CAIRO: Members of the new NGO Ahalena, located in Shubra district, refused to abide by a government decision to close their office, the only independent social development center in the district.
In January 2006 the center started to carry out several projects related to social development in the area. It organized medical campaigns, illiteracy classes and helped Shubra inhabitants get their national IDs.
The NGO does not however hold a legal license from the ministry of social affairs.
Iman Ouf, president of Ahalena, said the decision to close the center was announced Dec. 11, 2006 – one year after the NGO began operating. She said the decision followed claims that the NGO was “functioning improperly and “without a legal trading license.
Ouf said the centre would not abide by the closure decision and would legally challenge the government.
“They know that the NGO is the only new independent one in Shubra. They want us to follow their governmental rules. They want us to be like other NGOs who follow the governmental path which never benefits society, Ouf told The Daily Star Egypt.
Ouf said the centre should never have a “trading license as the NGO doesn’t have any trading activities and works only in the field of social development. Yet, she said, the center is still considered “under legal social announcement and license.
“The contract of the flat [the NGO’s headquarters] is stamped at the official registrar with the name of Ahalena, as a centre for social development. I also paid the LE 100 to the ministry of social affairs as fees for announcing the centre and I have a receipt of the payment, said Ouf.
She added the employee who came with the decision to close the NGO refused to give them a copy of the document that includes the claims and the decision.
Khalil Aboul Hassan, Ahalena’s lawyer, said he went to the Shubra district government office to ask for a copy of the decision, but they refused to give it to him. He said the centre therefore assumed there was no decision and that the council wants to close the centre with no evidence to their claims.
Fawzy El Shamy, president of the Shubra district government office, said he received inquiries about the activities of the NGO and after investigation, the government issued a decision to close the center because it has no legal license.
“We heard the centre is causing trouble in the district and Shubra inhabitants wanted to know what are the exact activities of the NGO. We sent some employees to investigate and then realized the NGO doesn’t have a license, said El Shamy.
He added that the NGO can’t practice any kind of activities without having a legal license.
He said: “The NGO must hold a license called a license for trading and associations. It is necessary for every NGO and has nothing to do with trading activities.
El Shamy denied that the decision claims that the NGO “functions improperly. He said the only reason the government issued a closure decision was because Ahalena lacked a legal mandate.
He added that the members can’t have a copy of the closure decision because they refused to comply with it.
He stressed: “I can’t leave a flat in Shubra with people saying they are members of an NGO to practice whatever activities without showing me a legal license. I also can’t give them a copy of the official decision because it hasn’t been applied. I promise I will give them a copy when they close the center.
However, Ouf said the Shubra district government office has been trying to pressure the members to close the centre through unfair accusations, even before the last closure decision.
“The police arrested my father and threatened to imprison him if he didn’t persuade me to close Ahalena. Police officers haunted the street where the center is located, to frighten people and warn them from dealing with the NGO. They told them our members were Bahais and that the centre was an office for orfi [unofficial] marriage, said Ouf.
She added that the smear campaign kicked off because the centre issued a statement last December denying information claimed in a speech by the Mayor of Qalyubia.
“The Mayor said that Shubra district ranks the first in providing services and facilities for its inhabitants in an article published in the government-owned El Gomhuriah newspaper on Nov. 11, 2006. This information is not true and we only replied with a statement that there are about 183 areas in Shubra that lack minimum facilities. But how dare we challenge the government? said Ouf.
A deputy in the media department of the Qalyubia governorate office who preferred to remain anonymous said the Shubra district government office was behind closing the NGO.
He said: “The governorate office has nothing to do with that decision.