Government Must Find Solution for Baha'i Egyptians

Press Release

16 December 2006

Egypt's Supreme Administrative Court today found the government may not recognize the Bahai'i faith in official identification documents, leaving Baha'i Egyptian citizens unable to obtain necessary documents that must include a citizen's religion, such as birth or death certificates and identity cards.

"Today's regrettable decision throws the ball in the government's court," said Hossam Bahgat, Director of the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR), which represented the Baha'is in the case. "The government must find a solution now for the hundreds of citizens who used to be able to obtain official documents recognizing their faith for more than five decades until the government decided recently to change its policy and force them to choose between Islam and Christianity."

The EIPR said the press release issued by the Chief Judge of the Court today did not respond to any of the legal arguments and evidence submitted by the EIPR in the case. The press release only discussed the tenets of the Baha'i faith, which fell outside the scope of this lawsuit. The question before the court was about the legality of forcing Egyptian citizens to falsely adopt Islam or Christianity in order to obtain official documents that are necessary in their daily lives.

Today's decision overturned an April 2006 ruling by the lower Administrative Justice Court in favor of Baha'i Egyptians. The decision also reversed the position of the Supreme Administrative Court whish had found in 1983 that Baha'is had the right to have their religious affiliation included in official documents even if the Baha'i faith was not "recognized" in Egypt as a religion.

The EIPR will wait for the written decision to be issued in the coming days before determining its new legal strategy in the fight for Baha'i Egyptians citizenship rights.