The denial of ID cards to Egypt’s Baha’is has rendered them virtually non-existent. In a few hours, the first of two final verdicts on whether Baha’is in egypt will be able to obtain ID cards is set to be delivered.

Minorities across the world have started blogging in order to document the hardships they experience and raise awareness on their plight, and the past years has seen an explosion in Egyptian Baha’i blogs. One of the most prominent is “Baha’i Faith in Egypt”, and its author has kindly agreed to a brief interview:

You’ve been actively blogging about the situation of Baha’is in Egypt, along with many other Baha’is within Egypt. In your opinion, what has the impact of these blogs been? Do you believe that they have created a difference?

Blogs have been successful in making the case of the persecuted Baha’is of Egypt known to the entire world. They provide main stream media outlets with ongoing updates and information on the struggle of the Baha’is. Even government agencies and human rights organizations around the world have found the blogs useful as a grassroots source of information and updates. Because of blogs, human rights violations are no longer hidden…they are immediately exposed and the world’s reaction to them is prompt. This is a whole new phenomenon as far as information exchange is concerned, the larger impact of which remains to be realized.

Given the mixed signals that have come from the Egyptian government, many believe that it is not committed to protecting the Baha’i minority, and is simply trying to silence Baha’is, activists and critics. What is your opinion on that?

Since I do not have direct insight into the government’s mind, there is no way for me to make such judgment. I do, however, hope that the government’s motives are sincere and intended to protect the rights of all its citizens. When one considers the conflicting interests, opinions and motives within the Egyptian society, one can understand that the authorities are confronted with various challenges that might require keeping a certain balance in decision making. This, however, should never supersede the need to protect minorities and ensure the preservation of human and civil rights for all citizens regardless of belief, social status or any other diversity factor.

How has the Baha’i community in Egypt been affected by the closure of Baha’i institutions and the banning of Baha’i activities?

This presidential decree (263) of 1960 has led to, among many other consequences, the loss of official recognition of the Baha’i population of Egypt. It contributed to all their current difficulties and the loss of their civil rights in their own homeland. It dissolved their administrative structure. It confiscated all their properties and contributed to the departure of numerous Baha’is from Egypt. It caused Baha’i families great financial losses and drop in their social standing. It deprived them from holding their formal devotional and holiday services. It caused the recurrent imprisonment of many innocent Baha’is. It created a class distinction and deprivation of educational and employment opportunities. It de-legalized their marriages. Additionally, the lack of an administrative structure contributes to the inability of the Baha’is to engage in formal negotiations with the government in their quest to obtain their rights. Also, a census of the Egyptian Baha’i population cannot be performed because of the lack of administrative structure.

How do you expect opponents of the January 29 ruling to react should the final ruling be in favour of Baha’is? Do you fear there could be serious repercussions for the Baha’is of Egypt?

I would hope that all Egyptians come to the understanding that they are all “humans” who deserve to be guaranteed all their rights and that their dignity is protected. These are basic needs for any human being. Those who oppose the Baha’is of Egypt, if they truly come to adhere to their own spiritual and religious teachings, must come to terms with these facts: people of Egypt must be all equal regardless of who they are and what they represent.

Overall, is Egypt moving towards embracing coexistence and tolerance, or do you see the opposite occurring?

I would leave this up to Egypt to answer!