In two interventions before HRC| The Deteriorating Situation of Marginalized Minorities and Repressed Religious Freedoms in the Arab Region

In International Advocacy Program by

In two interventions before the United Nations Human Rights Council:
The Deteriorating Situation of Marginalized Minorities and Repressed Religious Freedoms in the Arab Region

Press Release

During the tenth session of the United Nations Human Rights Council (HRC) held in Geneva on March 2-27, the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS) asserted that exclusion policies, which disregard ethnic, religious and ideological diversity, have always been an approach that led to the intensification of civil wars and armed conflicts that have cost thousands of lives of Iraqi, Sudanese and Yemeni civilians warn of increasing rates of systematic repression on the basis of belief in Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, or on the basis of race in Syria. In Egypt, Nubians have long been the target of various forms of marginalization. Meanwhile, throughout the region religious freedoms in general continue to be the subject of repressive measures and religious minorities in Egypt continue to suffer from discrimination.

This was the main theme of two interventions by CIHRS before the United Nations HRC in its tenth session held in Geneva from March 2-27, 2009.
While the first intervention focused on indicators of the deteriorating status of minority rights in the Arab region, the second intervention – submitted jointly with the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR) – focused on the continuing repression of religious freedoms in Egypt.

CIHRS contended that impunity for human rights violation of minorities in the region has led to an exacerbation of these violations and of ethnic, religious and sectarian conflicts. The existing impunity has furthermore enabled regional states, such as Iran, to use these sectarian conflicts to attain some political objectives.

CIHRS added that ethnic minorities in Darfur have long been, and still are, the target of widespread abuses perpetrated by government forces and state-sponsored militias. It further indicated that despite last July&#146s memorandum of the Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) to issue an arrest warrant against Sudan&#146s President Omar Al-Bashir on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity in Darfur, the Sudanese government continued to perpetrate  violations and forcing thousands to flee their homes.

CIHRS noted the wide range of violations committed against the Yazidi Shiite minority during the 4 years of the war against Al-Houthis in the Sa&#146dah region of northern Yemen. CIHRS stressed on the importance of dispatching an international fact-finding mission to investigate the violations perpetrated in the war.

CIHRS added that ethnic and religious minorities in Iraq remain the target attacks by armed groups belonging to Shiite and Sunni factions. In this context, it indicated that Yazidi and Christian minorities are still being targeted by Sunnis and killings continue to be perpetrated in the name of religion.

Despite constituting a demographic majority, CIHRS&#146 intervention confirmed that the Shiite population is subjected to various forms of discrimination, are denied access to senior positions in the government and government-owned institutions or the army and are regularly marginalized in the economic, educational and political realms. Moreover, the Bahraini government has a record of manipulating the existing population percentages in the country by selectively nationalizing Sunni foreigners to reshape electoral constituencies in a manner that is not reflective of the country&#146s indigenous demographic reality. CIHRS added that Shiites are suffering from systematic discrimination coupled with intensive forms of oppression, among which are the arbitrary detention, torture and mistreatment of Shiite activists as well as the excessive use of force to prevent Shiites from gathering for religious ceremonies.

Furthermore, CIHRS confirmed that Shiites in Saudi Arabia are also subjected to various forms of systematic discrimination, where the Saudi law and social practice restrict the rights of Shiites in all areas of life, including employment, the building of mosques and the publication of religious books. Moreover, the testimonies of Shiites are not admissible in courts of law. There is a tendency to consider all those belonging to the Shiite school as “disbelievers of God.” This tendency is supported by many official and non-official religious leaders as well as the religious police – namely the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice (CPVPV) – and religious da’awa (call) centers. Shiites are also excluded from representation in higher diplomatic, security and military posts. Throughout Saudi Arabia&#146s history, no Shiite has ever been nominated as minister.

In Syria, Kurds, who constitute the largest ethnic minority in the country, continue to be the target of state suppression and discrimination. For decades, a reported 300,000 Syrian Kurds have been stripped of their citizenship, prevented from expressing their Kurdish identity and deprived of their right to use the Kurdish language in educational institutions. CIHRS&#146 intervention indicated that without citizenship, Kurds are denied their basic rights, particularly those related to the right to property, employment, travel, registering marriage contracts and birth certificates, as well as the right to participate in elections. It further emphasized that any attempts made by Syrian Kurds to claim their rights through peaceful activities are always met with oppression and unfair trials.

Moreover, the intervention drew attention to the problems facing Nubians in Egypt and indicated that since the beginning of the 20th Century until the 1960s, Nubians started to be forcibly deported from their villages and have since then been denied their right to re-settle. Furthermore, they were also denied adequate compensation and are facing harsh living conditions, in absence of proper infrastructure, education and as they suffer from high unemployment rates.     

The intervention further highlighted the increasing sectarian violence in Egypt and the failure of the State to address the underlying causes of this pattern of violence as well as the inability to bring justice for the victims of sectarian violence. Rather, impunity is constantly exercised and given to those involved in acts of sectarian violence.

CIHRS&#146 intervention also noted discrimination against Christian Copts in Egypt continues unabated, which is reflected in the state&#146s refusal to adopt a unified law on places of worship concerning building, renewing or maintaining churches. It further contended that restrictions on religious freedoms are not limited to believers in unrecognized religions or creeds, but also extends to different sects of Islam, the State&#146s official religion. In this context, CIHRS referred to the use of the emergency law as well as articles of the penal code pertinent to “contempt of religions” in the persecution of “Qur&#146anists” – an Islamic sect that believes that Islamic jurisprudence should be taken from no source other than the Quran.

The intervention added that in spite of the fact that on January 29, 2008, an Administrative Court acknowledged the right of Egyptian Baha&#146is to acquire birth certificates and identity cards without indicating certain religions in their identity documents, this decision has not been executed. In fact, Baha&#146is are still deprived of many of their citizenship rights and have for long faced difficulties enrolling their children in any educational facility, registering their new born, finding jobs, etc.

The intervention highlighted how conversion or re-conversion to Christianity continues to be seen as an act of “apostasy”, which poses serious problems to those converting or re-converting to Christianity in obtaining identification documents that indicate their “actual” religion.

Share this Post