HomeBusinessRepression is still “systematic” in Egypt despite the release of some activists

Repression is still “systematic” in Egypt despite the release of some activists

Repression is still “systematic” in Egypt despite the release of some activists

Beirut: Egypt recently released some well-known political activists, which raised hopes for a breakthrough on the part of an authority that deals harshly with all spectrums of the opposition. But human rights defenders argue that the repression remains “systematic” with no opening in sight.

In 2021, the Arab country, which is the largest demographically, seemed to score positive points, despite the criticism regularly directed at it for human rights violations, starting with child labor and ending with extrajudicial executions.

At first, President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, who has gradually silenced the opposition in Egypt since he came to power in 2013, announced, amid a great local media frenzy, the abolition of the state of emergency that has been in place in the country for years, thus suspending the emergency law and exceptional courts.

Then some faces of the human rights movement, liberal political activists, and even an Islamic activist were released.

The Egyptian-Italian researcher Patrick Zaki was released. As for Hossam Bahgat, the most prominent figure in the human rights movement, who was tried on charges that carry a sentence of up to 3 years, he was convicted, but his punishment was only a fine. Earlier this week, the Egyptian-Palestinian activist Ramy Shaath arrived in France after two and a half years in pretrial detention, but he was forced to give up his Egyptian citizenship in exchange for his release.

Alaa Abdel-Fattah and Ziad Al-Alimi

But at the same time, harsh sentences were passed against other Egyptian political activists. Alaa Abdel-Fattah was sentenced to five years in prison for the second time since Al-Sisi came to power, the same sentence that was issued against the young activist and deputy in the first parliament after the overthrow of President Hosni Mubarak, Ziad Al-Alimi, in addition to other prison sentences for other activists.

And if the Egyptian president abolished the state of emergency, new legislation has been passed in common law, some of which are more repressive than the emergency law, including legislation requiring all NGOs to register with the official authorities before mid-January, otherwise they will be dissolved.

This law was the last nail in the coffin of the Arab Network for Human Rights Information, one of the oldest and most important Egyptian human rights organizations.

After 18 years of work, during which 3 presidents changed in Egypt, a popular revolution took place and the army overthrew a head of state, the organization announced the complete closure on Monday.

The Arab Network for Human Rights Information condemned “the growing disregard for the rule of law, the growing violations of human rights, and the increase in police prosecutions, whether covered with legal or judicial cover.”

Human Rights Watch considered that “Egypt’s superficial attempts to create the impression of progress in human rights did not hide the government’s brutal repression of all kinds of dissent.”

The Egyptian president completely rejects all these accusations. In a meeting with journalists this week, Sisi said, directing his speech to the human rights organizations, “Do you love our people more than us, do you fear for our country more than us… Our country cannot find food… Are you ready to help us?”

Sisi regularly reiterates his human rights vision: providing health care, education, and electricity is more important than the right to assembly, which is practically banned in the country.

When Sisi presented in September the “Egyptian Strategy for Human Rights,” he was keen to focus on that axis. However, NGOs consider the current legislative framework unacceptable.

In this context, Human Rights Watch notes that the registration of NGOs is a “complex process that requires hundreds of papers,” and there is no guarantee that the registration will be completed after going through all the required procedures, because “the registration depends on the public approval of the Ministry of Social Solidarity.”

Registering NGOs “a complex process that requires hundreds of papers”

Gamal Eid, founder of the Arab Network, who for years and his colleagues has been subjected to harassment by the authorities, says that an official called on him to “prohibit work on freedom of expression and prison conditions.”

He added, “We refuse to turn into an institution that works on unimportant issues, as we will not turn into a complicit institution or jingos,” i.e. a state NGO.

After what he was exposed to, Jamal, who is still banned from traveling and his money is still frozen, decided to close the organization.

Many like him are banned from traveling and their money is frozen, according to human rights organizations, which confirm that there are 60,000 prisoners of conscience and political prisoners in Egypt.

Therefore, Amnesty International and 20 other NGOs described the situation as “catastrophic,” noting that there are “peaceful activists, human rights defenders, lawyers, university professors and journalists imprisoned simply for exercising their right to freedom of opinion, peaceful assembly and association.”

To silence any dissent, the authorities use another weapon, which is the conservative nature of Egyptian society. Twenty girls and women influential on social media were arrested in 2020 on charges of “calling for immorality.”

“The authorities have expanded the repression to include rights defenders outside the country by arresting and sometimes (disappearing) family members in Egypt,” Human Rights Watch said.

The organization stresses that “the international community cannot afford to allow the state to annihilate the previously vital Egyptian civil society at such a low cost, and it must put pressure on the government.”



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