Saturday, June 07, 2008

Egypt: More Court Delays...No IDs...No Birth Certificates Yet!

Today, a Cairo court (Administrative Court, First Degree, District-7) heard a challenge to the court ruling of 29 January 2008 allowing the Baha'is of Egypt to obtain ID cards and birth certificate with dashes "--" or "other" entered for religious classification in these documents.

This court challenge is not an appeal per se, but rather a procedural challenge intended to stall the implementation of the court's ruling. This challenge was filed shortly after the ruling by a lawyer named Hamed Saddiq, acting on behalf of Egypt's Islamic Research Council which is under the auspices of al-Azhar University. He did not appeal the ruling itself but he criticized the judge on procedural matters. In his criticism, he harshly and rudely insulted the judge and questioned his competency, which led the judge to throw the case out of his court, referring it to another judge in order to eliminate bias.

Today, in court, the government lawyers representing the civil records department sided with the Baha'is and made it very clear that they want to proceed with the ruling and apply it as it was. They stated that they will present a memorandum to the court documenting their position and stating that they are supporting the ruling and wish to apply it. They were not, however, ready to present their memorandum today and requested a postponement in order to allow them time to prepare. Thus, the court decided to postpone the hearing until 25 October 2008. [update: date changed by judge to 1 November 2008]

Meanwhile, the Baha'is of Egypt remain without ID cards, birth certificates or other official documents. The consequences of such state of existence are quite obvious and have been clearly described in several previous posts and media publications.

It must be understood, however, that it is entirely up to Egypt's government (Ministry of Interior & the Civil Records authorities) to proceed with implementing the initial court ruling regardless of any challenges or appeals. They ID cards and birth certificates to all the Baha'is of Egypt.

Since the government has no objections, whatsoever, to the ruling itself, and since the government (Ministry of Interior) has been the principal party to this lawsuit, one fails to understand the reasons for such delays in implementation. These delays can only contribute to the continuing suffering of the Baha'is of Egypt.

Furthermore, it is also in the government's interest to apply this ruling to all the Baha'is of Egypt and not only to those involved in the lawsuits. Otherwise, complex and extended litigations and unrest can result from such tactics.


  1. Progress is slow but steady! Victory is assured!

  2. If issuing birth certificates and ID cards was a matter of programming the electronic registry to allow for dashes and/or a blank space in place of religion, that would not require 4 months. If so, then the government needs new programmers.
    If it is an issue of other people taking advantage of this ruling, that is, people of other religions who for reasons of their own also do not want their affiliation to be known, then the government can identify the Baha’is from their own records. The Baha’i community has been closely monitored for generations, individuals have been called in on innumerable occasions for questioning, and in the majority of cases, original birth certificates identify Baha’i in the religion section.
    A memorandum stating their (civil records department) support and “wish” to apply it? When did this become a wish? If this wish is now conditional upon the submittal of a memorandum - scheduled for 25 Oct 2008 - then it is certain that there is neither the sincere intent nor appropriate sense of urgency to resolve what is a daily and detrimental situation for the entire Baha’i community.
    But while we are all wishing, let us wish that something as ludicrous as this “procedural challenge” and others like it, receive the same just treatment. Let us say, proceed with the implementation immediately, and schedule any challenges for the year 2015, allow further extensions for memorandums, evaluation of the memorandums… let’s make it 2025. Oh, wait, the programmers won’t be ready by then.

  3. edoriver,
    Welcome back!

    This is the whole point: if the government indeed wishes and intends to implement the ruling, then there is no need for courts and delays.
    Note that the picture accompanying the post is that of an ID card issued to a Baha'i with "other" in the religion section. This card was issued before 2004 when the civil records department decided, all of a sudden, to disallow the option of "other" and took it out of the computer program. If it was possible to change it then, it should be just as easy to change it back now.

  4. I thought that all this foolishness was over with???

    What are they waiting for Christmas???

  5. @ra
    It's actually funny that you mention 4 months for changing the software. This is exactly the amount of time it took them to change the software to print out Farida's (my daughter) birth certificate. During those 4 months I went there almost daily, I made friends with most of the workers, I fixed a printer and I communicated instructions between offices in the sort of "use demo program B to print it out" and "demo program B needs admin privileges, you have to come here and do it yourself". What I got at the end of every day? "We are changing the program because it's refusing to print"... evil evil program.


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