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Lebanon: Situation of Baha'is; in particular, whether they encounter problems in practising their religion; the attitude of the government; the protection offered to them when they are mistreated

Publisher Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada
Author Research Directorate, Immigration and Refugee Board, Canada
Publication Date 16 April 2004
Citation / Document Symbol LBN42539.FE
Reference 1
Cite as Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Lebanon: Situation of Baha'is; in particular, whether they encounter problems in practising their religion; the attitude of the government; the protection offered to them when they are mistreated, 16 April 2004, LBN42539.FE, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/41501c2b1c.html [accessed 31 August 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

According to the International Religious Freedom Report 2003, there are "some very small numbers of Baha'is" in Lebanon (18 Dec. 2003, Sec. 1). The Encyclopaedia of the Orient reported that approximately 4,000 Baha'is live in the country, representing 0.13 per cent of the Lebanese population (Encyclopaedia of the Orient n.d.).

The Lebanese government officially recognizes 18 religious groups (International Religious Freedom Report 2003 18 Dec. 2003, Sec. 1). The Baha'is, however, belong to a faith that is not recognized by the government (ibid., Sec. 2). Like other groups in this category, the Baha'is "can perform their religious rites freely," but they are not considered fully equal in the political arena (ibid.). For example, a follower of the Baha'i faith "cannot run for Parliament because there is not a seat allocated for this confession" (ibid.). It is worth noting, however, that most Baha'is are officially registered as Shi'ite Muslims; this means that they can run seats reserved for Shi'ite Muslims (ibid.).

Followers of Baha'i and other faiths not recognized by the government may own property and assemble for worship, but they cannot "marry, divorce, or inherit in the country" (ibid.).

In fall 2001, members of the United Nations General Assembly "adopted yet another resolution defending the rights of Baha'is in Iran" (The Baha'i World 2003). Lebanon was one of 49 countries that voted against adopting the resolution (ibid.).

In 1968, Suheil Bushrui, a professor "who holds the Baha'i chair for World Peace at the University of Maryland," accepted a position at the American University of Beirut (BWNS 28 Feb. 2004). During the war in Lebanon in the 1980s, "Lebanon's President Amine Gemayel . . . appointed Prof. Bushrui as his nonpartisan cultural advisor" (ibid.).

A professor of sociology at the Lebanese University of Beirut, who is also the author of a book on law in which he describes the situation of the Baha'i in Lebanon, provided the following information during a 7 April 2004 telephone interview.

The professor stated that Baha'is practise their religion freely but that, since they do not belong to one of the religious groups recognized by the government, they cannot obtain an official place of worship. As for the protection offered to them by the government in cases of discrimination, the professor said that Lebanese legislation protects anyone who is a victim of discrimination in the labour market, but it does not protect individuals against discrimination in access to housing. The professor did not believe that Lebanese society treats Baha'is poorly. He did say, however, that they cannot officially call themselves Lebanese and that being a member of the Baha'i faith can cause problems. This is one of the reasons behind a proposed bill that would recognize optional citizenship (a choice that would be offered to all Lebanese who did not want to belong to any particular religious group, but did want to have the same rights as other Lebanese). Currently, this bill is considered organic, and it will have to overcome strong opposition from religious Lebanese (especially Muslims) before it can be implemented.

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim for refugee protection. Please find below the list of additional sources consulted in researching this Information Request.

References

The Baha'i World. 2003. "2001 UN General Assembly Resolution." [Accessed 6 Apr. 2004]

Baha'i World News Service (BWNS). 28 February 2004. "Scholar to Receive Interfaith Honor." [Accessed 6 Apr. 2004]

Encyclopaedia of the Orient. n.d. Tore Kjeilen. "Baha'i." [Accessed 6 Apr. 2004]

International Religious Freedom Report 2003. 18 December 2003. United States Department of State. Washington, DC. [Accessed 6 Apr. 2004]

Lebanese University of Beirut. 7 April 2004. Telephone interview with a sociology professor.

Additional Sources Consulted

Internet sites, including: Adherents.com, Aljazeera, Amnesty International (AI), Asylum Law, The Economist, European Country of Origin Information Network (ECOI), Freedom House Centre for Religious Freedom, Human Rights Internet (HRI), Human Rights Watch (HRW), Middle East Times, UK Home Office, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), World News, World News Connections (WNC).

Copyright notice: This document is published with the permission of the copyright holder and producer Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada (IRB). The original version of this document may be found on the offical website of the IRB at http://www.irb-cisr.gc.ca/en/. Documents earlier than 2003 may be found only on Refworld.

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