The Cairo Institute of Human Rights studies (CIHRS) decided to suspend its annual human rights summer school for youth in Egypt indefinitely for fear of persecution.
“Unfortunately, Egypt is no longer a safe space for any peaceful, creative activity, and there is no room for such pursuits. In today’s Egypt, fighting corruption is a crime punishable with imprisonment,” a CIHRS statement read.
The human rights summer school is an annual activity that has been organised by CIHRS for 22 years amid varying political conditions in Egypt.
More than 1,200 young men and women graduated from the summer school. According to CIHRS, the alumni include rights advocates, politicians, journalists, researchers, diplomats, judges, businesspeople, artists, film directors, and founders of pioneering social initiatives that proactively and peacefully address social and economic problems in their communities.
During the three-week summer school programme, the centre brought together participants from various Arab countries. “There have been repeated difficulties entering the country and genuine threats for participants coming from outside Egypt, and Egyptian participants themselves are no longer safe,” CIHRS said.
The statement referred to previous arrests and suspensions of organisations that occurred in Egypt over recent months, citing the cases of Hisham Geneina, Street Children, and Aya Hegazy, among others. CIHRS is among them as it is currently operating from Tunisia. It was referred to investigation by the government in June 2015, following a hearing at the European parliament denouncing human rights violations in Egypt.
The previous annual summer school included local participants from different governorates including Cairo, Alexandria, Port Said, Menufiya, Qaliubiya, Minya, Beheira, Gharbeya, Fayoum, and Sharqeya. The course examined the right to live, the right of association, the right to freedom of expression and opinion, the right to peaceful assembly, and freedom of religion and belief, among other issues.
Several rights groups and NGOs were investigated recently on charges relating to the ‘NGO foreign funding’ case that dates back to 2011.
The head of programmes at CIHRS, Mohamed Zarea, was banned from travelling at Cairo International Airport in late May over the investigations in the same case.