Allocating cemeteries for the burial of Baha’i Egyptians: the administrative judiciary refuses in Port Said, and the Supreme Administrative Court supports the refusal in Alexandria

Press Release

23 December 2022

The Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights condemns the two rulings issued on December 20, 2022 refusing to oblige the state to allocate cemeteries for the “fourth category” of citizens, which contains those who do not belong to the three officially recognized religions, and whose IDs carry a dash sign (-) in the field for religion in the governorates of Port Said and Alexandria. EIPR considers this an endorsement to ignoring the most basic rights, which is the right to allocate cemeteries for all diversity of society.

The Port Said Administrative Court ruling in Case No. 398/10 J, refused to oblige the governorate to allocate a piece of land as burial space for the “fourth category” instead of old cemeteries that were specified for the Baha’is, and which the state reclaimed in the seventies in the framework of re-planning some areas.

Also, the Appeals Examination circuit of the Supreme Administrative Court rejected Appeal No. 29171/98 J, which was submitted against the ruling of the Alexandria Administrative Court by refusing to oblige the Governorate of Alexandria to allocate a piece of land as cemeteries for the “fourth category” in place of the old cemeteries that were called cemeteries of free thought or "civilian cemeteries" in the Shatby district. These “civilian cemeteries” were historically used to bury the remains of non-affiliates to the three religions, before it was re-allocated to one of the Coptic associations and used as cemeteries for Christians, and is no longer available for the burial of the deceased of the “fourth category”.

EIPR lawyers, representing citizens of the fourth category – Bahai’is  - had filed lawsuits against the Alexandria and Port Said governorates to oblige them to allocate cemeteries in Alexandria and Port Said, after the concerned authorities ignored the citizens’ requests in that regard.

Reports by the State Council commissioners in the two cases were based on several repeated arguments about the state's non-recognition of the Baha'i faith, the dissolution of Baha'i assemblies in the 1960s, their demands being in violation of public order, and that the state is obligated to allocate cemeteries for the followers of the three recognized religions only.

Memoranda by EIPR lawyers responded that the reports ignore the ruling of the administrative judiciary by adding (-) in the religion field in the official papers of followers of other than the three religions, which makes them a fourth category of religious diversity.  And since cemeteries are allocated to each religious group, the state is obligated to allocate cemeteries for the fourth category, regardless of the recognition or non-recognition of other religions, because the right to burial is a fundamental right that cannot be suspended, in addition to the fact that squandering the basic rights of this group under the pretext of non-recognition is religious discrimination and a violation of the constitution, the law, and the principle of equality between citizens.

The EIPR lawyers also submitted documents proving that the state had allocated cemeteries in the royal and republican eras to followers of unrecognized religions, some of whose remains still exist. There is also a single cemetery dedicated to burying the dead of the Baha’is in Cairo, which was allocated in the thirties of the last century, but its spaces are about to run out, in addition to the hardship of traveling long distances to bury bodies of the dead from all parts of the Republic.

EIPR calls on state agencies to review their decisions regarding graves of the fourth category and work to guarantee the basic rights of all categories of religious div0ersity, within the framework of a more comprehensive review of all forms of religious discrimination and violation of religious rights and freedoms.

For more on the background of those cases see:

Identity Papers, Marriage, and Burials: The Missing Basic Rights of People of Unrecognized Religions in Egypt

Ignoring the Dead: Where Have the Graveyards of People of Free Faith and Unrecognized Religions Gone?

Exclusively forAadherents to "Divinely Revealed Religions"? - How did the preparatory work for Egyptian constitutions discuss issues of freedom of religion and belief?