Last Updated: Monday, 11 December 2017, 15:40 GMT

State of the World's Minorities and Indigenous Peoples 2009 - Egypt

Publisher Minority Rights Group International
Publication Date 16 July 2009
Cite as Minority Rights Group International, State of the World's Minorities and Indigenous Peoples 2009 - Egypt, 16 July 2009, available at: [accessed 12 December 2017]
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.

The year began badly in Egypt for the minority Coptic Christians who make up about 10 per cent of the population. An attack on a monastery in January was followed by another assault in May when monks were kidnapped, whipped and beaten according to the New York Times (2 August 2008). In response, Egypt's security officials said that this was a 'singular incident' and not to do with wider inter-faith hostility in the country. But according to both Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, discrimination against Egyptian Christians and official intolerance of Baha'is and some Muslim sects continues.

IRIN reported on the dire circumstances of the 30,000 Bedouin in the Sinai peninsula. They are no longer able to earn an income from their livestock and are forced to work on the rubbish tips of Sharm Al-Sheikh to survive.

Border issues also continued. Egypt refused to allow officials of the UNHCR access to a group of 91 Eritreans, Sudanese, and Somalis, whom Israel returned in August 2008, and to a prior group of 48 whom Israel returned in August 2007. In April 2008 Egypt forcibly returned 49 Sudanese men and boys, including 11 refugees and asylum seekers, to southern Sudan, where authorities detained them for four months. In June Egypt forcibly returned at least 740 Eritreans, including women and children, without allowing UNHCR access to them. They are allegedly detained at a military jail and are at risk of torture and ill-treatment.

Egypt has a good track record in education compared to many African countries, with net primary school enrolment exceeding 94 per cent, according to UNICEF. However, not all regions are equal – the poorer parts of the country, such as Upper Egypt, lag behind the rest of the country's progress.

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