Egypt's Minister of Cultural Affairs confirms school ban for Baha'is

Situation of the Baha'is still difficult:

According to the Society for Threatened Peoples (STP), the situation of the Baha'is in Egypt has not improved after the revolution. "On Sunday, the Egyptian Minister of Cultural Affairs, Ibrahim Ghoneim, had confirmed in Cairo, that Bahá'í children are not allowed to visit public schools because their religion is not officially recognized," criticized the STP's expert on questions regarding Africa, Ulrich Delius, in Göttingen on Tuesday. "The Baha'is in Egypt are still treated as second-class citizens. They live in constant fear of being attacked, because radical Islamic Salafists – who are constantly gaining power in the county – labeled them as a threat to national security."

Just like the Coptic Christians and the Muslim Sufis, the Baha'is reject the new Egyptian constitution, because it contains even more restrictions for practicing their faith. Generally, Article 37 of the constitution guarantees the right to religious freedom, but it also states that only three religions are officially recognized as such: the Islam, Christianity and Judaism. Therefore, the Baha'is are not allowed to build houses of worship or to officially admit their religious belief.

In everyday life, the non-recognition has serious consequences for the Baha'is. Just like for everybody else, their identity papers had to show their religious belief even before the presidency of Gamal Nasser (1954-1970), but there were no problems with that before. However, from 1960 onwards, they were forced to decide which of the three officially recognized religions they wanted to belong to – and thus deny their true faith. It was until 2008 – after years of litigations – that a father of two children managed to achieve that the Baha'is no longer had to reveal their religious belief. This ruling was confirmed by the Supreme Administrative Court in March 2009. "Unfortunately, the authorities still often refuse to issue certificates of birth or marriage for the Baha'is, due to their unresolved religious belief," said Delius. They are also often discriminated by employers.

There are around 2,000 Baha'is living in Egypt. Their ancestors mostly immigrated to the country about 160 years ago. In March 2009, Baha'i houses were burned down by angry Muslims in a village in the province of Sohag. Many Baha'is live in fear that there will be further attacks if the Salafists gain more power.