognized three (Islam, Christianity or Judaism) in order to obtain an ID card. The ID application form clearly states that any false statements will be punishable by imprisonment and heavy fines.

Interestingly this case has been coupled with the twins case in the same court through one postponement after the other. Meanwhile this student (Hosni) awaits his fate sitting at home with his education on hold.

One can read the full story of this case as well as the twins' case in a press release, dated 5 September 2007, by the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR) in English at this link and in Arabic at this link.

The press release concludes with this statement:
"The Egyptian government has a legal obligation to protect citizens from religious discrimination and coercion under the Constitution as well as international and regional treaties it ratified, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights. The government is also obliged to protect the right to education without distinction on any basis, including religion or belief, under the African Charter, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and the Convention on the Rights of the Child."


  1. History will cast a shameful shadow on the presiding judge for letting such cases even come to court!
    "Justice" in Egypt seems to have lost her blindfold.... The laws that are supposed to protect ALL citizens are applied haphazardly at the whim of a few. Without ID cards the Baha'is have none of the rights that the country owes its citizens, why then should they be expected to follow the rule of law? I am sure that if any of these people commited a crime the same judge that is denying their ID card would swiftly punish them according to "THE LAW".
    Justice is a two way street, duties and rights go hand in hand

  2. Very insightful (with a blindfold)! Your comment sheds much light on the true meaning of justice.

  3. In 1942, few months after the fall of Granada, the Spanish monarchs accused Jews of trying "to subvert our holy Catholic faith and trying to draw faithful Christians away from their beliefs." All Jews were ordered to leave the kingdom by "the end of July of this year." Punishment for a Jew who did not flee was death.

    Some of these Spanish Jews decided to convert to Catholicism to escape expulsion; but still they faced the hostility of the Inquisition. Many of those Spanish Jews fled to Portugal. Here, some years latter, they were forced to convert to Catholicism, unless they left the country.

    In face of what we read today about the situation of Baha’is in Egypt we may well wonder if the Middle Age mentality prevails in the minds of Egyptian authorities. It seems their message to Baha’is is: "Convert to Islam or leave the country!"

  4. Unfortunately only a few learn from the past.

    Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it.
    George Santayana

  5. True religion can stand on its own, there is no need to protect it from "outside influences". People have always been able to recognize "good" when they see it, no matter what the religion's name is. When those in charge distort the meaning of a particular religion the "good" disappears and people feel the need to look for it somewhere else. The country might expell a few but it does not address the real problem nor does it solve it.

  6. Thanks for keeping up with this, it's good to see that the Baha'is are not backing down in the face of opposition. Someday the dawn will break in that country and the Baha'is will have their freedom.

  7. The question, again, is what to do when the authorities who are charged to maintain law and order are themselves the very violators of that trust. Years have passed, and the oppression increases. At present, what few exceptions left remaining to the requirement of the new ID card have been removed, and the most basic and vital services are inaccessible to the Baha'is. Human life is not to be the plaything of the oppressor, or the lab rat of the incompetent. In this case, it is both. Time is not a luxury, neither is patience the resolution. The hands of the criminal must be stayed. It is clear and conclusive. The question would be, what is the plan of action, and when is the deadline for its implementation?

  8. r.a.,
    As you have expressed, these problems will not simply go away on their own. Their solution lies in ongoing and concerted efforts at many levels and via a variety of avenues.


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