First identification cards issued to Egyptian Baha'is using a "dash" instead of religion

August 14, 2009

CAIRO, Egypt — Two young Baha'is at the center of a court case over religious identification on government documents have received new computerized ID cards showing a "dash" instead of their religion.

Imad and Nancy Rauf Hindi received the new cards on 8 August 2009. They are the first such cards to be issued following a ruling by the Egyptian Supreme Administrative Court that cleared the way for the government to issue documents without reference to religious identity.

"We welcome this development and are now hopeful that the Egyptian government will begin granting more identification cards and related documents to Baha'is and others," said Bani Dugal, the principal representative of the Baha'i International Community.

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 ID cards and other documents essential to day-to-day life in Egypt.

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Official Egyptian national identification card issued to Nancy Rauf Hindi on 8 August 2009, showing a "dash" on the back in the field reserved for religious affiliation.

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.

It was proposed that a dash or the word "other" be used on documents, instead of the Baha'is being forced to list themselves as Muslim, Christian, or Jewish. That case specifically involved the 16-year-old Rauf Hindi twins, who had been unable to attend school in Egypt for lack of proper documents.

On 29 January 2008, a lower court again ruled in their favor. But then two Muslim lawyers filed an appeal.

On 16 March 2009, the Supreme Administrative Court rejected the appeal and the Ministry of Interior soon after that issued a decree specifying that individuals can now obtain government documents without identifying themselves as belonging to a particular religion.