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Old 11-17-2007, 09:31 AM   #1
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Human Rights Report on Egypt:

HUMAN RIGHTS GROUPS ISSUE REPORT ON EGYPT

NEW YORK, 16 November 2007 (BWNS) --

Egypt should end discriminatory
practices that prevent Baha'is and others from listing their true
religious beliefs on government documents, said Human Rights Watch and the
Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights in a major report released this
week.

The 98-page report, titled "Prohibited Identities: State Interference
with Religious Freedom," focused on the problems that have emerged
because of Egypt's practice of requiring citizens to state their religious
identity on government documents but then restricting the choice to
Islam, Christianity, or Judaism.

"These policies and practices violate the right of many Egyptians to
religious freedom," stated the report, which was released on 12 November
2007.

"Because having an ID card is essential in many areas of public life,
the policies also effectively deny these citizens a wide range of civil
and political as well as economic and social rights," the report said.

The Baha'i International Community welcomed the report.

"We want to thank Human Rights Watch and the Egyptian Initiative for
Personal Rights for calling the world's attention to the human rights
situation in Egypt," said Bani Dugal, the Baha'i International Community's
principal representative to the United Nations.

"The discriminatory practices identified by the report do indeed
gravely affect Egypt's Baha'i community, as well as others in Egypt who seek
to enjoy the freedom to believe as they choose, a right that is
guaranteed by international law.

"Our hope is that Egyptian authorities will now be encouraged to end
their discriminatory practices, which could be dissolved with the stroke
of a pen without harming the majority religious communities in the
least," said Ms. Dugal.

The joint HRW/EIPR report examined in detail how the limited choice
offered to citizens in declaring their religion affects the daily life of
Baha'is and converts from Islam, who also face problems under the
policy.

"While the Egyptian government's approach adversely affects anyone who
is not Muslim, Christian, or Jewish, and anyone who would prefer to
keep their convictions private, in Egypt today the greatest impact has
been on adherents of the Baha'i faith and on persons who convert or wish
to convert from Islam to Christianity," said the report.

Further, the report said, this "limited choice is not based on any
Egyptian law, but rather on the Ministry of Interior's interpretation of
Shari'a, or Islamic law. An Egyptian citizen has no option to request a
religious identification different from one of these, or to identify him
or herself as having no religion. If he or she insists on doing so,
authorities refuse to issue a national ID or related document reflecting
the requested religious identification."

"People without national IDs forfeit, among other things, the ability
to carry out even the simplest monetary transactions at banks and other
financial institutions. Other basic daily activities - engaging in a
property transaction, acquiring a driver's license, obtaining a pension
check - also require a national ID.

"Employers, both public and private, by law cannot hire someone without
an ID, and academic institutions require IDs for admission. Obtaining
a marriage license or a passport requires a birth certificate;
inheritance, pensions, and death benefits are contingent on death certificates.
The Ministry of Health has even refused to provide immunizations to
some Baha'i children because the Interior Ministry," the report
continued.

"These policies and practices violate Egyptian as well as international
law," said the report. "Logically, it makes no sense for the
government to say to citizens that they are free to believe what they like and
then deem it unacceptable when citizens respond honestly when the
government requires them to state what they believe."

Human Rights Watch is the largest human rights organization based in
the United States, according to its Web site. Human Rights Watch
researchers conduct fact-finding investigations into human rights abuses in all
regions of the world. It is based in New York.

The Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights is an independent Egyptian
human rights organization that was established in 2002 to promote and
defend the personal rights and freedoms of individuals, according to its
Web site. It is based in Cairo.

The report received considerable media attention after its release. The
Associated Press, Agence France Presse, the BBC, Reuters, and the
Voice of America all carried stories on the report.

To read HRW's summary of the report, go to this link:

http://hrw.org/english/docs/2007/11/12/egypt17306.htm
 
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Old 01-29-2008, 08:12 AM   #2
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Wink Victory for religious freedom in Egypt:

EGYPT COURT UPHOLDS BAHA'I PLEA IN RELIGIOUS FREEDOM CASES

CAIRO, 29 January 2008 (BWNS) -- In a victory for religious freedom, a
lower administrative court here today ruled in favor of two lawsuits
that sought to resolve the government's contradictory policy on religious
affiliation and identification papers.

The Court of Administrative Justice in Cairo upheld arguments made in
two cases concerning Baha'is who have sought to restore their full
citizenship rights by asking that they be allowed to leave the religious
affiliation field blank on official documents.

"Given the degree to which issues of religious freedom stand at the
heart of human rights issues in the Middle East, the world should cheer at
the decision in these two cases today," said Bani Dugal, the principal
representative of the Baha'i International Community to the United
Nations.

"The compromise offered by the Baha'is in these two cases opens the
door to a way to reconcile a government policy that was clearly
incompatible with international law -- as well as common sense," said Ms. Dugal.

"Our hope now is that the government will quickly implement the court's
decision and allow Baha'is once again to enjoy the full rights of
citizenship to which they are duly entitled," said Ms. Dugal.

The decisions today concerned two cases, both filed by Baha'is, over
the issue of how they are to be identified on government documents.

The first case involves a lawsuit by the father of twin children, who
is seeking to obtain proper birth certificates for them. The second
concerns a college student, who needs a national identity card to re-enroll
in university.

The government requires all identification papers to list religious
affiliation but restricts the choice to the three officially recognized
religions -- Islam, Christianity, and Judaism. Baha'is are thus unable to
obtain identification papers because they refuse to lie about their
religious affiliation.

Without national identify cards -- or, as in the case of the twin
children, birth certificates -- Baha'is and others caught in the law's
contradictory requirements are deprived of a wide range of citizenship
rights, such as access to employment, education, and medical and financial
services.

These problems were highlighted in a report issued in November by Human
Rights Watch and the Cairo-based Egyptian Initiative for Personal
Rights (EIPR).

"Employers, both public and private, by law cannot hire someone without
an ID, and academic institutions require IDs for admission," said the
report. "Obtaining a marriage license or a passport requires a birth
certificate; inheritance, pensions, and death benefits are contingent on
death certificates. The Ministry of Health has even refused to provide
immunizations to some Baha'i children because the Interior Ministry
would not issue them birth certificates accurately listing their Baha'i
religion."

The issuance of birth certificates is at the heart of the first case,
which concerns 14-year-old twins Imad and Nancy Rauf Hindi. Their
father, Rauf Hindi, obtained birth certificates that recognized their Baha'i
affiliation when they were born.

But new policies require computer generated certificates, and the
computer system locks out any religious affiliation but the three officially
recognized religions. And without birth certificates, the children are
unable to enroll in school in Egypt.

The second lawsuit was filed by the EIPR last February on behalf of
18-year-old Hussein Hosni Bakhit Abdel-Massih, who was suspended from the
Suez Canal University's Higher Institute of Social Work in January 2006
due to his inability to obtain an identity card because of his refusal
to falsely identify himself as either a Muslim, a Christian, or a Jew.

In both cases, lawyers representing the Baha'is have made it clear that
they were willing to settle for cards or documents on which the
religious affiliation field is left blank or filled in, perhaps, as "other."

This solution is what makes these two cases different from the lawsuit
that was rejected by the Supreme Administrative Court last year. In
that ruling, the Supreme Administrative Court rejected a decision by the
lower that upheld the right of Baha'is to be properly identified on
government documents.

For more information go to:

<a href="<http://news.bahai.org/">http://news.bahai.org/</a>

 
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