Egyptian Court Removes Barriers to ID Documents for Baha'is

March 16, 2009

Author: Staff Writer

Source: Bahá’í World News Service

A court in Egypt today removed any grounds for preventing Baha'is from receiving proper official identity documents, clearing the way for an end to years of deprivation for Egyptian Baha'is - and opening the door to a new level of respect for religious privacy in Egypt.

The Supreme Administrative Court dismissed an appeal by two Muslim lawyers that sought to prevent implementation of a lower court ruling last year that said Baha'is can leave blank the religious classification field on official documents, including all-important identity cards and birth certificates.

"We are pleased that the court has finally put this matter to rest, removing any possible excuse that would prevent the government from issuing official documents to Egyptian Baha'is," said Bani Dugal, the principal representative of the Baha'i International Community to the United Nations.

"Our expectation now is that the government will move swiftly to bring this ruling into practice and, at long last, grant Baha'is the essential right that all citizens have of possessing proper documents."

Hossam Bahgat, director of the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR), said the ruling actually goes far beyond the issue of rights for Egyptian Baha'is.

"This is the first time that the Supreme Administrative Court has found that any Egyptian has the right to keep their religious convictions private, even if the state does not recognize their belief system," said Mr. Bahgat, whose organization handled legal representation for Baha'is in court.