Saturday, January 17, 2009

Cairo's Administrative Court Rejects a Challenge To Baha'i Rights

As was described in a previous post, the Baha'is of Egypt have been awaiting two court dates scheduled to issue final verdicts regarding the challenges and appeals lodged against the previous court rulings that were in their favor. The 17 January 2009 date, quoted below, concerns the challenge by an Islamist lawyer intended to halt the court ruling allowing the Baha'is to obtain birth certificates and ID cards with dashes [--] inserted instead of their religious identity.
...scheduled for 17 January 2009, on which Cairo's Seventh Circuit Administrative Court will rule on a challenge (a stalling tactic--not an appeal) to the same ruling of 29 January 2008 of the First Circuit Administrative Court, in which another Islamist lawyer challenged the competence of the judge. Consequently, the judge had referred the case out of his court to the Seventh Circuit Court for an unbiased determination.

In its session today, Cairo's Seventh Circuit Administrative Court rejected the challenge filed by the said lawyer, Hamed Saddiq, who was acting on behalf of Egypt's Islamic Research Council which is under the auspices of al-Azhar University. His challenge had the effect of stalling the implementation of the favorable 29 January 2008 court ruling.

Today's verdict implies that the 29 January 2008 court ruling in favor of the Baha'is can be enforced by the Ministry of Interior and that it can proceed, without delay, to issue the Baha'is of Egypt birth certificates with dashes [--] inserted in the religion section of these documents. Today's verdict concerns only the case of 14-year-old twin children, Emad and Nancy Raouf Hindi whose father has been requesting the issue of their birth certificates.

The Other case concerning the 18-year-old university student Hussein Hosni Bakhit Abdel-Massih, who is in quest for his ID card (he was dismissed from the university consequent to his inability to obtain a military postponement certificate, required for the continuation of his education), was heard on 15 January 2009 and postponed until 24 February 2009 for a final verdict on the challenge, filed by the same lawyer (Hamed Saddiq). The 29 January court verdict had also ruled in his favor to obtain an ID card with dashes [--] in place of his religion.

The next date to watch is 19 January 2009, on which Egypt's Supreme Administrative Court will issue its final verdict on an appeal by another Islamist lawyer, named Abd El-Mageed El-Aanany. He was not a party to the lawsuit, but appeared to act on behalf of extremists. The appeal could not stop the implementation of the ruling unless the court had decided to do so. In this case, the court has not stopped the implementation of the lower court's ruling, and the Ministry of Interior has not appealed either.

It is anticipated the the Supreme Administrative Court will reject the appeal since its own State Judiciary Council has already recommended this course of action.

Based on these developments, it is becoming clearer that Egypt's judiciary is on a righteous path that is headed towards a resolution to the dilemma of the Baha'is of Egypt, who are in quest of their basic civil rights.


  1. Notice this interview on the Muslim Network for Baha'i Rights:

    Interview with Egyptian Baha’i on upcoming verdict
    January 16th, 2009

    The denial of ID cards to Egypt’s Baha’is has rendered them virtually non-existent. In a few hours, the first of two final verdicts on whether Baha’is in egypt will be able to obtain ID cards is set to be delivered.

    Minorities across the world have started blogging in order to document the hardships they experience and raise awareness on their plight, and the past years has seen an explosion in Egyptian Baha’i blogs. One of the most prominent is “Baha’i Faith in Egypt”, and its author has kindly agreed to a brief interview:

    You’ve been actively blogging about the situation of Baha’is in Egypt, along with many other Baha’is within Egypt. In your opinion, what has the impact of these blogs been? Do you believe that they have created a difference?

    Blogs have been successful in making the case of the persecuted Baha’is of Egypt known to the entire world. They provide main stream media outlets with ongoing updates and information on the struggle of the Baha’is. Even government agencies and human rights organizations around the world have found the blogs useful as a grassroots source of information and updates. Because of blogs, human rights violations are no longer hidden…they are immediately exposed and the world’s reaction to them is prompt. This is a whole new phenomenon as far as information exchange is concerned, the larger impact of which remains to be realized.

    Given the mixed signals that have come from the Egyptian government, many believe that it is not committed to protecting the Baha’i minority, and is simply trying to silence Baha’is, activists and critics. What is your opinion on that?

    Since I do not have direct insight into the government’s mind, there is no way for me to make such judgment. I do, however, hope that the government’s motives are sincere and intended to protect the rights of all its citizens. When one considers the conflicting interests, opinions and motives within the Egyptian society, one can understand that the authorities are confronted with various challenges that might require keeping a certain balance in decision making. This, however, should never supersede the need to protect minorities and ensure the preservation of human and civil rights for all citizens regardless of belief, social status or any other diversity factor.

    How has the Baha’i community in Egypt been affected by the closure of Baha’i institutions and the banning of Baha’i activities?

    This presidential decree (263) of 1960 has led to, among many other consequences, the loss of official recognition of the Baha’i population of Egypt. It contributed to all their current difficulties and the loss of their civil rights in their own homeland. It dissolved their administrative structure. It confiscated all their properties and contributed to the departure of numerous Baha’is from Egypt. It caused Baha’i families great financial losses and drop in their social standing. It deprived them from holding their formal devotional and holiday services. It caused the recurrent imprisonment of many innocent Baha’is. It created a class distinction and deprivation of educational and employment opportunities. It de-legalized their marriages. Additionally, the lack of an administrative structure contributes to the inability of the Baha’is to engage in formal negotiations with the government in their quest to obtain their rights. Also, a census of the Egyptian Baha’i population cannot be performed because of the lack of administrative structure.

    How do you expect opponents of the January 29 ruling to react should the final ruling be in favour of Baha’is? Do you fear there could be serious repercussions for the Baha’is of Egypt?

    I would hope that all Egyptians come to the understanding that they are all “humans” who deserve to be guaranteed all their rights and that their dignity is protected. These are basic needs for any human being. Those who oppose the Baha’is of Egypt, if they truly come to adhere to their own spiritual and religious teachings, must come to terms with these facts: people of Egypt must be all equal regardless of who they are and what they represent.

    Overall, is Egypt moving towards embracing coexistence and tolerance, or do you see the opposite occurring?

    I would leave this up to Egypt to answer!

  2. Al-Misri al-yawmi on yesterday's verdict:

  3. Thank you Amal for the link. It is also interesting to read the comments here, that is if you can read Arabic.


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