EGYPT: A breakthrough for Bahais
This week, human-rights groups hailed a government directive acknowledging the right of the Bahai religious community to receive identification documents -- without having to choose another religion on the application -- as “a positive step that came very late.”
This decision "puts an end to the official policy that forced Egyptian Bahais to claim being either Muslim or Christian,” said a statement issued by the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, the human-rights group that spearheaded the years-long legal battle between Bahais and the government.
The interior ministry handed down its new directive last month following a court verdict that granted those of the Bahai faith the right to obtain identification cards and birth certificates without having to choose a religion. The court ruled that they could leave the religious-affiliation spot empty. The ruling was not subject to any further appeal.
The new directive became effective this week, according to the human-rights group's statement.
Bahais are expected to rush to government offices to apply for their identification documents under the new regulations.
However, this breakthrough does not necessarily mean a higher level of tolerance. Recently, the houses of some Bahai families were set on fire in an Upper Egypt province. Families fleeing the attacks were uprooted from their hometown.
— Noha El-Hennawy in Cairo
Photo: The shrine of Bahaullah, founder of the Bahai faith, in the Israeli city of Haifa. Credit: Nelson Ashberger / Bahai Media Bank