Fifteen human rights organisations singed a statement on Saturday in solidarity with Nazra for Feminist Studies and demanded that the National Council for Human Rights (NHCR) stand against the recent crackdown on local NGOs.
The reopening of a 2011 case, known as the “NGOs’ foreign funding” case, has once again targeted some of Egypt’s top human rights activists and Nazra, a sign that a government crackdown on local NGOs and rights defenders has intensified.
The statement expressed solidarity with Nazra and demanded that NCHR attend the investigations session with the organisation’s head, Mozn Hassan, on 29 March. The organisations expressed their concern that Hassan may face imprisonment.
Nazra has contributed to the empowerment of Egyptian women in its aim to build a feminist movement. The organisation has created several initiatives and calls to protect women from sexual violence, among other issues that are crucial for women’s rights, according to the statement.
Nazra gained Economic and Social Special Consultative Status in the United Nations in January 2014.
The statement highlighted the necessity of dialogue between the NGOs and the state to address women’s issues, condemning the recent attack on NGOs.
NGOs are working on spreading an understanding of human rights and the principles of justice and equality, the statement read. It added that there was a previous hope that the government would allow for open dialogue between the state and NGOs, and for the work of these organisations to continue, based on promises of certain freedoms.
On 22 March, three staff members from Nazra were summoned for investigations on various issues related to their work in the feminist organisation after they received official summons in early March.
Hassan attended the investigation, along with the three staff member, at a New Cairo court. At the end of the investigation, the judge officially charged Hassan in the case and summoned her for investigations on 29 March. The court said her lawyers would be able to review the case documents on 27 March, according to the statement.
In December 2011, prosecutors, backed by the police, filed a case against several NGOs accusing them of operating and receiving foreign funds without a licence.
The reopened case is comprised of four defendants, including two prominent figures; activist Gamal Eid, who is the executive director of the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI), and journalist and rights activist Hossam Bahgat, who is the founder of the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR).
Eid and Bahagt’s assets were frozen, pending investigations into charges that they illegally received $1.5m in foreign funding for their respective NGOs, as well as being banned from travel in February despite not being formally accused of any criminal activity.
The escalating crackdown on NGOs has sparked outrage among international and local rights group and organisation, social media users, public figures, and political activists.