By Youssef Sidhom – Watani –
On 2 July 2018, the Official Gazette’s issue 26 bis was published. It included the Prime Minister’s decision 1193 for 2018, which lists the official feasts and occasions during which State ministries and apparatuses, public sector, and local authorities are on holiday. The list cites: the Islamic New Year, al-Mawlid al-Nabawi al-Sharif (Prophet Muhammad’s birthday), three days of Eid al-Fitr and its eve, four days of Eid al-Adha and its eve, the Feast of the Nativity [of Christ] on 7 January, the 25 January Revolution Day and Police Day [which both fall on 25 January], Shamm al-Nassim [the Spring feast], Sinai Liberation Day on 25 April, Labour Day on 1 May, 30 June Revolution Day, 23 July Revolution Day, and the Armed Forces Day on 6 October.
Article 2 of the Prime Minister’s decision cites the occasions that are public holidays for specific sectors but not for State ministries and apparatuses, public sector, and local authorities. These are: Taba Liberation Day on 19 March, a holiday for schools and universities alone; Evacuation Day on 18 June, a holiday for schools and universities alone; Suez Day on 24 October, celebrated in the governorate of Suez after official working hours; Victory Day on 23 December, celebrated in the governorate of Port Said after official working hours; and Nile Day [celebrated during the last week of August].
The Prime Minister’s decision, however, makes no mention whatsoever of Christian feast days, save for the Feast of the nativity (Christmas) celebrated by the Coptic Church on 7 January [declared a public holiday by former President Hosni Mubarak in 2003]. Otherwise, there is no mention of Christian feasts that have so far been official holidays for Egypt’s Christians, whether those that fall on fixed or variable dates. These include: Epiphany on 19 January, Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday and the Feast of the Resurrection. It was imperative that Article 2 of the Prime Minister’s decision should have recognised these days among those holidays for only a sector of the population, specifying that they are holidays for Christian Churches and the Christian population. The disregard of Christian feasts is inappropriate and a violation of the Constitution, the law, and previous decisions that had included Christian occasions. These decisions are:
1. Prime Minister’s decision dated 1 July 1953.
2. President’s decision 2362 for 1967.
3. Law 47 for 1978 concerning civic State employees.
4. Law 48 for 1978 concerning public sector employees; this law was specifically referred to in the introduction of the current Prime Minister’s decision [which I here tackle].
5. Labour Law 127 for 1981 regarding the holidays of non-Muslim employees working in the private sector.
6. Ministerial decision 63 for 1982 and its amendments.
7. Ministerial decision 92 for 1991 and its amendments.
8. Law 203 for 1991 concerned with the system of those working in the public business sector; this law too was referred to in the introduction to the current Prime Minister’s decision.
The current Prime Minister’s decision begins with the phrase: “after consulting the Constitution”. This makes me wonder whether those who drafted this decision had actually consulted the Constitution and examined its articles, or is this just an official legal phrase to introduce sovereign decisions? How can the feasts of Egyptian Christian citizens be overlooked in a decision that includes the feasts of Egyptian Muslim citizens? And how can this be in line with the Constitution? Article 1 of the Constitution stipulates that the State’s system is based on citizenship. Article 4 stipulates that sovereignty belongs to the people, the source of authority, who safeguard their national unity basing on the principles of equality, justice, and equal opportunity for all citizens. Article 9 commits the State to ensure equal opportunity for all citizens without discrimination. Article 53 stipulates that citizens are equal before the law, possess equal rights and public duties, and may not be discriminated against on the basis of religion, creed, gender, ethnicity, race, colour, language, disability, social class, political or geographical affiliation, or any other pretext. Article 53 also requires the State to take all measures necessary to eliminate all forms of discrimination.
Was the Constitution really consulted before drafting the Prime Minister’s decision specifying the feasts and occasions celebrated by Egyptians? Were all the laws and decisions issued in this regard since 1953 consulted? Does this decision go in line with the State’s commitment to citizenship rights and equality, and its pledge to eradicate all forms of discrimination between citizens? The answer to all these questions is a definite ‘No’.