Who is Entitled To Human Rights in Egypt?
The question contained in the title of this post–who is entitled to human rights in Egypt?– seems like it would have a simple answer. That all human beings should be entitled to human rights seems like it would be an axiomatic fact, particularly in a country that is a signatory to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Yet, to read the December 16, 2006 opinion of the Supreme Administrative Court of Egypt denying members of the Baha’i Faith access to national identification cards, one would be hard pressed to avoid the conclusion that under current Egyptian law, a certain class of Egyptian citizens is not entitled to human rights.
In part of its decision, the Supreme Administrative Court of Egypt relied on a 1975 opinion of the Supreme Court of Egypt upholding a 1960 Presidential decree dissolving all Baha’i Assemblies and Centers in Egypt. It used this precedent as a basis for concluding that “despite [the Universal Declaration of Human Rights'] guarantee in Article 18 to give everyone the right to freedom of thought, expression and religion, ‘this latter right should be understood within the limits of what is recognized i.e. what is meant by religion is one of the three religions: Islam, Christianity and Judaism.”
The assertion that somehow the freedom of religion provided for by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is limited only to three religious groups is in direct contradiction to the plain text of the Declaration itself. Specifically, Article 2 of the Declaration states
Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status. (emphasis added)
The words of this Declaration provide a framework for a truly enlightened and advanced civilization, and the baselessness of limiting civil rights to the members of only three religions is clear. Will not Egypt, with such a glorious past, rise to demonstrate these noble, just, and universal principles, and permit members of the Baha’i Faith to obtain identification cards?
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