Friday, January 11, 2008

Current Status of ID Cards in Egypt: Five Million Pending!

The use of old paper ID cards was due to be terminated by the end of December 2007. However, according to an article published on 5 January 2008 in Egypt's semi-official newspaper, Al-Ahram, the use of paper ID cards had to be extended beyond the set deadline for their elimination. The reason given for this postponement is that there remains five million Egyptian citizens without the new national ID number and the computerized ID card.

The article states that 43 million ID cards were issued. The new project also requires that citizens under the age of sixteen must be issued new birth certificates with a national ID number. There were 42 million citizens who were issued the new computerized birth certificates and national number. Additionally, State Security sources indicated that 25 thousand ID cards were issued to Egyptians living abroad.

The article points to the fact that because of the 5 million pending ID cards, the deadline for the use of old paper documents was extended. It explained that the delay involves mostly rural citizens living in remote areas of Upper Egypt who are lacking local resources and who are unable to travel thousands of kilometers to central locations in order to obtain their documents.

The article makes no mention whatsoever of the religious minorities, such as the Baha'is, who are refused the issue of ID cards simply because of their religious affiliation.

The writer--Fatmah El-Desouqy--states that according to her sources, when the decision to stop using old paper ID cards is issued, all those without a national ID number will become "without identity." All official and unofficial transactions in Egypt require the possession of an ID card. This includes employment, education, banking, owning property, health care, traveling, birth & death, marriage & divorce, vaccination of children, etc....

In the 12th of January Al-Ahram edition, Dr. Boutros Boutros-Ghali, president of Egypt's National Council for Human Rights, was interviewed regarding the role of the Council in fulfilling its duties during the past year. He was asked several questions regarding the issue of religious classification on ID cards, and in particular the dilemma of the Baha'is of Egypt. Dr. Ghali affirmed his long-standing position that there is no need for including religious classification on ID cards and that inter-religious dialogue and acceptance is necessary. He also pointed to the need for solving this crisis without the fear of being open and progressive.

7 comments:

Nabil said...

The article by Fatma El-Desouky in Al-Ahram reflects logistical problems with the switch over to only use electronic ID cards. This may be a good sign for the Baha'is in Egypt if they can continue to use their old paper IDs. However, there is also an ominous sign - that is tying the issuance of new passports to only those who have an electronic ID. This means that Baha'is in Egypt are held hostage by the government inside their own country.

Overall, the delay in instituting the new national ID may be an indirect sign that the Baha'is in Egypt get a breathing spell, though the oxygen may be tightly held in a government controlled tank!

Bilo said...

You raise an important point: the link between the new high tech/digital passports and the national ID number. Without a national number there will be no passports, and without passports...you can guess the consequences!

Phillipe Copeland said...

Bilo thanks for keeping us in the loop. I also received your regards from some Baha'i friends who returned recently from Alabama. The feeling is mutual.

ra said...

Recent and most critical issues are:

. Inability to issue power of attorney- whereas Baha’is previously could grant power of attorney to lawyers having ID (Muslims or Christian), they are now unable to do this without they themselves also having the new ID, therefore effectively being denied legal representation.

. Inability to obtain or renew business licenses, tax numbers- this particularly applies to Baha’is who own businesses, and are now unable to comply with legitimate demands by tax auditors, due to the inability to process and submit documentation. Tax accountants are also unable to assist due to the power of attorney issue (above).

. Inability to register, sell or transfer property- one cannot register a vehicle, sell an existing vehicle, house, land, or any other property. This recent measure is an additional challenge, particularly for those who, due to the inability to be employed (without ID) or are expelled from current employment for the same reason, are also unable to sell and cash in what property they do possess in order to survive.

. Inability to obtain passports and certificate of military exemption- one cannot live and one cannot leave.

Such definite consequences may be highlighted to those who still maintain any degree of legitimacy, by legal or religious argument that can justify such illegitimate impositions.

Bilo said...

Considering what you say regarding taxes, one wonders if Baha'is now are under any obligations to pay taxes! Would you please comment?

ra said...

Though denied common rights and freedoms, Baha'is still have to pay taxes, as well as the standard government pension, deducted from monthly income. Baha'i-owned businesses, though now denied the legitimacy of formal business registration, are also obliged to pay taxes and face the real threat of being shutdown and/or forced into bankruptcy. Owners are trying to find legitimate ways to pay - though tax registration has been canceled - in order to continue to operate. Under any condition, taxes are being demanded and they will be paid, and the owners face the threat of a prison sentence for not complying with the tax laws of the country - operating without tax & business registration.

Life insurance, private health insurance, any form of investment, in effect, access to any and all financial and commercial pursuits, whether through local or international entities, are completely inaccessible.

One cannot imagine the numerous consequential expenses and complications experienced in order to maintain daily living without civil documents.

Bilo said...

How could a person pay taxes without holding a national ID number?

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