Human Rights

In Egypt, the government decides not to appeal Baha'i decision in religious freedom cases

CAIRO, Egypt - The Egyptian government has decided not to appeal a lower administrative court ruling that cleared the way for Bahá'ís to obtain proper identification papers.

On 29 January 2008, the Court of Administrative Justice in Cairo upheld arguments made in two cases concerning Bahá'ís who had sought to restore their full citizenship rights by asking that they be allowed to leave the religious affiliation field blank on official documents.

The deadline for an appeal passed 60 days later, and Egyptian news media reported that the government had decided not to appeal the case, but rather will strive to implement the court's decision, clearing the way for Egyptian Bahá'ís to obtain official identification cards and other documents.

"We are grateful for the government's decision not to appeal the lower court decision, which came as a much welcomed event for Egyptian Bahá'ís and others who are concerned about religious freedom," said Bani Dugal, the principal representative of the Bahá'í International Community to the United Nations. "Our hope now is that the government will work to implement the court's decision without delay."

Before the lower court's decision, the government required all identification papers to list religious affiliation but restricted the choice to the three officially recognized religions - Islam, Christianity, and Judaism. Bahá'ís were thus unable to obtain identification papers because they refuse to lie about their religious affiliation.

Without national identity cards, Bahá'ís and others caught in the law's contradictory requirements were deprived of a wide range of citizenship rights, such as access to employment, education, and medical and financial services.