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Article Egypt: Supreme Administrative Court Rejects Petition to Obligate Local Administrative Authorities to Allocate Burial Site for Baha'i Religious Minority

On December 20, 2022, the Appeals Examination Circuit of Egypt’s Supreme Administrative Court upheld a ruling issued by the Alexandria Administrative Court allowing the Governorate of Alexandria to deny a request submitted by the Baha’i religious community to create a new cemetery for the community.

Members of the Baha’i community had requested that the Alexandria administrative authorities allocate a piece of land to be used as a burial site for its members because, currently, only a single cemetery space in Cairo’s Basatin neighborhood is available to the thousands of Egyptians of the Baha’i Faith. This has resulted in the depletion of the cemetery’s capacity and forced families of deceased Baha’is to transport their loved ones’ remains to Cairo from all across Egypt. However, the Alexandria Governorate rejected the request, arguing that it did not have authority to allocate cemetery space. In response, members of the Baha’i community petitioned the Alexandria Administrative Court to obligate the local authorities in the Alexandria Governorate to allocate a burial site.

The Alexandria Court Case

The legal representative of the Baha’i community argued before the Alexandria Administrative Court that local administrative authorities had previously approved the allocation of burial sites for individuals who are not affiliated with the three officially recognized religions in Egypt — Islam, Christianity, and Judaism. He noted that the Cairo Governorate had leased land to the Indian Embassy to cremate the bodies of deceased Hindus in 1964. The Cairo authorities had also granted Baha’is the right to bury members of their community in a separate piece of land in 1965. He added that the Governorates of Ismailia and Port Said had approved the allocation of burial sites to the Baha’i community in 1944 and 1949. Therefore, on the grounds that local governments had previously allocated burial sites to individuals not affiliated with the three recognized religions, the Governorate of Alexandria had no right to reject the Baha’i community’s request that a new burial site be allocated for its members.

Ruling of the Alexandria Administrative Court

On December 21, 2021, the Administrative Court of Alexandria ruled that the administrative authorities of the Governorate of Alexandria were not obligated to allocate a piece of land to be used by the Baha’i religious community as a burial site. According to the court, this is because the Egyptian state recognizes only Islam, Judaism, and Christianity as religions and that the Baha’is are not recognized as a religious minority.

In its ruling, the court also relied on the religious opinion of the Islamic Research Academy affiliated with the Al-Azhar, the main Islamic institution of Egypt. The Islamic Research Academy claimed in a report submitted to the court that providing a burial site for the Baha’i community would “lead to discrimination, further division, fragmentation, and rupture of the fabric of one society.”

A Second Court Case in Port Said

In another decision issued on December 20, 2022, the Administrative Court of the Governorate of Port Said rejected a petition submitted by members of the Baha’i community to allocate a piece of land to be used as a new burial site by the community.

The community had argued before the administrative court that this burial site should be placed on a piece of land that the community formerly owned until the Egyptian government confiscated it in the 1970s. The Egyptian government did not offer the community any replacement after confiscating their piece of land.

The Port Said Administrative Court followed the same approach of the Alexandria Administrative Court concerning the allocation of burial sites to the Baha’i community. In its ruling, the court stated that the Governorate of Port Said is not obligated to grant the Baha’i community a piece of land as a replacement for the one confiscated by the Egyptian government because the Baha’i Faith is not one of the three religions officially recognized by the Egyptian Constitution.

George Sadek, Law Library of Congress
January 25, 2023

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Chicago citation style:

Sadek, George. Egypt: Supreme Administrative Court Rejects Petition to Obligate Local Administrative Authorities to Allocate Burial Site for Baha'i Religious Minority. 2023. Web Page. https://www.loc.gov/item/global-legal-monitor/2023-01-24/egypt-supreme-administrative-court-rejects-petition-to-obligate-local-administrative-authorities-to-allocate-burial-site-for-bahai-religious-minority/.

APA citation style:

Sadek, G. (2023) Egypt: Supreme Administrative Court Rejects Petition to Obligate Local Administrative Authorities to Allocate Burial Site for Baha'i Religious Minority. [Web Page] Retrieved from the Library of Congress, https://www.loc.gov/item/global-legal-monitor/2023-01-24/egypt-supreme-administrative-court-rejects-petition-to-obligate-local-administrative-authorities-to-allocate-burial-site-for-bahai-religious-minority/.

MLA citation style:

Sadek, George. Egypt: Supreme Administrative Court Rejects Petition to Obligate Local Administrative Authorities to Allocate Burial Site for Baha'i Religious Minority. 2023. Web Page. Retrieved from the Library of Congress, <www.loc.gov/item/global-legal-monitor/2023-01-24/egypt-supreme-administrative-court-rejects-petition-to-obligate-local-administrative-authorities-to-allocate-burial-site-for-bahai-religious-minority/>.