Upcoming Court Hearing on the Rights of Egyptian Children
As covered extensively on the blog, Baha’i Faith in Egypt, on July 3, the Administrative Court of Egypt will hold a hearing on the ability of two Egyptian Baha’i children, Emad and Nancy, to obtain birth certificates. To date, these children, who are 14-year-old twin siblings, have not been able to obtain birth certificates solely because of their family’s religious affiliation; without birth certificates, they are unable to attend public schools.
Several legal principles are at issue here. At the international level, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, to which Egypt is a signatory, states in Article 15 that “everyone has a right to a nationality.” Moreover, Article 2 provides that this right is guaranteed irrespective of one’s religious belief. The denial of birth certificates to these children, solely on the basis of their family’s religious affiliation, effectively denies them of their Egyptian citizenship and nationality, and the rights that accompany it, all in violation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
One of the internationally-recognized human rights that these children are being denied because they cannot obtain birth certificates is the right of access to public education. More specifically, Article 26 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights guarantees that “everyone has the right to education. Education shall be free, at least in the elementary and fundamental stages.” Without their birth certificates, Emad and Nancy are unable to attend public school, thus depriving them of a right that is clearly guaranteed to them through Egypt’s ratification of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
The enlightened principles regarding education contained in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights are directly echoed in Egypt’s own Constitution, Article 18 of which states: “Education is a right guaranteed by the State.” More generally, Egypt’s Constitutional Proclamation states:
The dignity of every individual is a natural reflection of the dignity of his nation, for each individual is a cornerstone in the edifice of the homeland. This homeland derives its strength and prestige from the value of each individual, his activity and dignity.
Emad and Nancy were born and raised in Egypt. Their parents and grandparents are Egyptian. What clearer example of a cornerstone of the edifice of the homeland could there be? What effect might the erosion of this cornerstone, through the denial of access to basic rights of citizenship, including education, have on the development and ultimate dignity, strength, and prestige of Egyptian society? Let us hope that the Egyptian Court rectifies this injustice on July 3.