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Christian Entity Concerned about Court Ruling to Deny Burial Rights in Egypt

Credit: CSW

The leadership of the Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) has expressed concern about an Egyptian court’s ruling permitting local authorities in the country to deny cemetery land to members of religions that are not recognized in the Northeastern African nation. 

The Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR) had gone to court in January last year to petition the government to allow those who do not belong to Christianity, Islam and Judaism to obtain plots of land for burial purposes.

In a Tuesday, January 4 report, CSW officials say EIPR initiated the lawsuit after officials of the Cemeteries Department in the country’s second largest city, Alexandria, and the Burj Al Arab City Authority repeatedly declined requests from citizens belonging to “unrecognized religious and belief communities” and whose identity documents do not reveal whether they are Christians, Jews or Muslims.

In the report, the Founder President of the U.K-based Human Rights entity says they are “deeply concerned that this ruling will have a severe impact on the lives of Egyptians who belong to unrecognized religious and belief groups.”

The Court ruling “could effectively deprive members of unrecognized religious and belief communities of their entitlement as Egyptian citizens to a burial place in their own country,” Mervyn Thomas says.

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“It is also indicative of the ongoing societal hostility which underpins sectarianism and fosters extremism,” says Mr. Mervyn.

During the court proceedings, EIPR argued that Order 520, 2009, by the Minister of Interior, which allows authorities to use a “dash” sign in personal documents to indicate that the person belongs to an unrecognized religion confirms that the government recognizes the existence of this category and therefore has a duty to provide burial grounds for them.

According to the EIPR, Egyptian authorities allocated 1,850 plots of land for burial purposes between the 1920s and 1960s but this practice has since stopped, particularly with regard to the country’s Baha’i community. 

During the court case, the governor of Alexandria requested the opinion of the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, who replied in June 2021, stating that unrecognized religious and belief groups should not be allowed their own burial grounds because this would cause division and discrimination within Egyptian society, CSW officials say in the January 4 report.

In the report, CSW officials call on the Egyptian government to end all forms of prejudice in the country. 

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“CSW calls for this decision to be overturned and for the government to ensure an end to all discriminatory practices that militate against the personal commitment of President Sisi to combat sectarianism and religious discrimination between citizens,” Mr. Mervyn says.

The EIPR intends to appeal the decision before the Supreme Administrative Court.