Egyptian orphans still suffering on National Orphan Day

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Egyptian orphans still suffering on National Orphan Day

Post by DJKeefy » Sat Apr 06, 2013 10:11 am

Egyptian orphans try to break free of society's cruel shackles in order to celebrate their national day.

As legal adoption is prohibited by Islamic law, parentless children are stuck in the conflicting position of being objects of charity while being rejected due to their lack of heritage and family.

"Our society snubs and looks down on orphans," explains Hala Anwar live-in mother at one of Bent Masr orphanages' four branches in Cairo's Mohandiseen district.

The orphanages were founded by Dr Esmat El-Merghani, a lawyer who works at the Arab League.

Orphans in Egypt are often referred to as Laqeet or foundling – a term which in the past was written on their birth certificates. Sometimes they were even known by the damning label "Children of Sin" (Awlad Haram).

This ingrained prejudice, Anwar continues, is what rights groups struggle against, hence creating awareness days like Egyptian National Orphan Day.

An annual event marking the national day is being held on Friday at Dream Park, Cairo's largest theme park. The celebration was initially created in 2004 by Al-Orman Orphanage and is sponsored by the government and over 10 major organisations.

Games, live music, celebrity appearances as well as 100 weddings of orphaned adults (1,000 nationwide) are just some of the scheduled activities for the day.

Holding these weddings is a particularly important part of the awareness day because of the social stigma orphans face when attempting to marry. The fact that society regards the parentless as a people with no background, inheritance or family to provide the dowries or the finances to secure flats, means marriage proposals are often rejected, rights groups say.

There are fierce debates surrounding the very term "orphan," which some argue is psychologically damaging for the child, particularly in Egypt where it is such a loaded word.

“I don’t accept the name orphan or the day singling them out. These children are not animals and should not be differentiated from other children," explains Nefisa Mostafa, a donor and volunteer to Ahbab El-Rahman ‘The Children who God Loves’ orphanage in Cairo's Haram district, which houses 20 orphans aged under 12 years old.

UNICEF and its global partners, who define an orphan as a child who has lost one or both parents, prefer to use the term ‘children without parental care’.

This wider description, representatives say, ensures that other children who share similar vulnerabilities and are exposed to the same risks are included.

Not all agree. Al-Orman orphanage staff use the term orphan, explaining that it is the clearest word to secure public attention.


Parentless in Egypt

Orphans constitute approximately 1.7 million of the Egyptian population, according to figures released in 2009 by UNICEF and a well-known NGO working on the issue, Save Our Souls (SOS). These numbers, SOS says, are on the rise.

However, media representative of Al-Orman orphanage Mohamed Farid believes this is a conservative estimate. “The number of orphans in Egypt is much higher. I would actually suggest it is between three and five million.”

In Egypt, civil society employees say, infants are most frequently found abandoned in front of hospitals or near police stations.

The Ministry of Social Affairs is left to process and place them in foster families or orphanages.

Typically, orphans remain unaware of their origins due to the lack of police services available to track parents down.

Instead, orphanage staff say it is easier to tell the children their parents died in an accident and that the adoptive parents or orphanage staff are their distant relatives.

"Mama Esmat is my mother," says 13-year-old Nourhan proudly, about the lawyer who founded the Bent Masr orphanage. She gives a recital of the Bent Masr song in the meeting room where smiling portraits of the 16 orphaned residents hang on the wall.

Once the girls had retreated to their dormitories before mealtime, Mohamed Abdel-Aziz, the girl's middle-aged father figure, further clarified that the orphans believe Dr Esmat El-Merghani is their mother.


Controversy of adoption in Egypt

Article 20 of the UN’s International Convention on the Rights of the Child, which concerns the ethnic group, religion, culture and language of a child, recognises four possible options for children without parental care.

Firstly, foster placement, second kafalah (Islamic adoption, outlined in Article 46 of Child Law 2008) which enables Egyptians to either financially support or foster an orphan following certain legal stipulations, the third option is full adoption and finally institutionalisation as a final resort (Article 48 of Child Law 2008).

However, Egyptian law, in adherence with the tradition of the Prophet Mohamed, forbids adoption in the Western sense: an orphan is not allowed to take the name of the adopted parents as it will deny them inheritance rights from their biological parents.

The family name distinction is also considered essential in order to help prevent incest. As the adopted child’s family is not considered muhrim (blood relations), marriage is permissible between the orphan and the members of the adopted family in Egypt.

“Adoption is haram (forbidden). People can either financially support an orphan or foster a child on the condition they adhere to Kafalah and ensure the child retains its biological name," explains Iman Ahmed Ibrahim, senior manager of Al-Noor Al-Amal orphanage in central Cairo.

This means that an orphaned child is not allowed to inherit from its adopted parents unless the parents sign their assets over while they are still alive.

There is only one way of getting around it, Farid explains, which is to resort to the controversial Islamic practice of Reda’a, whereby the child drinks the breast milk of the adopted mother. After this, according to the practice, the child can add the adopted parent’s name as his or her own.

Reda’a, following Sunni Islamic jurisprudence, states that if an infant who is not biologically related to a woman drinks her breast milk, the child will automatically become hers. This also means the orphan is prohibited from marrying her adopted brother or father.

This practice, however, remains a highly controversial.

Islamic adoption of Kafalah in Egypt is a gruelling process overseen by the Ministry of Social Affairs.

An in-depth background check is conducted by a social worker from the government committee within the ministry's Department of Motherhood to guarantee that the prospective adoptive parents are eligible according to certain legal and socio-economic stipulations.

The law declares that prospective adoptive parents must be at least 25 years old and not more than 55 years old.

Only married couples are allowed to foster and while there are no specific income requirements, the prospective adoptive family's income must be sufficient to provide for the family unit and child's basic needs.

Furthermore, special permission must be obtained from the Ministry of Social Affairs to look after more than one child and they may not adopt more than two children unless the children are old enough to be independent.

In addition, at least one of the prospective parents should be of Egyptian nationality. Foreigners are prohibited from fostering Egyptian children.

Despite these restrictions, representatives from the Egyptian government maintain that the adoption system in Egypt is effective.

“We help ensure orphans are safe and secure by providing them shelter with loving parents or in institutions. We also collect and donate money to orphanages,” claims Aisha Abdel-Rahman, director of the Central Department for Social Welfare, part of the Ministry of Insurance and Social Affairs.

Abdel-Rahman also denied accusations about instances of child abuse and fraud in state orphanages.

As a consequence of the complex bureaucracy surrounding the fostering process, complicated by social stigma, the social workers Ahram Online spoke to insist few Egyptian children are raised by foster parents, although theoretically Islamic law encourages the practice.

To add to the problem, there are no government statistics proving or contradicting this claim.


Orphanage Structure

Co-ed orphanages are commonplace in Egypt until the age of twelve where girls and boys are separated into single-sex buildings. Some institutions only admit children of certain faiths or with special needs and disabilities. Others, like Dar Al-Orman do not specify.

“We currently house around 300 orphans aged between one week and 17 years old. For those that are handicapped we have a separate programme and division," says Farid, insisting that the children that are not fostered are raised in the orphanage like family.

All Egyptian orphanages are registered with the Ministry of Social Affairs and in some cases funded by the ministry, emphasises Marcelle Ibrahim, senior administrator at Bent Masr.

Although the state funds many orphanages, many are supported through private and commercial funds.

Donations ensure the provision of food, shelter, education, healthcare and even marriage dowries and property lump sums for orphans of marital age.

Such charity is crucial since orphans do not have families to support them financially.

“Our orphanage functions on civil society donations, even the villa housing our kids was a donation from a local land owner who built it especially for this purpose,” explains Mostafa from Ahbab El-Rahman orphanage, clarifying that some benefactors give land whilst others may rent out their premises.

In their case, the villa is legally owned by the orphans for 100 years after which it will return to the land owner’s family who will decide whether to retain or return it to the orphans.

Typically in most orphanages in Egypt, trained foster mothers look after the children and are allocated a salary in accordance with donations.

Since donations are not a steady source of income standards, particularly in state orphanages, standards vary vary dramatically.

According to UNICEF Egypt has yet to adopt national minimum standards for children for all types of social care institutions as per the UN Resolution 2009.

Consequently there are cases such as the 2010 debacle when Cairo-based orphanage El-Tofoula El-Saida was shut down after a government committee reported staff were sexually abusing the children, instances of fraud, lack of building permits, staff shortages, insufficient specialised supervisors and the absence of security guards.

There are also horror stories Farid adds of parentless children being forced into prostitution or kidnapped for their organs.

Nevertheless many orphanage administrators like Ahbab El-Rahman's Mostafa, insist that their staff are constantly monitored due to the vulnerable position the orphans are in.

Farid claims that the government keeps an eye on foster families. If children are ill-treated in their new homes, they are sent back to Al-Orman immediately, he adds.

Bent Masr staff disagree, believing that the only way they can ensure the safety of the children is to look after the orphans themselves.

"We treat the children like our own children; they are treated better than they would be if they were raised by foster parents. That is why Dr Esmat El-Merghani does not permit the fostering of orphans from Bint Misr," insists Anwar.


Future prospects

“Given the inherent hardship orphans face the most important thing for society is to to give orphans is support and love,” says Abdel-Rahman, from her ministry office, emphasising it is a responsibility of the Egyptian people to look after persecuted vulnerable groups.

This is why national awareness days and events like Friday's Dream Park celebration, social workers assert, are so key.

Al-Orman orphanages ambitiously aspires for the day to be adopted into the UN agenda; while its media representative Farid invites all Egyptians to participate in the event’s nationwide celebrations.

Smaller organisations like Bent Masr are planning humbler festivities to entertain the 16 girls in their local Mohandiseen Cairo branch. The teenage girls who live there are preparing for a disco and dinner to mark the day.

These are the lucky ones, Bent Masr, is one of the more well-run institutions. For those stuck in abusive orphanages with no family to support them and a society who has shunned them, the future is bleak.

Source: http://english.ahram.org.eg/News/68132.aspx


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Re: Egyptian orphans still suffering on National Orphan Day

Post by Scottishtourist » Sun Apr 07, 2013 12:33 am

Where the hell are all these "orphans"coming from?
Unmarried mothers?Good Muslim girls who have been subject to incest,abuse and violation from family members and other men?
Many years ago(in my salad days of nursing) I worked voluntarily in "Catholic"home/hospital for unmarried mothers.
Most of the girls were from Ireland(where abortion was and still is,I believe illegal)
There was NO pressure on them to have their babies adopted.
The "home"was linked to a convent...and on many ocassions,once the baby was born,the nuns(who were involved in their care and of a nursing order)would participate fully in the Baptism Rite and show compassion and kindness!
May I add that these girls were not subjects of abuse,incest,etc...merely young girls who had been "in love"and (in their opinion)"loved"
That "home"closed down about 20 years ago...because attitudes changed!
Illegitimate babies became the norm and were accepted!
When,oh when,will this hypocrisy stop in Egypt?

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Re: Egyptian orphans still suffering on National Orphan Day

Post by Dusak » Sun Apr 07, 2013 9:11 am

Because religious faith is far stronger than a child alone.

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Re: Egyptian orphans still suffering on National Orphan Day

Post by Zooropa » Sun Apr 07, 2013 1:09 pm

Scottish, no doubt the work that was done was very good.

But why the need to baptise young children?

Why must the good work come with conditions?

When I donate time or money in a charitable deed I don't condition it on imposing my belief system on the recipients.

To me that is and always will be an abuse of their rights to having a childhood that is free of doctrine which in many cases shapes the rest of their lives.

Care for them yes, very laudable, but leave their heads alone!

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Re: Egyptian orphans still suffering on National Orphan Day

Post by Zooropa » Sun Apr 07, 2013 1:30 pm

Scottish, now that I have digested your post, it seems to me that you are advocating the Catholic way over the Islamic.

To my mind that's like favouring one method of murder over another.

Once again, Religion gets in the way of a human desire to protect and to nurture.

The Catholic way is to indoctrinate and effectively use mind control as a condition of their care.

The Islamic way is to deprive them of a right to adoption and some form of a normal upbringing.

Both disgusting in my view.

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Re: Egyptian orphans still suffering on National Orphan Day

Post by Scottishtourist » Sun Apr 07, 2013 6:48 pm

Zooropa wrote:Scottish, now that I have digested your post, it seems to me that you are advocating the Catholic way over the Islamic.

To my mind that's like favouring one method of murder over another.

Once again, Religion gets in the way of a human desire to protect and to nurture.

The Catholic way is to indoctrinate and effectively use mind control as a condition of their care.

The Islamic way is to deprive them of a right to adoption and some form of a normal upbringing.

Both disgusting in my view.
The girls were not judged Z!
And bear in mind that most of them were Irish Catholic whose families chose not to abort the babies and "murder"them...but to send their daughters away to a safe place to ensure both the survival and safe delivery of both mum and baby!
Religion did not get "in the way"
No mind control was used.
What is more disgusting?Sending your daughter away to a safe haven or having her butchered by a back street abortionist?
Yes,I advocate the Catholic way over the Muslim way.Why?
Because most orphanages here are now derelict buildings.
Have a guess how many Muslim girls I've seen in my time in A&E as a result of their families "noble"attempts to protect the family honour.
And that's only the ones who survive!

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Re: Egyptian orphans still suffering on National Orphan Day

Post by Zooropa » Sun Apr 07, 2013 8:52 pm

I don't disagree with most of what you say Scottish, but you did say they were baptised which is what I object to.

That is a form of indoctrination and in my view constitutes mind control.

I have an objection to any child of any culture, faith or religion undergoing any kind of religious indoctrination or teaching.

These are things which should be left until the child is old enough and mature enough to make his/her own decision about such things.

For example, I think a 16 or 18 year old is in a much better position to weigh up whether they want to be a member of the Catholic church or run the risk of burning in hell by deciding against it.

We all know why it would not be put to them in that way as an adult but would (as many people have testified) to a child.

Its because most adults may well laugh of that "threat" where as an average child is likely to be scared witless at the prospect.

That's a clear example of mind control/manipulation.

So the question remains, why cant all religious organisations just care for the sick and the vulnerable without placing conditions on it?

Is it perhaps because there is an element of opportunity to swell numbers?

The founding principle of most religions is to spread and assimilate whether they admit it or not.

The mothers may well have been Catholic but the children were not and would have had no say in becoming one either.

I find it all very offensive.

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Re: Egyptian orphans still suffering on National Orphan Day

Post by Scottishtourist » Sun Apr 07, 2013 9:33 pm

We'll agree to differ then Z.
In my opinion,baptism to a certain religion is not a right decided by parents or clergy.
It is a priviledge.
And as I've said before,everyone can use their choice and free will to decide at age 16-18 or whatever whether they want to follow that path or not.
My own kids did...and they are not thought of any less because they made up their own minds about it.
But,at least they had the chance to see both sides of the coin...and they have my full respect for making their own decisions about it.
I'd rather they had food for thought and choices,than no other alternative.

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Re: Egyptian orphans still suffering on National Orphan Day

Post by Zooropa » Sun Apr 07, 2013 10:01 pm

"In my opinion, baptism to a certain religion is not a right decided by parents or clergy."

"It is a priviledge"

Erm, who decides to baptise then?

Who decided to baptise the children at the place you mention in your post?

Sorry Scottish, your reply was just like a politicians and dodged the question completely.

Who decides its a "privalige"?

I may well decide its a privalige to meet Richard Dawkins, there are many who would not!

I think its arrogant to decide on someone else's behalf what would be a privalige and what would not.

Again its making decisions for people (children) before they are able to decide for themselves.

Again its part of the indoctrination.

Most of us believe children should be a certain age before sex education, advanced physics. chemistry, economics etc is introduced into the classroom.

Why should religion be different?

Im very pleased your children had the ability and the opportunity to make that choice.

There are millions around the world who have not been so lucky either because of persecution or because the doctrine was so effective that it would not occur to them that they had a choice to make.

It is on their behalf that I will always question and challenge this terrible, terrible practice.

"Good people can do good things and evil people can do evil things but it takes religion to make a good person do evil things"

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Re: Egyptian orphans still suffering on National Orphan Day

Post by Scottishtourist » Sun Apr 07, 2013 10:36 pm

Z,you seem to assume that ANY Catholic priest will baptise any child into the Catholic faith on the say so of Catholic parents.
That is incorrect.A parent may ask for baptism.It is not guaranteed that they will get it for their child.
I've known people who are Catholic,but have had their children baptised in other churches.They are not considering it a passage to the faith...they are regarding it as a naming ceremony and rite of thanksgiving for the gift of a healthy child.
There's no indoctrination involved in these circumstances.

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Re: Egyptian orphans still suffering on National Orphan Day

Post by Zooropa » Sun Apr 07, 2013 10:53 pm

Scottish, I am not assuming anything, I am asking questions.

I totally agree that a ceremony of this type is not in itself indoctrination, a child is unlikely to remember this event.

But in many cases its the first step of a sustained course of actions that is indoctrination.

The previous pope upon visiting the UK said he was there for the 5.5 million catholic's. This figure was derived from the amount of people who had been through baptising or whatever the correct term is when this is carried out in the catholic faith.

So as far as he was concerned once this has been carried out you are a catholic.

It is exactly, in his mind, a passage to the faith.

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Re: Egyptian orphans still suffering on National Orphan Day

Post by Bearded Brian » Mon Apr 08, 2013 6:27 am

Now if we can't turn these orphans into soylent green and 'we' have to look after them then ideally they should be adopted with full right but failing that looked after in non-religious orphanages. But if there aren't enough non-religious places I would prefer to see them looked after in a religious one - better there than out on the streets.

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Re: Egyptian orphans still suffering on National Orphan Day

Post by Dusak » Mon Apr 08, 2013 9:40 am

My first wife was Catholic, but not a strong one. She followed the faith at her own pace, I, as a C of E, was not interested in any religious direction. We had booked our time at the registrars for the marriage. But four days before she asked if I minded canceling it and have the ceremony conducted at her local church. Made no difference to me, but no way was I going to convert. I met the priest, who turned out to be quite a jolly fellow with a good sense of humor, although he did refer to me as the heathen in our flock. He had first persuaded her parents to convince my soon to be wife to persuade me to have a Catholic wedding. Also stating that any children would be brought up as Catholics and attend the local Catholic school. Non of this really concerned me with the exception of the school as I knew, from school friends how harsh some of these places could be. But we agreed that if the children suffered we would remove them. We had two sons, one was happy at the school, the eldest wasn't, so he was placed into a main stream school that wasn't regulated by any form of religion. All were happy except the priest. Tough luck, they were my kids, not his.

I remember watching a film some time ago, but can't remember the title. It was a factual account how the ''loose'' Catholic girls where ostracized from their family homes in Ireland and placed in one of these Sisters of Mercy home's in the 20's. These were slave camps delivering harsh treatments for the slightest misdemeanors. The nuns took in washing for the girls, as young as ten, to wash and laundry for the locals and businesses. This was up to twelve hours a day inter-spaced with religious teachings. I forget what age it said (16-18) they were released back into the world to literally fend for themselves if they did not intend joining the clan and become a nun, which some had. I think the film stated that the one highlighted was closed in the 80's. Barbaric practices all in the name of God to show the girls the true path.

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