Bahais cannot enroll in public schools, education minister says

The education minister has repeated remarks that Bahais cannot enroll in public schools, saying it violates the Constitution.

“The Constitution only recognizes the three Abrahamic religions,” Ibrahim Ghoneim told Akbar Al-Youm newspaper Saturday. “And as religion is a subject taught in schools, they do not meet the requirements for enrollment.”

Ghoneim had told Al-Sabah newspaper the same statement in November, when he was asked, “What is the position of the ministry concerning the children of Bahais? Do they have the right to enroll in a [ministry-affiliated] school?”

The minister responded by saying, “The state only recognizes three religions, and the Bahai faith is not among them. Thus their children do not have the right to register in government schools.”

In recent years, Bahais fought a battle with the government, as it refused to issue ID cards or birth certificates for them.

All Egyptians must have national ID cards starting at the age of 16. These cards indicate religion, and are a must for any other formal transaction, such as applying for a driver’s license or a birth certificate, or opening a bank account.

In 2008, an Egyptian court granted Bahais the right to obtain ID cards without mentioning their religion, thereby ending four years of debate over that issue.

But tensions between Bahais and the state predate the ID card issue.

In 1960, the government confiscated their assets, including land on the banks of the Nile intended for building a house of worship, and sold them in a public auction. At that time, the government accused the Bahais of being loyal to Israel, which hosts the faith’s main place of worship.

The Bahai community says some Egyptian Bahais were detained for six months after the 1967 war.

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