Egypt officially changes rules for ID cards

April 17, 2009

CAIRO, Egypt — Egypt’s Ministry of Interior this week published a decree that allows individuals to obtain government documents without identifying themselves as belonging to a particular religion.

The decree is the result of a recent Egyptian Supreme Administrative Court ruling – in a case involving Baha’is – that on government ID cards and other documents, individuals may put a dash in the field denoting religious affiliation.

“We are very pleased that the Egyptian government has moved to officially change the regulation that prevented Baha'is and others from realizing their rights of citizenship,” said Bani Dugal, the principal representative of the Baha’i International Community to the United Nations.

The computerization of ID cards introduced by the government had locked out all religious classifications except Islam, Christianity, and Judaism. This had meant that Baha'is were unable to get documents essential to day-to-day life.

The decree was signed by General Habib al-Adly, Egypt’s Interior Minister, and dated 19 March 2009, and was published on 14 April in the official gazette. According to the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR), which represented Baha’is in many of the recent court cases concerning religious affiliation on government documents, the decree amends the Implementing Statutes of Egypt’s Civil Status Law of 1994. It specifically instructs officials to place a dash (--) before the line reserved for religion in the official documents of citizens who can show that they, or their ancestors, were followers of a religious belief other than the three recognized by the state.