Friday, December 17, 2010

In Egypt: yes you can have an ID Card, but!

As posted previously, the US State Department's annual report on religious freedom in Egypt stated:
According to Baha'i community members, throughout the first half of 2010 the government implemented the order and reportedly issued more than 180 birth certificates and 50 to 60 national identification cards to Baha'is, all with dashes in the religious identification field. The government, because it does not recognize Baha'i marriage, and there is no civil mechanism for marriage, refused to issue identification documents to married Baha'is, unless they would agree to specify their marital status as "unmarried." According to the government,...

The implications of this status quo are far reaching and quite complex. Since the Egyptian government, thus far, has not developed a mechanism by which to officially recognize Baha'i marriage, any Baha'i married couple, a widow/widower, or a divorced person cannot obtain an ID Card. The reason for this is that the application for the national ID number/ID Card requires the individual to state his/her marital status. If the person is single, then an ID can be issued to the applicant without much delay.

If the person, however, is married or is a widow/widower or divorced, he/she must produce a proof of his/her status. And since the government does not recognize Baha'i marriage certificates, such documents presented by the applicants to the authorities have been systematically refused, declared as non-valid, and the issue of IDs have been denied. Meanwhile, such applicants have been told by the officials that if they wanted an ID, they can, then, lie and state that they are single. On the other hand, the application clearly states that any false statements entered can result in a prison sentence and a fine. Thus, Baha'is have been refusing to misrepresent their marital status on these documents.

Consequently--a year and 8 months past the order of the Minister of Interior to issue ID cards with a dash (-) to those not belonging to the official three religions--an overwhelming majority of the members of the Baha'i community in Egypt precariously continue to struggle in Egypt without identification documents.

One would think that the solution to this issue should be quite simple. There is really no reason to prolong such agony. Just as Baha'is long for an end to their suffering so that they can go on with their daily life, the authorities must also want to put an end to such injustice and rid themselves of the frustrations of having to deal with such convoluted and embarrassing state of affairs.

The Egyptian authorities must find a way to provide the Baha'is with a legitimate documentation of their marital status in Egypt, whether by a civil or by any other method of certification at their disposal. By doing so, Egypt can be seen, again, as a promoter of justice and a champion for human rights. With this outcome, Baha'is can, then, fully participate in the advancement and success of their beloved homeland.

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