Monday, March 31, 2008

Egypt's NCHR Releases its Annual Report on Human Rights

Egypt's National Council for Human Rights (NCHR), the government-appointed human rights organization, has just released its fourth annual report and recommendations to Egypt's government.

Among the many recommendations, it requested that it is important for the government to allow the entry of "Baha'i" as one of the choices in the religion field on ID cards.

The announcement of the report was published today in Egypt's official national newspaper Al-Akhbar [The News] in its edition, dated 31 March 2008.

Dr. Ahmed Kamal Abul-Magd, Vice-President of the Council was quoted in this article as he elaborated on several issues related to the status of human rights in Egypt.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Cairo's Baha'is Celebrate in a Park

In an unprecedented coverage, one of Egypt's major newspapers reported in its front page on some of the Baha'is of Cairo celebrating their new year in one of the city's parks.

Al-Masry Al-Youm newspaper, in its 27 March 2008 issue, published an article on the Baha'is celebrating the end of their annual fast and the advent of their new year on the 21st of March. The article was accompanied by a photograph of the group of families gathered in Maryland public park of Cairo. A follow-up article addressing the misleading subtitle was published here on 29 March.

The newspaper reported that the Baha'is were free to celebrate and that the celebration was not interfered with by the state security. It also mentioned that during the celebration, called Naw Ruz, they read from their Holy Book, after which each family returns to its home and resume its usual devotions.

Baha'is in the Park (Cairo, 21 March)

The following paragraphs regarding the Baha'i Fast are quoted from the website of the Baha'i International Community:

As has been the case with other revealed religions, the Bahá'í Faith sees great value in the practice of fasting as a discipline for the soul . Bahá'u'lláh designated a nineteen-day period each year when adult Bahá'ís fast from sunrise to sunset each day. This period coincides with the Bahá'í month of Ala (meaning Loftiness), from March 2 to 20, inclusive. This is the month immediately preceding the Bahá'í new year, which occurs the day of the vernal equinox; and the period of fasting is therefore viewed as a time of spiritual preparation and regeneration for a new year's activities. Women who are nursing or pregnant, the aged, the sick, the traveler, those engaged in heavy labor, as well as children under the age of fifteen, are exempt from observance of the Fast.

"The fasting period, which lasts nineteen days starting as a rule from the second of March every year and ending on the twentieth of the same month, involves complete abstention from food and drink from sunrise till sunset. It is essentially a period of meditation and prayer, of spiritual recuperation, during which the believer must strive to make the necessary readjustments in his inner life, and to refresh and reinvigorate the spiritual forces latent in his soul. Its significance and purpose are, therefore, fundamentally spiritual in character. Fasting is symbolic, and a reminder of abstinence from selfish and carnal desires."
Fasting is the cause of awakening man. The heart becomes tender and the spirituality of man increases. This is produced by the fact that man's thoughts will be confined to the commemoration of God, and through this awakening and stimulation surely ideal advancements follow... Fasting is of two kinds, material and spiritual. The material fasting is abstaining from food or drink, that is, from the appetites of the body. But spiritual, ideal fasting is this, that man abstain from selfish passions, from negligence and from satanic animal traits. Therefore, material fasting is a token of the spiritual fasting. That is: 'O God! As I am fasting from the appetites of the body and not occupied with eating and drinking, even so purify and make holy my heart and my life from aught else save Thy Love, and protect and preserve my soul from self-passions... Thus may the spirit associate with the Fragrances of Holiness and fast from everything else save Thy mention.'
It must be said that this example represents the true face of Egypt, and not the other face that is occasionally promoted by extremist elements. Egypt, by nature, can be quite tolerant and open to various beliefs and points of view. Peaceful Egyptian citizens, regardless of their religious affiliation, deserve to be always treated with dignity and respect and to enjoy their full citizenship rights. The Baha'is of Egypt are still awaiting the issue of ID cards, birth certificates and all other required official documents.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Egyptian Baha'i Student on TV

You may watch Cairo's TV program which was referred to in the previous post regarding the Egyptian Baha'i student (Kholoud), who was ultimately allowed to sit for her high school final exams. The program's title is "the Egyptian Street."

Her case is being presented and defended by a prominent Egyptian journalist, Mr. Nabil Omar, who is the vice-president of Egypt's Al-Ahram newspaper. Mr. Omar is not a Baha'i.

Section (1)

Section (2)

Friday, March 21, 2008

Egypt's Ministry of Education Allows Baha'i Student into Exams

As the Baha'is of the world celebrate today the end of their yearly "fast" and the advent of their new year, the case of Kholoud, the young Egyptian student who was--because of belonging to the Baha'i religion--prevented from registering for her exams by the head of "Examination Control" in Cairo, captured the outrage of the Ministry of Education as well as the public opinion in Egypt.

As a result, Egypt's Ministry of Education overruled the administrator's decision and allowed Kholoud admission to the examination process for graduation from high school. Dr. Rida Abou Sareeyh, First Deputy Minister of Education, confirmed the right of Kholoud to admission to the examination. And that the initial decision to deprive Kholoud of her right to the exam had neither legal nor procedural basis.

Kholoud during a TV interview (Cairo)

Kholoud's colleagues in her school were also outraged by the decision of the "head of control" describing his behavior as "prejudiced." The entire student body was taken back by the way Kholoud was treated and they stated that she was wronged by that decision. They indicated that "no one has the right to interfere with another's religion." One of the students stated that they all knew that Kholoud is a Baha'i and that they all admire her, love her and respect her. They were indeed shocked by the way she was treated by this administrator.

The school's headmaster and teachers were also highly supportive of Kholoud's case and promised her father that they will ensure the prompt procession of her application and acceptance into the examination process.

This case garnered extensive media coverage, including a major television interview and newspaper coverage in Cairo's Al-Badeel and Egypt's semi-official Al-Ahram newspapers.

Officials in the Ministry of Education described the behavior of the administrator as "his own doing and not--in any way--in accordance with the policies of the Ministry." Based on the recent (29 January 2008) administrative court decision allowing the Baha'is of Egypt the right to obtain official documents, the Ministry of Education resolved the matter by asking Kholoud to fill-out another application form with dashes "--" entered in the religion field of the application.

On another front, since Cairo's Court of Administrative Justice decision to allow the Baha'is of Egypt to leave the religion field on official documents vacant, or to enter dashes "--" or "other" instead of identifying their religion, several Egyptian Baha'is attempted to obtain ID cards. In all cases, they were asked to return in ten days. When they returned as requested, they were told again to return in ten days! Thus far no Baha'is in Egypt have been issued ID cards since the court's verdict.

To this date, the Ministry of Interior has not shown any intention of appealing the administrative court's verdict to the Supreme Administrative Court of Egypt.

It is indeed refreshing to note that, unlike Iran's treatment of its Baha'i religious minority, Egypt is quite different--and one can be sure that it will remain so--not because of its sense of responsibility towards its citizens and towards the rest of the free world, but because of its basic nature as a civilized society that cannot overstep certain boundaries in human relations and decency.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Egypt: a Student Denied Entry to Exams Because of Her Religion

The Egyptian newspaper Al-Badeel reported today on a high school student who was prevented from sitting for her final graduating examinations simply because of being a Baha'i.

Kholoud Hafez Abdou is a 17 years old Egyptian student who, like all other students in her stage of education, must sit for the final exams that allow her to graduate from high school and enter university education.

Students are required to enter their religion on the application form necessary for admission to the examination. Based on the documentation in her birth certificate, Kholoud entered "Baha'i." The high school system's admissions administrator located in the central office rejected her application because she entered "Baha'i" and prevented her from sitting for her final exams.

Kholuod was even willing to be examined in "Islam" under the subject of "religion." However, when the administrator was informed of such by the student's father, the administrator simply stated: "if you are not a Muslim, I have nothing to do with you and your daughter will be deprived from entering the examination."

The instructions given for filling-out the application form clearly state that all information must be accurately & truthfully entered, and any deviation from that would invalidate the application and would be regarded as forgery. The officials, however, demanded that the only way for Kholoud to be allowed entry to the exams is that if she enters "Muslim" under religious affiliation, thus asking her to lie if she wants to be examined.

The 29 January 2008 administrative court decision allows the Baha'is to enter "other", "--" or leave the religion field on official documents vacant. Based on the court's ruling, Baha'is of Egypt cannot be forced to lie about their religion on official documents.

The student is now in a state of shock. Her future is placed "on hold" simply because she is being truthful. Is this what Egypt wants for her emerging young generation? That is: teaching them to be dishonest and untruthful if they want to advance in their education!

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Decree-263 and the Persecution of Egyptian Baha'is (Part-3)

In the previous two episodes, posted here and here, the impact of Presidential Decree-263 on the Baha'is of Egypt was reviewed. In this post, cited from the Baha'i International Community, one of the primary intentions of the decree was meant to incite hatred against the Baha'is, harass them and and inflame public opinion towards them. Future episodes will illustrate some concrete examples of the consequences of such strategy.

Incitement to Hatred

Although Egypt's secular Government is not formally bound by traditional Islamic law under the Constitution, it has nevertheless apparently paid close attention to the fatwas issued by the Islamic hierarchy.

Supreme Council of Islamic Affairs (al-Azhar, Cairo, Egypt)

The source of many of the fatwas and statements against the Bahá'ís is the Islamic Research Academy at Al-Azhar Unversity, which, as noted, issued the 15 December 2003 fatwa, along with numerous others. Often containing a profuse amount of erroneous information about the history, teachings and practices of the Bahá'í Faith, these fatwas and statements essentially boil down to a venomous portrayal of the Faith as a heretical "false creed," while characterizing its followers as "unclean," "infidels," and/or "immoral." Some of the fatwas also wrongly connect the Faith with Zionism and/or colonialism — buzzwords that seem calculated to incite hatred.

Members of the Academy of Islamic Research of the Al-Azhar University are government appointees, whose salaries come out of the public purse, thus giving these fatwas tacit official approval.

While Bahá'ís cannot presume to know the precise motivation for such attacks, they believe that they stem in large part from the characteristic sense of misunderstanding and fear that often occurs when a new religion emerges from the matrix of a well established orthodoxy. It is a pattern that has been repeated through the ages; virtually all of the world's great religions have faced intense persecution in their early years.

Central to Bahá'í belief is the idea that God has progressively revealed religious truth to humanity through a series of Divine Messengers, each of Whom has founded a great religion.

These Messengers have included Abraham, Krishna, Zoroaster, Moses, Buddha, Jesus and Muhammad; the most recent of such Messengers is Bahá'u'lláh (1817-1892), who lived in Iran, Iraq, Turkey, and Palestine.

The idea that there should be new Messengers of God after Muhammad is viewed by many Muslims as heresy. In the Qur'an, Muhammad referred to Himself as the "Seal of the Prophets," and most Muslim scholars interpret this to mean that He would be the last Messenger of God. Many of the Egyptian fatwas make reference to this point — albeit with much irrational vituperation against the Bahá'í view.

Bahá'ís, however, believe that the teachings of Bahá'u'lláh pose no contradiction to Islamic teachings or those of any of the other revealed religions. Bahá'ís understand that Muhammad ended or "sealed" the prophetic cycle. Then, in fulfillment of the promise found in all of the world's religions for a long anticipated era of peace and enlightenment, Bahá'u'lláh brought new teachings suitable for the creation of a peaceful and prosperous global civilization.

Further, Bahá'u'lláh advocated a series of progressive social principles. These include: equality between women and men; the elimination of all forms of prejudice; recognition of the essential oneness of the world's great religions; the elimination of extremes of poverty and wealth; universal education; the independent investigation of truth; the harmony of science and religion; and the establishment of a world federal system, based on collective security and the oneness of humanity.

As well, some fundamentalist Muslims find the progressive nature of these teachings, such as the equality of the sexes and the harmony of science and religion, as antithetical to Islam.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Egypt 2008: US Releases its Annual Human Rights Report

The condition of the Baha'is of Egypt was extensively covered again in the annual report of the US State Department on human rights around the world.

The report, released on 11 March 2008, covers developments occurring in the previous year.

The following sections were specific to the condition of the Baha'is of Egypt.

Under the section on "Freedom of Religion" the report stated:

The constitution provides for freedom of belief and the practice of religious rites; however, the government restricted the exercise of these rights. According to the constitution, Islam is the official state religion and Shari'a (Islamic law) the primary source of legislation. Religious practices that conflict with the government's interpretation of Shari'a are prohibited. Members of non-Muslim religious minorities officially recognized by the government generally worshiped without harassment and maintained links with coreligionists in other countries. Members of religions that are not recognized by the government, particularly the Baha'i Faith, experienced personal and collective hardship.

Approximately 90 percent of citizens are Sunni Muslims; less than 1 percent are Shi'a Muslims. Estimates of the percentage of Christians ranged from 8 to 12 percent, or between 6 and 10 million, the majority of whom belonged to the Coptic Orthodox Church. There are small numbers of Mormons and Jehovah's Witnesses, but the government does not recognize either group. The non-Muslim, non-Coptic Orthodox communities ranged in size from several thousand to hundreds of thousands. The number of Baha'is is estimated at 2,000 persons.

The law bans Baha'i institutions and community activities and stripped Baha'is of legal recognition. The government continued to deny civil documents, including ID cards, birth certificates, and marriage licenses, to members of the Baha'i community. The MOI requires identity card applicants to self-identify as Jew, Christian, or Muslim. As a result, Baha'is face great difficulties in conducting civil transactions, including registering births, marriages and deaths, obtaining passports, enrolling children in school, opening bank accounts, and obtaining driver's licenses. During the year, Baha'is and members of other religious groups were compelled either to misrepresent themselves as Muslim, Christian or Jewish, or go without valid identity documents. Many Baha'is chose the latter course.

By September 30, all citizens had to obtain new computer identification cards or risk detention; however, the government did not enforce this requirement. In December 2006 the Supreme Administrative Court overturned a lower court ruling, deciding that Baha'is may not list their religion in the mandatory religion field on obligatory government identity cards. In May 2006 the MOI successfully appealed an administrative court ruling issued in April 2006, which supported the right of Baha'i citizens to receive ID cards and birth certificates with the Baha'i religion noted on the documents. The government issued passports, which do not indicate the holder's religion, for Baha'i citizens.

In February the EIPR filed a lawsuit on behalf of Hosni Hussein Abdel-Massih, 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. Students must produce a military draft postponement to complete their university education without interruption; however, one cannot obtain a military draft number without being issued a national ID number and a national ID card. The case was pending at year's end.

On September 10, the NCHR organized a workshop to discuss the issue of religious identity on ID cards. General Aly Abdel Mawla, Head of General Administration for Legal Affairs in the MOI, opposed the suggestion that the government allow the religion field to be left blank, asserting that the policy of requiring the indication of religious affiliation aims to protect freedom of religion.

In October Raouf Hindi Halim, a Baha'i convert, filed suit against the government to issue birth certificates for his twin daughters with the religion field left blank or to write (Baha'i) in the field. The case was postponed several times since it was first brought before the administrative court in 2004. Halim obtained birth certificates for the children when they were born in 1993 which recognized their Baha'i religious affiliation, but new certificates were mandatory, and the children were unable to enroll in public schools without them. The case remained pending at year's end.

Under "Societal Abuses and Discrimination" the report stated:

Societal religious discrimination and sectarian tension continued during the year. Tradition and some aspects of the law discriminated against religious minorities, including Christians and particularly Baha'is.

The constitution provides for equal public rights and duties without discrimination based on religion or creed, and in general the government upheld these protections; however, government discrimination against non-Muslims existed.

On March 27, voters approved 34 constitutional amendments with unclear implications for religious freedom. The amended Article 1 of the constitution states that the country's political system is based on the principle of citizenship. Government supporters argued that these changes would separate religion from politics. However, some critics argued that the amendments are incompatible with Article 2, which continues to state that Shari'a is the basis for legislation.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Decree-263 and the Persecution of Egyptian Baha'is (Part-2)

This series on Decree 263 and its impact on the rights of the Baha'is of Egypt began in this previous post. The entire report is cited from a publication by the Baha'i International Community on the persecution of this religious minority in Egypt. Pictures are added by the author of this blog.

The Decree and International Law

By any moral standard, the Decree is unfair and unjust. The principles of the Bahá'í Faith stress obedience to duly constituted governments, and the Bahá'ís of Egypt, in keeping with the teachings of their Faith, do not and have never become involved in partisan politics. They are committed to non-violence. They desire only to be recognized as full citizens of their country, actively promoting the progress and advancement of Egyptian society at large. The persecution and discrimination they face comes only because of their religious beliefs.

Baha'is of Alexandria, Egypt (circa 1940)

In theory, the Egyptian Constitution upholds freedom of religious belief. However, The Egyptian Supreme Court issued a decision in 1975 that upholds the Decree. The Court characterized the Bahá'í belief system as "evil," immoral, and a threat to public order. As the "Constitution guarantees the freedom of practice only to those religions recognized by Islam, i.e., Judaism and Christianity," the Court concluded that: "Belief in the Bahá'í Faith is considered apostasy. Therefore, the practice of that Faith is against Public Order, which is essentially based on Islamic Law (Shariah)."

However, religious discrimination such as that faced by the Bahá'ís of Egypt is clearly counter to international human rights treaties and covenants to which Egypt is a party. Specifically, Egypt was one of 48 members of the United Nations that in 1948 jointly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), which recognizes that "everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion," including the right "to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance," either alone or as a community.

Moreover, Egypt in 1982 ratified the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, an international treaty that further codifies the rights outlined in the UDHR. The Covenant even more clearly spells out the right to freedom of religion, stating in Article 18 that:

1. Everyone shall have the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion. This right shall include freedom to have or to adopt a religion or belief of his choice, and freedom, either individually or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in worship, observance, practice and teaching.

2. No one shall be subject to coercion which would impair his freedom to

3. Freedom to manifest one's religion or beliefs may be subject only to such limitations as are prescribed by law and are necessary to protect public safety, order, health, or morals or the fundamental rights and freedoms of others.

While Egyptian Government officials have told the United Nations that the "public order" provision of Article 18 applies in their refusal to recognize the Bahá'í Faith as a legitimate religion, international human rights experts have rejected Egypt's argument and stated that Article 18 clearly applies to Egypt in the case of the Bahá'ís.

Egyptian delegation to signing of Universal Declaration of Human rights, San Francisco, USA (10 December 1948)

In 1993, for example, the UN Human Rights Committee that oversees implementation of the Covenant, said this about Egypt's compliance under the treaty in relation to Bahá'ís:

"[T]he Committee is worried about restrictive legal provisions existing in Egypt with regard to freedom of thought, conscience, religion, assembly and association. Restrictions not in conformity with article 18 of the Covenant regarding various religious communities or sects, such as Bahá'ís, are a matter of particular concern."

The Bahá'í Faith is, of course, widely recognized as an independent world religion, clearly falling under the terms of the Covenant. And even if Egyptian statements that the Faith is an apostasy were to be accepted, it would nevertheless be no excuse under the framework of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

Through the years, Bahá'ís have fought for their rights in the courts — with no success. They have also sought to deliver corrective statements to the press, virtually none of which have been published. Representatives of the Bahá'í International Community have also sought redress for their co-religionists in Egypt at various international forums. Bahá'ís can only guess at the reasons for the Government's unresponsiveness.

Some of the fatwas also wrongly connect the Faith with Zionism and/or colonialism — buzzwords that seem calculated to incite hatred.

To be continued....

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Annual Baha'i Fast is Now

Bahá'í Prayer for the Fast in Arabic, chanted by the youth of Shiraz. Please click on the player above or here....

For more information on the fast, please click here....

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Decree-263 and the Persecution of Egyptian Baha'is (Part-1)

The Baha'is of Egypt were enjoying a relative degree of freedom until 1960 when the late president Gamal Abdel Nasser issued Decree 263 that brought much suffering to them in the years to come. The following account, cited from the Baha'i International Community report, describes in full details the effects, consequences and implications of Decree-263. The photographs are added by the author of this blog.

President Nasser (circa 1960)

History of the Persecution of the Bahá’ís of Egypt

Although it faced periodic episodes of religious discrimination through the early half of the 20th century, the Bahá'í community of Egypt's greatest challenge came in 1960, when President Gamal Abdul Nasser issued a decree dissolving all Bahá'í assemblies, banning Bahá'í activities, and confiscating all Bahá'í properties. The Decree remains in effect and is the underlying source of the Bahá'í community's oppression today.

Designated as Presidential Decree 263, the proclamation came without warning or explanation. In just six short paragraphs, issued on 19 July 1960, President Nasser effectively shut down the Bahá'í Faith as an organized religion in Egypt.

"All Bahá'í Assemblies and Centers existing in the two regions of the Republic are hereby dissolved, and their activities suspended," states the opening paragraph of Decree 263/1960. "Individuals, bodies and institutions are forbidden to engage in any activity, as was conducted by these Assemblies and Centers."

The Decree further stated that all "properties and possessions" of Bahá'í Assemblies and Centers would be taken over by the Ministry of the Interior. And, indeed, all Bahá'í properties — including the community's national headquarters building, its libraries and its cemeteries — as well as all Bahá'í funds and assets were soon confiscated. These assets have not been returned to this day. Some important properties, such as some 17,000 square meters of land along the Nile that Bahá'ís had purchased for a future House of Worship, were sold at public auction. Other confiscated Bahá'í properties were turned over to the Islamic Association for Teaching the Qur'an.

Children in Ismailia Baha'i Centre, Egypt (circa 1950)

The Decree further made Bahá'í activities to be criminal offenses, punishable by a minimum imprisonment of six months and/or a fine of 100 to 1,000 Egyptian pounds.

No official reason was ever given for the Decree, and to this day the Bahá'í community of Egypt can only speculate about the Government's motivations. Recent accounts in the Egyptian press have connected the ban with old and entirely false accusations, which are also commonly given in Iran to justify the persecution of Bahá'ís there, that Bahá'ís are somehow spies for Israel — an accusation that arises because the Bahá'í World Centre is located in Haifa, Israel. A more likely answer is simply the intolerance that fundamentalist Muslims have for the Bahá'í Faith because of their belief that Muhammad is the "Seal of the Prophets" and no religion can therefore follow Islam.

Effects of the Decree

The Government initially promised that individuals would remain free to practice their religion. In keeping with the Bahá'í principle of obedience to government, the Bahá'ís of Egypt duly disbanded their institutions immediately. The Faith's members shifted to a footing that emphasized quiet worship by individuals and families, with limited social and educational activities focused on internal development.

Unfortunately, Bahá'ís in Egypt have nevertheless faced episodes of harsh persecution, along with continuous restrictions on their personal, religious and social activities.

Since 1960, groups of Bahá'ís have been imprisoned on charges related to the Decree and solely because of their religious convictions at least seven times. These episodes include:

• In May 1965, 39 Bahá'ís were arrested and accused of having re-established the Bahá'í administration, and of having held meetings in their homes to which Muslims were invited for the purpose of teaching them the Faith. The court trial continued until 10 November 1977, when the case was thrown out of court.

• In June 1967, immediately after the armed conflict between Egypt and Israel, a number of Bahá'ís were held in detention camps for about six months. They were detained without charges or explanation. During their incarceration, they were physically abused, inadequately fed, and prevented from sleeping.

• In February 1985, 41 Bahá'ís were arrested on the charge of running a group aimed at resisting the basic principles of the State. A subsequent trial generated an intense and widespread campaign in the Egyptian press, featuring more than 200 newspaper articles, that denounced the Bahá'í Faith as an apostasy whose members deserved the death penalty.

• In May 1987, the courts sentenced the Bahá'ís to three years imprisonment with labor. The verdict aroused protest in Western circles, and the decision was overturned on appeal, with all 41 Bahá'ís being ultimately acquitted.

• In March 1997, three Bahá'ís in Al Ghardaqa were arrested. They were questioned directly about Bahá'í belief and teachings. After ten days, they were released without explanation.

• In January 2001, 16 Bahá'ís in Shawraniya near Sohag were arrested in January 2001, on the accusation of "immorality," according to the semi-official newspaper Al-Ahram. The 16 were held for nearly nine months at a Cairo prison but all were ultimately released without charge or explanation.

A visit to the Baha'i cemetery, Cairo, Egypt (circa 1950)

Both the arbitrary restrictions and the incidents of arbitrary arrest and imprisonment have created a climate of fear that effectively suppresses the Bahá'í community. Moreover, Egyptian legal decisions upheld against the Bahá'ís over the years have reduced them to second-class citizens in matters of family, education, and employment.

Bahá'í marriages are not legally recognized in Egypt, a fact that affects a whole range of family issues. Individuals have no recourse on inheritance, pension, alimony, child maintenance, and divorce. Unrecognized marriage is regarded as cohabitation, equivalent with adultery in Middle Eastern countries like Egypt, and children are stigmatized as illegitimate.

Freedom of worship, likewise, is severely restricted. The Egyptian courts have consistently interpreted Decree 263 as a general ban even on any type of community worship or observance by Bahá'ís, as well as a ban on teaching other people about the Bahá'í Faith.

On 27 April 1967, for example, the court of first instance of Al-Zaytoun issued a judgment that even organizing studies based on Bahá'í books or the exchange of Bahá'í materials could be punishable by the Decree.

Bahá'ís have also faced discrimination in education and employment. In 1983, for example, a young Bahá'í was expelled from the University of Alexandria because he insisted on listing his religious affiliation as Bahá'í.

To be continued....