Monday, March 30, 2009

A New Book in Arabic About the Baha'i Religion

A very informative book about the Baha'i Faith by Drs. Wendi and Moojan Momen, first published in 2007 by Dunedin Academic Press, was recently translated to Arabic and is now available for orders from bookstores. This is indeed a very welcome addition to the growing range of materials in the Arabic language about the Baha'i religion.

The English title of the book is Understanding the Baha'i Faith and the Arabic translated title is Fahm ad-Din al-Baha'i. It was translated by Mr. Ramsey Zeine and published by Al-Furat firm in Lebanon.

The book focuses on the impact that the Baha'i religion has by looking at what it has to say about personal life, the home, the community, social issues, global concerns, as well as the spiritual life. The book provides a factual and straightforward account of the history, organization, development and sacred texts of the religion, as well as a time-line of important events and a glossary. It is suitable for general audiences, students of comparative religion and teachers.

The book can be identified through its International Standard Book Number or ISBN, 9953-417-65-2 and can be ordered by all bookstores from Al-Furat publishers in Lebanon (email: [email protected]). [address: Basement, Rasamny building, Hamra street, Hamra sector, Beirut, Lebanon. Phone: +9611-750054; Fax: +9611-750053]

As Al-Furat's website is still under construction, one can acquire the Arabic version of the book by asking any local bookstore to stock a number of copies of the book for purchasing by directly contacting the publishers as indicated above.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Elimination of Religion From ID Cards Being Studied By Egypt's Government

In an article published today in Arabic, with a version in English, Al Arabiya reported that following Egypt's Supreme Administrative Court decision to allow the Baha'is obtain identification documents with no religious classification entered, the ruling National Democratic Party announced that "the government was studying the possibility of removing the religion section from all identification cards following a similar move in Lebanon."

The Arabic version of the article states the following in its title: [written in red] "After permitting Baha'is to leave it blank," then [written in blue] "Study to eliminate the religion section from personal identification documents for Egyptians."

Additionally, the second paragraph of the Arabic version, referring to comments made by the secretary of the Information Committee of the ruling National Democratic Party, states:
"Dr. Ali El-Deen Helal revealed...that the [ruling] party is universally comfortable with the verdict issued by the Supreme Administrative [Court] allowing the Baha'is their right not to enter anything in the religion section of their ID cards, leaving them blank."
In the sixth paragraph of the Arabic version, Dr. Helal points out that:
"under the umbrella of the constitutional reforms and the new direction taken by the National Party, there is nothing that will remain behind closed doors, a proof of this is the ruling issued in favor of the Baha'is, which is a final verdict that takes them back to last century, in the 1960s, when they were able to obtain ID cards without being forced to enter a religion against their will because, if that were allowed to happen, it would be against the freedom of belief which is one of the foundations of the Egyptian constitution."
Also, the ninth paragraph of the Arabic version, states:
"He pointed 'that the last ruling of the Supreme Administrative [Court] for the Baha'is is a clear verdict that establishes the true understanding of citizenship which is emphasized in the first article of the constitution, it is indeed one of our gains that affirms citizenship rights realized by Egyptian nationals, which is mandated by President Mubarak in his quest for enforcing the principle of citizenship...in accordance with the first article of the constitution'"

This example of progressive thinking and illumined dialogue is yet another demonstration of how the Baha'is of Egypt, through their perseverance and their dedication to a just cause, can ultimately impart their positive influence to the entire Egyptian society.

Below is the full text of the English version provided by Al Arabiya:
[credit, Al Arabiya--posted with permission]

Wednesday, 25 March 2009

A move said to promote freedom of faith
Egypt may remove religion from ID cards



Groups say new move to teach Egyptians concept of citizenship (File)

CAIRO (Mustafa Suleiman)

In a step expected to cause controversy in Egypt, a ruling party official announced that the government was studying the possibility of removing the religion section from all identification cards following a similar move in Lebanon.

At a seminar called "The future of citizenship in Egypt" a member of the National Democratic Party (NDP) said the Supreme Administrative Court's ruling to mull the case was a positive step for freedom of faith.

"The idea could be faced with opposition," Dr. Alieddin Hilal, the NDP's Secretary for Mass Media Affairs, told AlArabiya.net. "But we will keep working on applying the concept if [sic] citizenship and achieving equality between all Egyptians."

"The application could be a bit slow, but in the next stage and before the coming legislative elections, Egypt will witness significant changes as far as Copts and women are concerned," Hilal added.

Concept of citizenship

Dr. Hani Aziz, secretary of Egypt Lovers and Peace Society (ELPS), which organized the conference, agreed with Hilal and said that move was the first step towards educating Egyptians about the concept of citizenship.

"Citizenship means equality in rights and duties," Aziz told AlArabiya.net. "It is a culture of tolerance and dialogue and it respects multiplicity."

Aziz pointed out that the concept of citizenship is emphasized in article one of the constitution and that the constitution is the main law.

At the conference, Hilal also revealed that another draft law was being mulled to allow more parliamentary representation for women in the upcoming legislative elections.

"According to the new law, two women would run for each governorate," Hilal said. "This means there will be a minimum of 50 women in the next parliament."

Hilal said he was disappointed that although the Egyptian parliament was the oldest in the region, it had the least women representation in the Arab world.

Last month Lebanon's Interior Minister Ziad Baroud issued an edict allowing citizens to remove any reference to their religion from ID cards or Civil Registry Records.


(Translated from Arabic by Sonia Farid)

All rights reserved for Alarabiya.net © 2007-2008

Saturday, March 21, 2009

What Can Be Expected After Egypt's Favourable Court Ruling?

Even though Egypt's Supreme Administrative Court has, on 16 March 2009, ruled in favor of the Baha'is allowing them to obtain identity documents with dashes [--] entered in place of religion, there remain many obstacles to the normalization of their status in Egypt. This can be easily perceived when reading the recent editorials and reports in several Egyptian newspaper articles.

Initially, following the recent court ruling, several of these articles limited their reporting to the facts about the verdict itself and its implications (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8). More recently, though, newspaper editorials have been busying themselves with eliciting public opinions regarding the Baha'i case from various factions (9, 10).

These opinions range from, those who adamantly oppose the Baha'is and who are bent on continuing their "war" against the Baha'is--calling them apostates who deserve the severest of penalties, to those who are supportive of the citizenship rights of the Baha'is (10, 11, 12, 13), to the extent of voicing their disappointment that the ruling did not go far enough to permit the Baha'is to enter their true religion on these identity documents.

The intent of some of the supporters appears to be not to acknowledge the legitimacy of the Baha'i Faith as an approved religion in Egypt, but rather they look at the matter as a human rights issue: that is the right of people to independent belief and to be identified correctly according to their own belief.

There remain, also, many others who do not understand what the fuss is all about and do not even acknowledge the existence of such a thing as "Baha'i," stating: "besides Islam and Christianity in Egypt, we only had Jews, and fortunately we have managed to get rid of them."

Furthermore, there are those who resort to using the well-known Egyptian sarcasm in order to make their point by calling the Baha'i Faith "Al-deen Abu-Sharta [the dashes religion]," referring to the ruling that allowed dashes to be entered in place of religion on identity documents.

Emad & Nancy Raouf Hindi in the courtroom on 16 March

This controversy, which cannot just vanish overnight simply because of a favorable court verdict, will likely continue for some time to come. Thus, the difficult task before the Baha'is of Egypt will likely go beyond the mere pursuit of their identity documents and the consequent acquisition of some of their citizenship rights.

It will require an extraordinary effort on their behalf to influence the public opinion as to the nature and the legitimacy of their belief. They will also need to help the Egyptian society learn the truth about their Faith and the desire of the Egyptian Baha'is, as obedient citizens and well-wishers of their homeland, to join hands with their fellow Egyptians in promoting their collective welfare.

It is a natural human reaction, particularly after such a long suffering and after so many legal battles, for all those affected by the ruling to be ecstatic with such a victory in their ongoing struggle for their rights. It is also obvious that many other minorities in Egypt will ultimately benefit from such a ruling that, at last, opened the door for them towards their civil rights without having to identify themselves as belonging to one of the three approved religions in Egypt. It is time, however, for the harder task to begin: that is for the Baha'is to intensify the projection of their well-acknowledged brilliant image on their beloved society and correct public perception of their true nature and intent.

A tough obstacle in their path, however, remains to be presidential decree (263) that, in 1960, outlawed the Baha'i Faith in Egypt. Without the reversal of this decree, the Baha'is of Egypt will continue to be the targets of all sorts of false accusations, attacks and ill-intentioned challenges by the extremist elements of the Egyptian society. Ultimately, in order for them to be treated equally in the true sense, it is essential for their status in Egypt be fully legitimized by removing all barriers to their standing as equal citizens of their beloved Egypt.



Friday, March 20, 2009

US President to the People of Iran

Many news sources reported on the message of President Barack Obama to the people of Iran on the occasion of Nowruz, the Persian new year and spring celebration (also celebrated as Baha'i New Year). In addition to the original, a Persian subtitled version of the video message is posted below. Also, an article in The New York Times regarding this message is linked here....



Monday, March 16, 2009

Baha'i International Community Reacts to Egypt's Favourable Court Ruling

Baha'i World News Service has just published the reaction of the Baha'i International Community to the 16 March 2009 ruling by Egypt's Supreme Administrative Court. Quoting Mr. Hossam Bahgat, the director of the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR) which has been handling the litigation, it writes:
"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...."

Posted below is the entire published response on behalf the Baha'i International Community. The photograph below (a group of Baha'is at the court's entrance) has been added by the author of this blog.

Egyptian court removes barriers to ID documents for Baha'is
16 March 2009

GENEVA — 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.

"The final ruling is a major victory for all Egyptians fighting for a state where all citizens enjoy equal rights regardless of their religion or belief," he said.

Mr. Bahgat said that because the Supreme Administrative Court is the highest court on such matters, there can be no further appeal to this case - and that, therefore, there should be no delay in the government's implementation of the new policy.

"The government policy that justified mistreatment of Egyptian Baha'is has now been firmly and finally struck down," he said.

For nearly five years, since the government began introducing a computerized identity card system that locked out all religious classifications except Islam, Christianity, and Judaism, Baha'is have been unable to get documents essential to day-to-day life. Among other things, they have been blocked from obtaining education, financial services, and even health care in government hospitals.

In April 2006, a lower administrative court upheld the right of Baha'is to be explicitly identified on official documents. But in December that year, the Supreme Administrative Court reversed that decision.

In a compromise, Baha'is proposed using a dash or the word "other" on documents, instead of being forced to list themselves as Muslim, Christian, or Jewish, and, on 29 January 2008, a lower court again ruled in their favor. But then two Muslim lawyers, who oppose anything that might be seen as even tacit recognition of the Baha'i Faith, filed an appeal.

In response, government officials took a "go slow" attitude on implementing the lower court ruling, saying they wanted to wait until all legal issues were cleared up.

The ruling today came in the case of 14-year-old twins Imad and Nancy Rauf Hindi who have been deprived of birth certificates and were unable to legally attend school in Egypt.

In recent weeks, several other cases involving Baha'is have been likewise resolved in their favor. But the Rauf Hindi twins' case was the final case to be settled.

A Remarkable Victory for the Baha'is of Egypt

While their brothers and sisters in Iran continue to endure harsh oppression, the Baha'is of Egypt have just received a remarkable gift from their judicial establishment. The appeal--brought by Islamist lawyers in their attempt to reverse the 29 January 2008 ruling that permitted the Baha'is of Egypt to obtain ID cards and birth certificates with dashes [--] inserted in place of religious identification--was denied by Egypt's Supreme Administrative Court in its session today. The court also asserted that the 29 January ruling must be now enforced and ordered the appellant, Attorney Abdel Mageed Al-Aanani, to pay all costs of the appeal.

With this ruling, all legal challenges and appeals, brought by those extremists who oppose the Baha'is in Egypt, have been defeated in court. The Ministry of Interior, the principal party to the lawsuits, has never challenged or appealed the ruling that favored the Baha'is.

With this final verdict, there are no legal or administrative obstacles left that could prevent the Baha'is of Egypt from obtaining ID cards or birth certificates in their homeland.

Even though this significant step is considered to be a very welcome development in their struggle for their civil rights, the Baha'is of Egypt continue to suffer from consequences of the 1960 Presidential Decree-263, of the late President Gamal Abdel-Nasser, that outlawed the Baha'i Faith in Egypt.

More details to follow....

Update:

The great significance of this historic ruling is clearly emphasized in the press release by the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR). The Arabic version of the press release can be seen here.

Freedom of Religion and Belief Program
16 March 2009

Five-Year Legal Battle Ends in Favor of Baha’i Egyptians:

Supreme Administrative Court Upholds Right to Identification Documents without Discrimination

Today’s final decision by the Supreme Administrative Court upholding the right of Baha'i Egyptians to obtain mandatory identification documents without stipulating any religious affiliation is a welcome end to a long legal battle against official religious discrimination, the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR) said today.

The ruling, which is not subject to appeal, permanently revoked the government policy over the past eight years of forcing Baha'i citizens to convert to one of the three state-recognized religions - Islam, Christianity or Judaism - as a prerequisite for obtaining official identification papers. Such papers are necessary for accessing most basic rights in Egypt and they must mention a citizen’s religious affiliation. EIPR lawyers, acting on behalf of Baha’i individuals, challenged the policy on the grounds that it violated the rights to freedom of belief, equality and privacy, and contravened the percepts of Shar’ia (Islamic law).
Hossam Bahgat

"The significance of today's decision goes far beyond the direct remedy it provides for hundreds of Baha’i Egyptians who have been the immediate victims of this arbitrary and discriminatory government policy,” said Hossam Bahgat, Executive Director of the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights. “This final ruling is a major victory for all Egyptians fighting for a state where all citizens must enjoy equal rights regardless of their religion or belief.”

Today's decision (in appeal no 10831/54) upheld a similar ruling issued by the lower Court of Administrative Justice in January 2008, which had found that the Interior Ministry’s treatment of Baha’is wishing to obtain mandatory official documents was illegal. It also ordered the Ministry’s Civil Status Department to grant them documents that did not mention any religion instead of forcing them to misidentify their religious affiliation as Muslim or Christian. While the Interior Ministry did not appeal the lower court decision, several private lawyers challenged the decision in a number of judicial appeals and the Ministry has used these appeals as justification for not implementing the decision for more than one year now.

"Now that all legal challenges against restoring the rights of Baha’is have been dismissed, the government has no more excuses for dragging its feet in ending this abusive policy without delay,” said Bahgat.

Background

With the introduction of computer-generated identification documents in Egypt around the year 2000, the Interior Ministry’s Civil Status Department decided, without legal basis, to stop issuing or renewing official documents for Baha’i Egyptians unless they agreed to change their religious affiliation in public records to one of three officially recognized religions. In 2004 the Interior Ministry went a step further and started confiscating birth certificates and identity cards from Baha'i individuals if these documents showed their adherence to the Baha’i faith.

In the same year some Baha'i individuals whose papers had been confiscated without legal justification challenged the new policy before the administrative court, and in April 2006 the Court of Administrative Justice decided in their favor and ordered the government to recognize their adherence to the Baha’i faith in all official documents. The Interior Ministry however appealed the decision, which was later reversed by the Supreme Administrative Court in December 2006.

In January 2007, Baha'i Egyptians once again sought recourse from the administrative court, this time asking for the right to obtain identification documents without revealing their religious conviction. The Court of Administrative Justice found in their favor in January 2008. Shortly afterwards, the Interior Ministry announced that it would not appeal the decision issued in favor of the Baha'i applicants, but that it would not implement it until courts have decided on all legal challenges filed against it by a number of private lawyers.

The inability to obtain or renew identification documents for more than eight years has caused severe difficulties for Egypt’s Baha’i citizens whose number is thought to be around 2,000 individuals. Basic daily activities – such as registering for school, opening a bank account, engaging in a property transaction, collecting a pension check, immunization of children – all require a national ID or a birth certificate.

All rights reserved © Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights
e-mail:[email protected]

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Outstanding Article in UK's Telegraph on Baha'is of Iran

Under the section titled "Personal View" in the Telegraph, an Oxford professor wrote an outstanding essay on the persecution of the Baha'is of Iran. This article is clearly a well researched and argued scholarly essay that disputes the accusations brought by the current Iranian regime against the Baha'is of Iran.

The title reads as follows:

Iran's persecution of Bahá'ís is devastating

Iran’s Prosecutor General, Ayatollah Qorban-Ali Dorri-Najafabadi, has declared that the very expression of affiliation to the Bahá’í faith is illegal, writes Nazila Ghanea.

Please go to this link in order to read this fascinating essay....

Friday, March 13, 2009

US Congressional Bill Calling on Egypt's Government to Respect Human Rights & Freedoms of Religion

Subsequent to the 2008 US State Department annual human rights report (released on February 25, 2009) and in response to the recent developments concerning human rights and religious freedom in Egypt, a House Resolution (H.Res.200) was recently introduced in the US House of Representatives by Congressman Frank Wolf and cosponsored by 17 other House Representatives. The bill is calling on the Egyptian Government to respect human rights and freedoms of religion and expression in Egypt.

The bill is currently at the House Committee on Foreign Affairs. The status of the bill can be followed at this link. The entire bill is also posted below:

Calling on the Egyptian Government to respect human rights and freedoms of religion and expression in Egypt. (Introduced in House)

HRES 200 IH

111th CONGRESS

1st Session

H. RES. 200

Calling on the Egyptian Government to respect human rights and freedoms of religion and expression in Egypt.

IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES

February 26, 2009

Mr. WOLF (for himself, Mr. MANZULLO, Mr. FRANKS of Arizona, Mr. MCGOVERN, Mr. SMITH of New Jersey, Mr. PITTS, Mr. KIRK, Mrs. MYRICK, Mr. DOGGETT, Ms. BORDALLO, Ms. ZOE LOFGREN of California, Mr. MCCOTTER, Mr. SOUDER, and Ms. ESHOO) submitted the following resolution; which was referred to the Committee on Foreign Affairs
_______________________________________________________________________

RESOLUTION

Calling on the Egyptian Government to respect human rights and freedoms of religion and expression in Egypt.

Whereas the promotion of respect for democracy, human rights, and civil liberties are fundamental principles and aims of the United States;

Whereas the United States attaches great importance to relations with Egypt and considers fair and transparent elections as the only way to make progress towards a more democratic society;

Whereas Egypt plays a significant role in the Middle East peace process and in the fight against international terrorism and fundamentalism;

Whereas the Egyptian authorities have promised to put an end to the imprisonment of journalists and bloggers, but this promise has so far gone unfulfilled;

Whereas in its 2008 annual international religious freedom report, the United States Department of State concluded that religious freedom conditions declined in Egypt and the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom continues to place Egypt on its watch list due to serious problems of discrimination and intolerance;

Whereas the independence of the judiciary continues to be undermined through exceptional parallel court systems, executive administrative orders overriding judicial decisions, and politically motivated lawsuits;

Whereas Shiites, Koranists, Jehovah's Witnesses, and other religious minorities are harassed, arrested, and imprisoned by security services;

Whereas all Baha'i institutions and community activities have been banned in Egypt since 1960, and members of the Baha'i faith continue to face discrimination when applying for government issued documents;

Whereas material vilifying Jews appears regularly in the state controlled and semi official media;

Whereas the Copts, Egypt's largest religious minority group and the largest Christian population in the Middle East, suffer from many forms of discrimination, including--

(1) a lack of employment in higher positions of the public sector, universities, army, and the security service;

(2) disproportional representation in Parliament and Shura Council;

(3) difficulty in building and repairing churches;

(4) lack of protection and lack of prosecution of perpetrators in cases of sectarian violence;

(5) government harassment of converts to Christianity while the government encourages conversion to Islam;

(6) the inability to obtain government issued identification cards which reflect conversion to Christianity; and

(7) prejudice against Christian guardians in child custody cases which involve parents of both Muslim and Christian faith;

Whereas blogger Abdel Karim Suleiman is still serving a four-year prison sentence for the peaceful expression of his views and is the first Egyptian blogger to be charged and convicted for blaspheming Islam, inciting sectarian strife, and criticizing President Hosni Mubarak;

Whereas Egyptian authorities continue to apply the law on nongovernmental organizations in an arbitrary and discretionary manner, dissolving and harassing Egyptian human rights and political advocacy organizations;

Whereas the Ibn Khaldun Center for Development Studies and its founder, Dr. Saad Eddin Ibrahim, have been threatened for their work to promote democratic reforms;

Whereas Dr. Saad Eddin Ibrahim has been convicted in absentia on politically motivated charges;

Whereas other civil society development organizations, including the International Republican Institute and the National Democratic Institute, have also been restricted in their work;

Whereas excessive use of force by Egyptian security, including against African migrants at the Egypt-Israel border, is occurring in violation of Egypt's obligations to protect fundamental human rights; and

Whereas the recent arrests and action against nongovernmental organizations and human rights defenders undermines the commitments entered into by the Egyptian Government concerning fundamental rights and freedoms and the democratic process in the country: Now, therefore, be it

Resolved, That the House of Representatives--

(1) recognizes that respect for human rights is a fundamental value, and the bilateral relationship between the United States and Egypt should be a platform for promoting the rule of law and fundamental freedoms;

(2) calls on the Egyptian Government to end all forms of harassment, including judicial measures, the detention of media professionals and, more generally, human rights defenders and activists calling for reforms and to fully respect freedom of expression, in conformity with article 19 of the United Nations International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights;

(3) encourages the Egyptian Government to honor its commitment to repeal the state of emergency in order to allow for the full consolidation of the rule of law in Egypt;

(4) encourages the Egyptian Government to take the steps necessary to fully implement and protect the rights of religious minorities as full citizens;

(5) strongly supports measures to guarantee academic freedom, freedom of the media, and freedom of religion or belief in Egypt, including by ending arbitrary administrative measures, such as those taken against the Centre for Trade Union and Workers' Services;

(6) urges the Egyptian Government not to impose arbitrary restrictions on the peaceful activities of civil society organizations;

(7) calls on the Egyptian Government for--

(A) the immediate and unconditional release of Abdel Karim Suleiman and all other political prisoners and democracy activists;

(B) an end to the harassment of the Koranists; and

(C) a repeal of the 1960 presidential decree banning members of the Baha'i community from practicing their faith;


(8) welcomes the Egyptian Government's decision to pardon opposition political leader Ayman Nour for medical reasons after he served three of his five-year prison sentence;

(9) stresses the need to fully implement the principles of the 1969 Organization of African Unity Convention Governing the Specific Aspects of Refugee Problems in Africa and the 1993 International Convention concerning the rights and the protection of migrant workers and their families;

(10) supports the concluding observations of the United Nations Committee on Migrant Workers of May 2007, which called for the re-opening of the investigations into the killing of 27 Sudanese asylum-seekers in December 2005;

(11) calls for an immediate end to Egypt's `shoot to stop' border policy which has left at least 32 African migrants, including women and children, dead;

(12) calls for an end to all forms of torture and ill treatment and calls for investigations when there is reasonable suspicion that acts of torture have occurred;

(13) calls on the Egyptian Government to allow--

(A) a visit by the United Nations Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment; and

(B) a visit by the United Nations Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief;


(14) emphasizes the importance of ensuring and strengthening the independence of the judiciary by amending or repealing all legal provisions that infringe or do not sufficiently guarantee its independence;

(15) stresses the need for respect and protection of the freedoms of thought, conscience, and religion as ensured in article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the 1981 United Nations Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Intolerance and of Discrimination based on Religion and Belief;

(16) encourages Egypt and all other parties concerned to redouble efforts to fight smuggling through tunnels into the Gaza strip; and

(17) urges the President and the Secretary of State to put human rights and religious freedom developments in Egypt very high on the United States Government's agenda during meetings with Egyptian officials.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

MidEast Youth Introduce Another Illustrative Piece of Art

Mideast Youth, an independent Muslim interfaith activist group of Middle East youth, has been very courageously defending the Baha'is of Iran and Egypt. One of their prominent dedicated sites is The Muslim Network for Baha'i Rights. As a result of their unrelenting work, they have been frequently slandered and have even received all sorts of threats from individuals as well as extremist groups. In spite of these challenges, they, admirably, continue to press on with their message of acceptance, peace and tolerance.

None of their work is ever done for personal gain or for "glory." It is simply done out of their conviction that all humans deserve equal rights. Their work and publications are yet another example of how useful blogs and internet websites can be: that is to serve a cause, and not merely an expression of useless or wasteful discourse.

Among their numerous innovations, in using the arts to make a point, has been their introduction of comics to illustrate the current events and developments affecting the oppressed Baha'is in Iran and Egypt. Several of these comics have been published at their sites as well as other blogs and websites.

In a recent post, the following statement was made by the group as an introduction to a relevant comic:

Recently, it came to our attention that Iranian media has been making claims that the arrested Baha’i leaders had “sophisticated communications devices” in their possession. Given the authority’s track record, we can only imagine what the real-case scenario was:

Monday, March 09, 2009

Baha'i Supreme Administrative Body Issues a Letter to the Baha'is in Iran

A letter, dated 5 March 2009, was issued to the Baha'is in Iran by the Universal House of Justice, the supreme administrative body of the Baha'i Faith. The letter, written in Persian, can be seen at this link. An English translation will be published as soon as it becomes available.

Friday, March 06, 2009

Baha'i International Community Issues a Letter to Iran's Prosecutor-General

Please read this very important and urgent letter announced at the website of the Baha'i International Community, which also describes the letter in brief in its introductory article. The letter is also linked to here in English and Persian.

Egypt: Baha'i Case Postponed Again!

Blogging from remote Alps: the case of the Bahai's of Egypt before the Supreme Administrative Court was heard on 2 March by a new judge and got postponed again until 16 March 2009. More details to follow....

Update (also see last post here):

This accounts for the seventh postponement of the decision on the appeal brought by extremist lawyers who were never party to the case . Following the initial hearing of the appeal on 27 September 2008 by this court and the scheduled verdict date of 20 October 2008, this is the seventh postponement (3 November 2008, 15 December 2008, 19 January 2009, 2 February 2009, 16 February 2009 & 2 March 2009). The Supreme Administrative Court's own State Judiciary Council had considered the appeal and had rejected it. The court was expected to abide by the decision of the Council.The lower court's decision of 29 January 2008 was in favor of the Baha'is, allowing them to obtain ID cards and birth certificates with dashes [--] instead of their stated religion. The Ministry of Interior, the primary defended in the case, has never appealed the ruling.

See media coverage by Egyptian TV channels here....