CAIRO: Egyptian Bahais have won another round in their fight for the right to obtain official state documents.
The Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR) says in a statement that on Feb. 17, the Administrative Court rejected a legal challenge to a May 2007 decision which ordered the Ministry of Defense to issue Bahai student Nayer Nabil Al-Hamamsi a card stating that his military service has been deferred.
Egyptian male university students must present a document to university proving that they are either exempt from military service or that it has been deferred.
The university is obliged to suspend male students who fail to produce it.
The court ordered that the Ministry of Defense issued the deferment card despite the fact that Al-Hamamsi did not have an ID card.
Under the new computerized national identification number system introduced by the Interior Ministry, Egyptian citizens must list their religion as Muslim, Christian or Jewish.
As a result of what EIPR describes as the Interior Ministry’s 2004 ‘arbitrary’ decision, Bahais do not have the option of leaving the religious field blank – as existed under the previous, non-computerized system.
As a result, Egypt’s Bahai population was left with the choice of either lying about their faith or going without the official document which is essential for access to university education, employment, voting and travel.
Failure to produce an ID card when requested by a police officer is a criminal offence.
EIPR says that in 2006 Al-Hamamsi was suspended from the Suez Canal College of Physical Education after the Ministry of Defense refused to issue him the deferment card unless he first presented the new, computerized ID card.
EIPR lodged a case on behalf of Al-Hamamsi in August 2006 before the Court of Administrative Justice, which ordered the Ministry of Defense to issue the deferment card on the basis of his birth certificate and to reinstate him.
While the Ministry of Defense’s motion that the decision be suspended was rejected last week, the ministry has also filed a case with the Supreme Administrative Court which is still pending.
In January 2008 the Administrative Court recognized the right of Egyptian Bahais to obtain official state documents without listing their religion.
It ordered the Interior Ministry to issue birth certificates to 14-year-old Bahai twins Emad and Nancy Raouf Hindi and said that Hosni Hussein Abdel-Messeih has the right to a national ID card.