Like all other Baha’is, the experiences of Shady Samir in Egypt have been far from easy. His marriage isn’t officially recognized, it took him 10 years to obtain a passport and over a year to obtain birth certificates for his 3 daughters, and of course, he still doesn’t have a National ID card.

Shady has also faced difficulties in obtaining a death certificate for his father, who passed away 4 years ago. The family could easily obtain a death certificate if they list one of the 3 officially recognized religions (Christianity, Judaism or Islam) in the death certificate, but Shady’s father’s last will was to die as a Baha’i.

Shady kindly consented to be interviewed by us on the current situation in Egypt.

Can you give us a brief insight into the daily struggles of Egypt’s Baha’is as they are forced to live without ID cards?
ID cards are needed for virtually any official transaction. And they are the only way to validate a person’s identity. These are a few things you can’t do if you don’t have an ID card: Open a bank account, take your money out of the bank, buy any property, issue a car license, get a job, prove your military service status, issue a passport, travel inside Egypt. With random security checks, young men who don’t have valid Ids can be taken to police stations for investigation. ID cards are not the only document that Baha’is are unable to acquire. Any official document in which we’re required to state our religion we’re being asked to choose one of three options only. This includes birth certificates, death certificates, marriage registration, and education forms. This leaves our children with no proper health care and education. You can imagine any possible simple right that’s taken for granted like infants immunization, and imagine what we go through to get it without proper documents

With the increasing media attention on the plight of Baha’is, there appears to have been an increase in anti-Baha’i polemics. How does the community counter that?
This is a natural reaction opposing the awakening that spread throughout the society leading to finally realizing that Baha’is are far from what the negative media over the years was trying to show. The increase in negative media is a proof that there is a force of enlightenment and justice that’s spreading. We are not letting this anti-Baha’i campaign distract us from our purpose, which is putting the words of Baha’u’llah into action and sharing it with our friends. It helps us and them through a spiritual and moral transformation leading to a new world civilization. This act of service is the best answer to attacks on the community.

You have an opportunity to leave Egypt for a country that would guarantee you your rights, but choose to remain in Egypt – why?
I do not believe that it’s a matter of choice. I’m an Egyptian and this is my country. And the right thing will happen in the end, no matter how long we wait. Giving up my country means I’m giving up my rights.

Do you feel that human rights activists in Egypt and beyond have done enough in terms of advocacy for the Baha’i minority?
The support of human rights activists was beyond our expectations. They are, indeed, writing an amazing chapter in the history of the Baha’is faith and the history of humanity. It empowers us to never give up. We feel that we are not alone. We’re grateful for all what’s being done to defend the rights of the Baha’is.

Egypt’s Baha’i community numbers at only a few thousand, yet many feel that the January 29 ruling constitutes a threat to Egypt. What do you believe is the cause behind this strong opposition?
The ruling goes beyond the rights of the few Baha’is in Egypt. The ruling establishes a steady and strong step towards ultimate religious freedom in Egypt. Those who oppose it understand this. But what they don’t understand is that religious freedom is not a threat.

Shady also maintains a blog: Egyptian Baha’i