Rights group highlights Egypt's repression abroad

As Biden democracy summit nears, rights group highlights Egypt's repression of overseas dissidents
2 min read
Washington, D.C.
07 December, 2021
A rights group is highlighting Egyptian oppression abroad, ahead of a key summit on democracy.
The Freedom Initiative has spent the past two years documenting cases of wrongful surveillance and other repressive practices by Egypt outside its borders [The New Arab]

A Washington-based NGO is working to raise awareness of its findings on extra-territorial repression by Egyptian authorities ahead of this week's Summit for Democracy to be hosted by US President Joe Biden.

The Freedom Initiative has spent the past two years documenting cases of wrongful surveillance and other repressive practices by Egypt outside its borders. Its research, including a report released in May, found Egypt to be the country with the highest rate of transnational repression in the Middle East and North Africa region.

The NGO has tracked dozens of cases in which Egyptian intelligence agents have targeted their citizens abroad by listening in on their calls and warning them about the safety of their loved ones, among other practices.

"US persons receive calls from people who identify themselves people within Egyptian intelligence. The activists receive threats that continued activism will have severe consequences on themselves, their friends, and family and loved ones," Amr El Afifi, deputy director of development at the Freedom Initiative, told The New Arab.

Additionally, he says, they have identified cases of people being followed and filmed in public areas as a tactic of intimidation.

"The Egyptian government is trying to impose the reality of life in Egypt on US persons in the US, thereby barring them from their constitutional rights," he says.

The Freedom Initiative found there are generally not strong protections of Egyptians living abroad, including in the US, although there is currently an amendment in the National Defense Authorisation Act (NDAA), which has been passed in the House and introduced in the Senate, that would require such harassment to be reported.

This lack of protection comes along with US' close ties to Egypt, which it provides with $1.3 billion in military aid annually, an amount many would like to see conditional on its human rights record.

Officially, $300,000 of this amount is conditional on human rights, but it can be overridden.

The US-hosted Summit for Democracy, which will take place online from Wednesday to Friday, will address freedom of speech, freedom of the press, authoritarianism, corruption, and human rights. Only Iraq and Israel have been invited to attend from the MENA region.