CAIRO: One year after the violent attacks on Bahais in Shuraniya, a village in Upper Egypt, the assailants have yet to face a court of law.
“We refuse to let it pass,” Hossam Bahgat, executive director of the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR), told Daily News Egypt.
“We will submit a further request to the prosecutor’s office to inquire about the conclusions of the complaints. And we will also consider approaching the African Commission of Human Rights if Egypt does not bring those responsible to justice,” he added.
From March 28 to 31, 2009, five homes owned by Bahai families in Shuraniya were torched, with Molotov cocktails. Although the police arrived during the attacks, no action was taken to arrest the assailants.
Six human rights organizations filed two complaints on April 2, 2009, one against the perpetrators and one against journalist Gamal Abdel Rahim, from state-run Al-Gomhuria and member of the Journalist’s Syndicate board, accused of allegedly inciting the attacks. During an episode of “Al-Haqiqa,” a political talk show on satellite channel Dream 2, he called for killing Bahai activist and university professor Dr Basma Moussa.
“During the program, Abdel Rahim pointed to her and said: This one should be killed,” Bahgat said.
Abdel Rahim never apologized for his statement nor did he acknowledge his responsibility for the Shuraniya crime. On the contrary, he even praised the residents for stoning the homes of Bahais in an article published in Al-Gomhuria.
“In Abdel Rahim’s opinion, Bahais are a threat to Egyptian unity and security and members of the Israeli conspiracy,” Bahgat said.
“Not bringing those responsible for sectarian violence to justice sends a very dangerous message to citizens. It gives a green light to engage in further crimes,” Adel Ramadan, EIPR’s legal officer, said.
“The failure to address violence against Copts in the early 1970s has led to the grave situation we face today. Will we allow a repetition of the same failed pattern with regard to Bahais? Who will be next?”
“State officials consistently deny the prevalence of a climate of impunity that prevents the prosecution of perpetrators of sectarian violence, but the Shuraniya attacks expose that lie,” said Bahgat, concluding: “It is a symbolic fight.”
The rights of Egyptian Bahais came to the limelight when the government started issuing computerized national IDs less than a decade ago. Bahais were asked to list their religion as either Muslim, Christian or Jew or live without IDs or official documents.
“We [the EIPR] represented the Bahais in court. We won the case and the interior minister implemented its ruling directly,” Bahgat said reference to a court case to allow Egyptian Bahais to issue official documents without lying about their faith.
Since April 2009, the new law allows Egyptians who are not Muslim, Christian or Jewish to obtain identification documents, by leaving the religion slot blank on their national ID.
Difficulties nevertheless persist: “The next step would be to allow civil marriage,” he added.