- Title: EGYPT: Egypt activists say government raid on NGOs is 'unprecedented'
- Date: 31st December 2011
- Summary: PROTESTERS WAVING FLAGS AND LISTENING TO SPEAKERS ON STAGE (SOUNDBITE) (Arabic) POLITICAL ACTIVIST, ABDU QASIM, SAYING:"I think that the storming of the rights organisations and some foreign organisations that are present in Egypt that happened yesterday, is a violation of human rights and a violation of the defence of the rights of Egyptian citizens generally, by using as an excuse the accusation that these groups accept funding from abroad. The military council receives foreign funding, and all government institutions receive foreign funding. So if they reject outside funding for rights groups in Egypt or foreign organisations present in Egypt, then why should they accept foreign funding themselves and for the state itself?" (SOUNDBITE) (Arabic) INDEPENDENT CANDIDATE FOR THE PRESIDENCY, AHMED GABR, SAYING: "My personal opinion is that I reject any organisation that takes money from abroad. Any organisation that takes even one pound from abroad, I demand that it be closed. We should not borrow or accept that anyone pays us in order to run our country. We are free in our own country and we will free it with our own hands. Any organisation that takes money from abroad, even one Egyptian pound, I consider it unpatriotic." VARIOUS OF PROTESTERS IN TAHRIR SQUARE
- Embargoed: 15th January 2012 12:00
- Location: Egypt, Egypt
- Country: Egypt
- Topics: International Relations,Domestic Politics
- Reuters ID: LVA3EBJBP937WULKUYXGPK9M6R2U
- Story Text: A few hundred Egyptians held a protest in Tahrir square on Friday (December 30) against the country's ruling military council, a day after prosecutors and police raided the offices of 17 pro-democracy and human rights groups.
The raids on Thursday afternoon included three prominent US-backed organisations and drew strong criticism from the United States which hinted it could review its 1.3 billion USD in annual military aid.
The US-based group Human Rights Watch was not one of those targeted but said the raid was an extremely worrying step.
"The raid yesterday is a very, very serious escalation and an unprecedented move - this didn't even happen under Mubarak. Every now and then there would be a raid on one NGO, but this kind of broad sweep, looking at both international and Egyptian NGOs is an extremely serious move, and of course the decision to close some of them down for the moment, also," said Heba Morayef.
Egypt's state news agency said the groups had been searched as part of an investigation into foreign funding, and said that some of the foreign organisations, which include the U.S.-based International Republican Institute (IRI) and National Democratic Institute (NDI), were operating without permits.
But Morayef said the targeting of NGOs was part of a broader campaign of intimidation.
"I think it's a reflection of where we stand right now in Egypt - there's been a narrowing of political space for critical voices. We saw this early on in the year as the authorities started to crack down on peaceful protests, as they started to arrest and imprison bloggers and then summon journalists on charges of insulting the military, some direct interference with the media. And of course NGOs were always next on the list because they're the ones who've been documenting torture, exposing the abuses and calling for military accountability," she said.
Many Egyptian rights activists have been angered by the way the military council has governed the country, citing the harassment and arrest of journalists and bloggers and the use of violence against protesters that has led to the death of dozens in recent months.
Morayef said the investigation the military had launched into rights groups, coupled with the raids, was an attempt to silence the regime's critics.
"What happened yesterday, and the investigation in general, is an attempt to narrow the space for independent Egyptian human rights groups that continue to expose human rights violations, whether they are committed by the police or the army, and to try to silence these voices," she said.
Civil society groups, a driving force behind the protests that toppled President Hosni Mubarak in February, have become increasingly vocal in criticising what they call the army's heavy-handed tactics in dealing with street unrest.
One activist who was injured in recent clashes said that the government was using the issue of foreign funding to human rights groups as a cover for the stifling of dissent.
"The military council receives foreign funding, and all government institutions receive foreign funding. So if they reject outside funding for rights groups in Egypt or foreign organisations present in Egypt, then why should they accept foreign funding themselves and for the state itself?" said Abdu Qasim.
But Ahmed Gabr, who says he intends to run in upcoming presidential elections, said he did not think any organisation should accept funding from abroad.
"Any organisation that takes money from abroad, even one Egyptian pound, I consider it unpatriotic," he said.
The NDI and IRI, which are loosely associated with the U.S. Democratic and Republican political parties and receive U.S. government funding, say they take a neutral political stance, fostering democracy in Egypt by training members of nascent parties in democratic processes.
Other groups that were raided included U.S.-based Freedom House and local groups set up to defend judicial independence, individual freedoms and democracy.
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