Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Egyptian Baha'is Need to Wait Again for Court Ruling

Cairo's Court of Administrative Justice had a full docket today...all its twenty four cases got postponed!

Looking at the attached docket, it seems that almost every ministry and governmental agency is being sued by someone. Those attending in the court chamber appear to be a mix of individuals who are awaiting to receive some sort of closure on whatever cases they are litigating.

Of course, the Egyptian Baha'is, accompanied by a number of human rights activists and bloggers, are among those attending today's court session.

The following is a message received from one of those attending in court regarding the two cases litigated by the Egyptian Baha'is, described in this previous post. He explains what happened and why it did happen:

"Today was another disappointment...even though it was technically expected by the lawyers. The court postponed the cases to 13 November 2007 in light of the change of three of the judges of the court. October 1st is the date on which judges get shuffled around and promoted. When this happens while they are handling a case, it is technically expected that the case is presented again to the new panel of judges in the form of its final arguments and legal memoranda from both parties. If neither of the parties present any new arguments or documents there will be no retrial and the case remains in its pre-verdict state until 13 November."

What is not clearly understood is: since this change in judges is always expected to happen on the first of October, therefore it is a known fact that the court cannot rule on any cases during this period of time. Why then were these cases placed on the docket for final decisions when it was impossible to produce any such decisions? It appears to be a waste of time and expense for all those involved. It degrades people's emotions, sense of self-worth and dignity.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Egyptian Baha'is: Lawyer's Remarks Before Court Decision

The independent Egyptian daily newspaper "Al-Badeel" published an article in its today's edition regarding the two cases before Cairo's Court of Administrative Justice, scheduled for decision tomorrow, Tuesday, 30 October 2007.

The first case involves the twin 14-year-old Egyptian Baha'i children, Emad and Nancy Raouf Hindi. Their father is demanding the issuance of their Egyptian birth certificates; without which they are unable to attend school or partake in any official transactions.

The second case involves an Egyptian Baha'i university student who has been suspended because of his inability to obtain an ID card. The university mandates that students reaching the age of 16 must have military postponement certificates. In order to be granted such certification, a candidate must produce a valid computerized ID card. Currently, Baha'is in Egypt are prevented from obtaining ID cards.

The article, authored by Khaled Abdel-Rasoul, is titled: "after they have been deprived of education, treatment and work: the Baha'is Hold Their Breath Awaiting Tomorrow's Administrative Court Judgement."

It reports on an interview with attorney Adel Ramadan, who is specialized in freedom of religious belief at the Egyptian Initiative for Human Rights, which had filed the lawsuits on behalf of the Baha'is.

He states that their case is based on specific principles: one is "freedom of religious belief as mandated by the Supreme Constitutional Court [of Egypt]." It states that "no one can be forced to carry a religion that he does not believe in," and that "no one can be punished for believing in a religion that is not approved by the State."

Another important legal argument is "the right to equality for all," pointing to the fact that "Egyptians carrying dual citizenship are able to obtain ID cards that do not state religion on them."

He clarified that the Ministry of Interior's defense memorandum states: "an Egyptian not in possession of another citizenship is under the obligation to choose either Muslim or Christian [under religious classification on Id cards]. This response has astonished [puzzled] the court which demanded that the defense for the [Ministry of] Interior must produce an explanation, which, in turn, was unable to provide any explanation [to the court]."

Ramadan pointed to the fact that "Egyptians carrying other citizenship such as American, Canadian and others, have acquired ID cards and birth certificates for their children that do not contain 'Muslim or Christian' in the religion section." He used an Egyptian proverb that states "he who has a back, is never kicked in the stomach."

Attorney Ramadan anticipates that "the judgement, this time, will be in their [Baha'is] favor." Specifically because what is requested this time "is not to produce ID cards or birth certificates documenting that they are Baha'is," rather they are requesting that the religion section is left blank, or any other option that would assure that they do not enter incorrect information that is in violation of reality, and without being forced to commit "crime of forgery" according to the definition of the law.

He asserted that "they are basing their demands on their right to freedom of belief as guaranteed by the constitution and declared by the the Supreme Constitutional Court--that is equality between all Egyptians."

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights Prepares for Court

Two critical lawsuits concerning the Baha'is of Egypt will be ruled on by the Court of Administrative Justice in Cairo this coming Tuesday, 30 October 2007.

The Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR), a human rights organization led by Mr. Hossam Bahgat (pictured here), had filed these lawsuits on behalf of the Egyptian Baha'is.

In order to understand the background, the significance and the current status of these lawsuits, below is a Press Release published by the EIPR on 5 September, a day after the court had postponed its decision for the third time. The cases were also described in details in these previous posts.

It is hoped that the court will uphold its revered legal responsibility and duty to guarantee civil rights to all Egyptian citizens--including the Baha'is--as mandated by Egypt's constitution. Any lesser judgement would be in violation of all acceptable norms of justice, human rights and of the Egyptian law itself. Without identification documents, Egyptian Baha'is face dire consequences as they would be considered non-existent in their own homeland. These consequences have been already suffered by many since the enforcement of the 30 September 2007 deadline, by which all Egyptian citizens must have been in possession of the new computerized ID cards.

Here is the press release:

Right to Privacy Program
News Update - 5 September 2007

Court Decisions on Baha'i Egyptians Postponed to 30 October

The Court of Administrative Justice in Cairo decided yesterday to postpone to 30 October its decisions on two lawsuits addressing the rights of Baha'i Egyptians to basic identity documents and education.

The first lawsuit (no. 18354/58) involves the 14-year-old twins Imad and Nancy Rauf Hindi who remain unable to obtain the new computer-generated birth certificates unless they convert to Islam or Christianity. The father of the two children had obtained birth certificates for them when they were first born in 1993 recognizing their Baha'i religious affiliation, but new certificates carrying the national number (raqam qawmi) are mandatory and Baha'i children are unable to enroll in public schools without them.

In December 2006, the Supreme Administrative Court considered a similar lawsuit and found that the state had the right to deny Baha'i Egyptians identity documents recognizing their Baha'i religious affiliation. Accordingly, last January the lawyers of the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR) modified the requested remedies in the Hindi case so that the issue currently before the Court of Administrative Justice is whether Baha'i Egyptians have a right to obtain documents without any religious affiliation and without being forced to falsely identify as Muslim or Christian.

The second lawsuit (no. 12780/61) was filed by the 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 recognizing his Baha'i faith. Baha'i students in post-secondary education often face suspension or expulsion because of their failure to obtain ID cards or military service postponement papers.

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.

All rights reserved © Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights
e-mail: eipr@eipr.org

Monday, October 22, 2007

Toronto Star on the Baha'i Faith

In its 22 October 2007 edition, the Toronto Star published an informative and objective article on the Baha'i Faith. Among other historical facts, the article reports on the reasons for the presence of the Baha'i world headquarters in Haifa, Israel as follows:

"Of all the places on Earth that might have been chosen as world headquarters for this 160-year-old faith, why did the Baha'i wind up here, on a mountainside overlooking the busiest seaport of the globe's only Jewish state?

'This,' replies Douglas Moore, the church's public relations director in Haifa, 'is where He was a prisoner.'

Moore is referring to Baha' Alla – Arabic for The Glory of God – a Persian nobleman who was born in 1817 in what is now Iran and who went on to become the founder and guiding spirit of the Baha'i faith.

Hounded by the political authorities of the day, Baha' Alla spent most of his life in exile and eventually found himself imprisoned with his family in Akko, now a beach resort north of Haifa. Then it was a filthy, desolate penal colony, a remote outpost of the Ottoman Empire.

Once freed, Baha' Alla instructed his son and successor to build a mausoleum on the slopes of Mount Carmel and there bury the remains of the Bab, another Persian religious figure, who had foretold the appearance of Baha' Alla before being executed in Persia in 1850."

To read the entire story, please click here....

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

An Egyptian Journalist's View on Tolerance

[Translator’s notes appear in square brackets [ ].]

An Egyptian Baha'i, Mrs. Wafá’ Hindi Halim, sent an email to Dr. Khalid Montasser (a medical doctor and writer for a number of newspapers, including Sawt Al-Umma; to express her sorrow that the fabric of Egyptian society should constitute only two religions, Islam and Christianity; she asks him how their society can reach the goal of accepting “the other” and briefly explains the plight of Egyptian Baha’is. Dr. Montasser has responded by writing this article, which was published by the independent weekly Egyptian newspaper Sawt El-Umma [Voice of the Nation] on 3 September, 2007. The headline reads:

A letter from a Baha’i citizen: we suffer a moral killing and a civilian death

Underneath the picture of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, a lead-line by Dr. Montasser reads:

My acceptance of a Baha’i is [reflects] confidence in myself as a Muslim

The author introduces Mrs. Halim’s letter as follows: “We will not enter civilization or take part in any progress unless we memorize, comprehend and apply this word which was sculpted by Europeans; a word which we translated only in form and assassinated its meaning. The word is TOLERANCE; tolerance and acceptance of the other. We need to understand that the universe is not only for us; that my existence is not necessarily tied to another’s extinction; that the secret of my strength, as a Muslim, is confidence in myself and not fear and mistrust of the other. The concept of two pavilions, one for believers and one for infidels, is an old, out-worn understanding which has been overtaken by civilization; the concept of citizenship must reign and not be set aside. We have to deal with Baha’is through these understandings; no matter how much we disagree with them, they do have the right to life. Society has killed them, morally, when it deprived them of the identification card, birth certificate, death certificate, appointing a lawyer, etc. It is a crime of Nazi-style annihilation that future history—for assuredly progress will be victorious—will not forgive. They [the Baha’is] are not a terrorist organization, they are just ideologically different; this is their only crime. Let us read together the letter from the Baha’i citizen—or rather, non-citizen—Wafá’ Hindi Halim....” [her letter to Dr. Montasser , in which she quotes part of a statement by a civic group calling itself “Egyptians against discrimination”, is then printed in its entirety.]

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

President Mubarak Calls for Religious Discourse & Tolerance

In a speech posted today on Egypt State Information Service, President Hosni Mubarak "renewed his call for an innovative and elevated religious discourse that concentrates on the essence of the faith, spreads the values of moderation and tolerance and rejects extremism and bigotry."

The headline states: "Mubarak calls for renewal of religious discourse to disseminate the Islamic values of moderation & tolerance and to encircle extremism."

The report concludes with the following: "He said that Egypt is determined to build for its people, both Muslims and Copts, a better future that brings about progress and prosperity to them all. Egypt's people are united and will always remain so, he asserted."

"'We will remain committed to our slogan 'Religion is for God and the Nation is for all'. And we will also remain committed to calls for dialogue among people of different civilizations and faiths, he said noting that the world needs such a serious dialogue that is based on mutual respect and interests and common humanitarian principles for a future world that enjoys peace, amity, stability and justice."

To read the entire report, please click here....

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Tribute to the Suffering Baha'is of Iran!

This Poignant Baha'i prayer, revealed in Arabic by Baha'u'llah, was chanted by the stirring voices of the Persian Baha'i youth of Shiraz.

Such inspiring words epitomize the purity of the Baha'i Faith.

Friday, October 05, 2007

Hezbu'llah Publicly Warns Baha'is of Iran

In its valiant efforts, the Muslim Network for Baha'is Rights (TMNBR) continues its unabated defense of the Baha'is in every land where they face persecution.

One of the most recent examples of bringing to light these atrocities, TMNBR reported on another form of intimidation that was publicized by the extremist group "Ummat Hezbu'llah" [people of God’s party].

The following is the full text of the post published on TMNBR:

Hezbu’llah’s warning to Baha’is
October 1st, 2007 by Admin II

The psychological pressure against the Baha’is of Iran reached a new height of hostility recently when on 7 Sept 2007 a public declaration was posted in Najaf-Abad (near Isfahan) from a certain “Ummat Hezbu’llah” [people of God’s party].

This declaration is titled “the first warning”, and begins by calling on “elements of prostituted Baha’is”, “spies of world domination” and “foreign traitors.”

It reads in part: “You thought that we would allow the country of the Imam Zaman [the Imam of the Age] to be a safe haven for you to propagate empty and void ideas authored by western imperialism, and like the idol-worshiping regime of Pahlavi, once again, for you to
suck the blood of people and seize control of the nation’s economy.”

It continues, “For as long as the blood of [Imam] Husayn flows through our veins and hope of appearance of the illustrious Lord of the Age remains in our minds, we, the Hezbu’llah, will not allow the elements of the fifth column, who are enemies of Islam and Muslims, to arise and plunder and destroy our Islamic and Iranian beliefs and culture.”

Then there’s this curious statement: “On numerous times we have asked the authorities to stop you, the traitors! However, apparently, they do not have a hearing ear.”

It seems through this statement the perpetrators are attempting to portray their anti-Baha’i activities as non-governmental and representing the will of the people.

This warning-poster concludes with an ominous statement that if the Baha’is do not remain quiet and silent, there will be “another round.” This is a coded message meaning blood of Baha’is will flow.

It is also important to note that the stamp of the local judiciary of Najaf-Abad is on this warning.

A few days after this posting, using heavy equipments and bulldozers, the Baha’i cemetery of Najaf-Abad was completely destroyed, even trees were uprooted. This heinous crime follows a similar wave that took place in Yazd some weeks earlier. And a similar poster was given to
the Baha’is of Vilashahr.

On the same subject, a very touching video was just published on YouTube at this link.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007