From the other side: The issue of the civil society is a different story

Gamal Eid
5 Min Read

In Mid-March of 2011, 60 civil society organisations submitted a draft law pertaining to the work of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) under then Prime Minister Essam Sharaf, while Dr Gouda Abdul Khaleq was in charge of the ministry of social solidarity.

They waited for a date for a discussion of the new law, which included protecting these NGOs from police intervention and asserting the right of the society to know the sources and volume of funding provided to these institutions, the ways of spending the funds and the right of the judiciary to monitor and revise the budgets of these bodies.

Matters in Egypt did not calm down. The civil society organisations were supposed to cooperate with the first government of the revolution to build a democratic society. Instead they were obliged to stand up to the fierce violations practiced by some of the army units against the revolutionary youth, especially human rights NGOs.

The violations began with forcibly dispersing a sit-in in February 2011, the storming of the Cairo University and electrocuting the students of the Faculty of Mass Communication in April, turning the courtyard of the Egyptian Museum in Tahrir into a torture yard and the incidents of the famous virginity tests in March.

Essam Sharaf did not hold a meeting with the NGOs, but a smear campaign against these organisations kicked off and was skillfully supervised by a former regime figure who had not fallen yet, the minister Fayza Abul Naga of the Planning and International Cooperation.

It seemed like a division of roles; the military council would defame political groups like the Kefaya Movement and April 6 Group and Abul Naga would slander the NGOs. It looked like revenge against any one taking part in toppling President Hosni Mubarak.

A flood of international funding swept Egypt, making many serious organisations reject any funding from bodies that have no sufficient credibility, like USAID. However, several other organisations that once had no role during Mubarak’s era, along with some old regime associations, found an opportunity to finance its activities regardless of the kind of whether they were legal or not.

So, it was normal that former minister Abul Naga would promote her campaign using evidence that came to her mind and she started to take legal measures, not against violators, but against the serious NGOs. She levelled accusations of betrayal against the civil society in general, without discrimination between the serious, the conniver and the corrupt.

Smear and the casting of suspicion against the serious organisations was the goal, to take revenge against them for their role in facing Mubarak and the SCAF. It seemed like the mountain laboured and brought forth a mouse.

Two press conferences were held concerning NGO funding but they did not include any institutions that were widely defamed. The first conference was held by the ministers of justice and international cooperation and the second was by investigative judge Ashraf Al-Ashmawi.

The two press conferences breached the law as they tackled a case that had not been heard by a court yet and they included many lies about the case.

The matter did not end at that point, but even the patriotic role that Abul Naga and the military council tried to play, resulted in the travel of the defendants of the foreign funding case with the approval and consent of the SCAF and then prime minister Kamal Ganzouri who was famous by his words “Egypt will not kneel to anyone.”

The SCAF went away and its members are waiting for investigations into about 60 complaints lodged against them.

Abul Naga also left her post, giving Egyptians overwhelming joy.

The investigative judges hid and they are expected to be investigated over a complaint lodged by an NGO that they ruled without any evidence.

But the serious organisations are still alive and continue to work to reveal the crimes committed during the era of the military rule, as well as current violations.

We are waiting for a new fair law that regulates the work of these organisations of civil society, of which we are proud.

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Gamal Eid is a prominent Egyptian human rights lawyer and executive director of the Arabic Network of Human Rights Information (ANHRI)
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