Feminist group targeted in Egypt's crackdown on civil society

Feminist group targeted in Egypt's crackdown on civil society
3 min read
24 March, 2016
An Egyptian feminist association has come under investigation by Egyptian authorities as rights groups accuse the regime of worsening its crackdown on civil society.
The head of al-Nazra centre for feminist studies has been summoned for investigation [Getty]

An Egyptian non-governmental organisation [NGO] that focuses on the status of women has come under investigation for receiving illicit "foreign funding", it has emerged.

Al-Nazra announced its head Mozn Hasan, had been charged and summoned for interrogation by Egyptian authorities on Tuesday despite similar actions taken against the organisation in 2011.

The statement described the move as an attempt "to close the public space by conducting a crackdown on independent civil society organisations in different ways".

Interrogations, travel bans, summoning of staff members and unprecedented visits to inspect committees were among the list of procedures involved in the widespread crackdown on NGOs in recent years.

Multiple organisations were accused of receiving funds totalling $500 million from the European Union and the United States in the 2011 case that was widely criticised by rights groups.

The case culminated with the sentencing of more than 27 international workers to five years imprisonment in absentia while eleven Egyptians received a one-year suspended sentence as well as a fine.

It is unclear why the case has now been reopened, but a recent statement signed by a coalition of NGOs suggested it was punishment for engaging with the UN on human rights abuses in Egypt.

"Instead of silencing and repressing victims' voices with flawed legal procedures, the government would do better to realise the serious shortcomings in the management of the country and initiate reforms," a coalition statement read.

"It is the lawlessness of the security apparatus that 'besmirches Egypt's international reputation'."

Crackdown on civil society

Other defendants in the reopened case include activist Gamal Eid and journalist and rights activist Hossam Baghat, both of whom also head prominent human rights groups.

They have had their assets frozen and have received travel bans- measures that Egyptian officials described as "precautionary".

The reopening of the 2011 case also coincides with wider crackdown on civil society in Egypt.

Last month the al-Nadeem Centre for victims of torture was closed down without any given reason following an order from the Ministry of Health.

"The Nadeem Centre provides a lifeline to hundreds of victims of torture and the families of people who have been subjected to enforced disappearance," said Said Boumedouha, Amnesty International's deputy director for the Middle East and North Africa programme.

"This looks to us like a barefaced attempt to shut down an organisation which has been a bastion for human rights and a thorn in the side of the authorities for more than 20 years."

Head of al-Nazra, Mozn Hasan was honoured by the UN Global Fund for Women in 2013 for "her bold, passionate actions on behalf of women in Egypt and around the world."