CAIRO: The Cairo Court of Administrative Justice postponed Tuesday its decision in two high-profile legal cases involving the right of Bahais to obtain official documents. The court is expected to make its final decision on Dec. 25.
The first case involves 14-year-old twins Emad and Nancy Raouf Hindi who have been unable to obtain birth certificates because of their Bahai faith. They are also unable to enroll in school without official documents. Their father Dr Raouf Hindi had to send them to a British School in Libya.
The case has been ongoing since 2003.
The second lawsuit concerns Hosni Hussein Abdel-Massih, a Bahai student who has been ordered to leave his university studies since he cannot obtain a national ID card.
In order to obtain any kind of official documents in Egypt – including birth certificates, identity cards and marriage licenses – one must state their religious affiliation. Currently, authorities only recognize Islam, Christianity and Judaism as valid affiliations for official documents. Passports are the only exception, and do not require citizens to list their religious faith.
Yesterday’s verdict was another blow to the Bahai community.
Dr Hindi also told Daily News Egypt that the judge mocked the Bahai faith by saying that “there are Muslim Bahais and Christian Bahais and they should state their own original faith on their official documents.
“I can’t believe the judge is saying this after four years. We all know this is not the fact. I am neither Muslim nor Christian; I am Bahai, Dr Hindi told Daily News Egypt.
Shady Samir, a Bahai activist, also expressed severe discontent over yesterday’s court session. “I am shocked. Does the judge not know the history of the Bahai faith? I feel like he knows it is not true. He is only paving the way for the verdict at this point. The decision will most likely be against us, he said.
On Monday, Cairo-based Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR) and Human Rights Watch (HRW) launched a joint report titled “Prohibited Identities: State Interference with Religious Freedom, which urges authorities to allow all citizens to list their religious identity on governmental documents.
“Interior Ministry officials apparently believe they have the right to choose someone’s religion when they don’t like the religion that person chooses. The government should end its arbitrary refusal to recognize some people’s religious beliefs. This policy strikes at the core of a person’s identity, and its practical consequences seriously harm their daily lives, stated Joe Stork, Deputy Director of HRW’s Middle East and North Africa division.
Without official documents, Egyptian citizens cannot enroll in schools, receive healthcare, take out bank loans or collect pensions.
The law creates obstacles for those who adhere to different religious faiths, such as Bahais. Many end up having to pose as Muslims, Christians or Jews on their official documents, otherwise, they live as state-less citizens without papers in their own country.
The defendants are asking to be allowed to put a dash in the field for religious affiliation on their governmental documents.
“All I am asking for is not forcing my daughters to be part of a religious affiliation that they’re not, Dr Hindi told Daily News Egypt.