Statement from the Regional Coalition of Women Human Rights Defenders in the Middle East and North Africa.
Human Rights in Egypt: An Unbreakable Will.
On the 20th of March 2016, Nazra for Feminist Studies issued a statement confirming that they are under investigation in the case 173, known by the name of “cases of foreign funding for civil organization in Egypt.” Three staff members from Nazra were called for investigation on March 16, 2016, and the investigation session was postponed to Tuesday (March 22, 2016). The reasons for the investigation are yet to be provided by the Egyptian authorities.
Case 173 against civil society in Egypt does not come as a surprise. In fact, it was a predicted step taken by the Egyptian authorities who have recently been leading a campaign to target human rights defenders. Many human rights defenders have been banned from travel, and are facing smearing campaigns through official media stations. Last Month, El Nadeem Center for the Rehabilitation for the Victims of Torture faced an attempt to be shut down. A number of human rights defenders have also reported that the government has frozen their assets.
As the WHRD Regional Coalition in the MENA, we condemn the current policies of the Egyptian authorities, and we warn that it such steps promise only more oppression and human rights violations in Egypt. All the attempts of the Egyptian authorities to shut down public spaces, and to silence those calling for more freedom, social justice and human dignity will not change the grim reality that the administration has failed to respond to the January 25 revolution. Young men and women involved in the revolution are now in jail, and civil organizations are being harassed and shut down as a reaction from the Egyptian state in the face of accountability and calls for more reforms.
The WHRD Coalition was founded based on an initiative from Nazra in 2013, where Nazra hosted more than 40 WHRDs and supported us in our process to create this coalition. Nazra is an integral part of our coalition. Through this coalition, Nazra has supported tens of WHRDs in need of solidarity and protection, and its executive director, Mozn Hassan, holds the position of an advisor to the coalition.
Nazra has played an important role in shaping a feminist discourse that has succeeded in placing women’s rights on the national and regional agendas. Nazra has facilitated the process of sharing the experiences and lessons learned on the issue of women’s participation in public spaces. This organization has been an asset to our coalition with empowering values and practices, and most importantly, Nazra has always been adamant on not compromising women’s bodies and participation in the public space under any circumstance.
Case 173 places Nazra, along with other civil society organizations, under investigation. Knowing the recent procedures by the Egyptian authorities, this investigation cannot be considered a routine procedure, because it is happening under circumstances where civil society is put increasingly under scrutiny and smearing campaigns. It also comes in a long series of proceedings against human rights defenders. These procedures do not indicate good intention or a will to protect or respect their work by the Egyptian authorities.
We are calling the Egyptian authorities to dismiss the case, and stop harassing and intimidating human rights defenders. We invite the Egyptian authorities instead to start the process of radical reforms to protect human rights defenders. We ask for an organized response from the MENA region to the situation in Egypt, and we call for forming a task force on Egypt to provide advocacy and campaigning so that human rights defenders are protected.