Anti-torture group’s closure highlights Egypt’s civil society crackdown


Egyptian police on Thursday shut down the offices of an organization that treats victims of torture and violence in the latest escalation of a harsh government crackdown against human rights defenders and civil liberties groups, The New York Times reports:

The organization, Al Nadeem Center for Rehabilitation of Victims of Violence, is one of several groups to have their offices closed, their assets frozen or travel bans imposed on their leaders in the past year. .. Among the groups singled out by the government measures is Nazra for Feminist Studies, which campaigns for gender equality and helps victims of sexual violence. Along with its founder, Mozn Hassan, it received the 2016 Right Livelihood Award, known to some as the Alternative Nobel Prize.

“By physically sealing the doorway of the Nadeem Center, Egyptian authorities are preventing victims of torture from accessing the essential medical and psychological support that the Center has provided for 20 years,” said Dokhi Fassihian, senior program manager for Middle East and North Africa programs at Freedom House. “With tens of thousands of people now jailed on the flimsiest of charges for alleged threats to the government, authorities are demonstrating the lengths they will go to cripple civil society.”

Mozn Hassan

The closure of Nadeem was part of a wider targeted crackdown on civil society groups, said Mona Eltahawy, an Egyptian-American author and government critic.

“When you correlate all these things, the people who are attacked – whether through hacking or through arrest – the pattern is obvious: the regime is trying to silence any voice that opposes it and any voice that documents its crimes and wants the world to know those crimes,” she said.

In justifying the sweeping measures, Egyptian officials say they need to regulate Western-funded groups that threaten the stability of the Egyptian state and aid terrorism, The Times adds.

Pro-regime propagandists are far more explicit, the Washington Post’s Jackson Diehl writes:

“Most civil society organizations” in Egypt “work to demolish the state through fourth generation warfare for a few dollars,” wrote Charl Fouad El Masry in Daily News Egypt in January. Amr Ammar, a frequent guest on state television, has written a tome explaining how Egypt’s 2011 popular revolution was actually a U.S. plot to destroy Egypt for Israel’s benefit. He calls it “the Hebrew Spring.”

Since assuming power through a military coup three years ago, President Sisi “has overseen not only the complete reversal of Egypt’s nascent democratic transition but also unprecedented human rights abuses,” according to a letter signed by Michele Dunne of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Elliott Abrams of the Council on Foreign Relations, Neil Hicks of Human Rights First, and Stephen McInerny of the Project on Middle East Democracy, a grantee of the National Endowment for Democracy.

“Today’s shutdown of the Nadeem Center, an organization which offers crucial support to survivors of torture and violence, is yet another shocking attack on civil society in Egypt,” said Najia Bounaim, deputy director for campaigns at Amnesty International’s Tunis regional office.

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