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Egypt's Minorities

Posted on the 27 December 2011 by Warigia @WarigiaBowman

Egypt's Minorities

Bedouins in Alexandria. Photo Credit T.H. McAllister.


Dear readers
Not very much attention is given to the "other" in examinations of Egypt. Of course, we have found out in the past year that women, although they are 50% of the population, are treated like the other in Egypt.
But there are other groups that deserve attention. I am particularly concerned that at least some of these groups receive proper representation in the upcoming efforts to design Egypt's new constitution.
Under President Gamal Abdel Nasser, most European groups left, fled or were driven out. Egypt used to have a sizeable Greek, and Jewish population, particularly in Alexandria,but they are mostly gone. One can see beautiful, yet empty, shuttered and locked synagogues in Old Cairo and in Old Alexandria. There is some Jewish population in Egypt, but it is incredibly small, and hard to measure, due to the intense anti-zionist sentiment here. The American-Israeli cooperative Enterprise estimates their numbers at less than 100 in 2004.
Another group we do not hear much about are the Baha'i. The Bahai are a religious group who recognize Bahaullah as their prophet. They have a very nice message about the unity of humankind. However, they are fiercely oppressed in Egypt. They are not allowed to have ID cards showing their religion. (Although I think the fact that ID cards show your religion is a bad one in principle.) The only religions you are allowed to list on your IDs include Jewish, Islam and Christianity. As a result, many Bahai have difficulty getting birth certificates, passports, and other crucial documents. They are routinely discriminated against and stigmatized. They probably number around 5000, or less.
I have devoted many pages to the persecution of Copts and other Christians. [I will expand this section in the coming days]. The Egyptian majority also do not like Shia Muslims very much. Regardless of the size of these communities, their protection requires a secular state that ensures religious protection for minorities.
I have fallen in love with the Nubian people during my time in Egypt. There land was largely submerged when Lake Nasser was created as part of the Aswan Dam. They were relocated to villages. The novel Dongola, and another book, The Nubian Women of West Aswan, give some insight into their plight.  Please look at my page on Books @ Egypt for more details. One of the most beautiful and scenic things I have seen during my time in Egypt was a cute Nubian village along the Nile in Aswan. Although the Nubian dynasty of the Pharaos was one of the most successful Egypt has ever seen, the Nubian people currently remind me of the plight of the Native Americans in America.
I also am concerned that the Siwans, the Bedouins, and other indigenous tribal people have a say in the upcoming Egyptian constitutional process.
~WMB

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