Action call: protest crackdown on Egyptian civil rights

From the Egyptian groups Institute for Freedom of Thought and Expression, Arab Institute for Civil Society, Legal Aid Society for Human Rights, and The Civil Monitor for Human Rights, on May 21:

On Thursday, May 18 activist Asmaa Mohammed Hassan Soliman (known as Asmaa Soliman), was surprised to learn that she had been dismissed from her job at the National Institute for Laser Enhanced Science at Cairo University. The dean of the institute, Dr. Mohy Saad Mansour, usually refuses to fire anyone, even when the situation clearly demands it When Asmaa tried to learn the reasons behind her dismissal, the director of Human Resources, Amaal Khalil, said that the dean had the right to do what he wanted, without giving his reasons.

Asmaa was hired with a temporary contract in 1997 and continued to work at the institute until her sudden dismissal. A number of her colleagues, who wished to remain anonymous because they feared similar reprisals, said that the dean had called the director of Human Resources to his office and told her that she must announce that the activist Asmaa was fired. This raises the question of whether the decision to fire Asmaa was handed down from the security authority, giving the dean no choice but to follow their policy. Asmaa has worked with a team of volunteers at the Civil Monitor since September 2005. She works as a civilian observer and has written many reports which have covered the scope of police brutality during the parliamentary elections and sectarian clashes in Alexandra, among other issues. Her name has been published a number of times in opposition newspapers, in articles related to human rights violations. Asmaa was not hired as a permanent worker in the last round of appointments even though she had worked there continuously for 9 years, and it is expected that workers receive permanent contracts after 3 years. One of the steps to being hired permanently is to obtain the approval of the security services.

At the base of this is the freedom of opinion and expression, academic freedoms and workers rights. The undersigned organizations entreat all civil society organizations and interested parties to condemn this dismissal and to announce their support for the activist Asmaa Soliman in her campaign against this unjust decision which violates international human rights standards at the heart of which are labor rights. Please send letters, emails or faxes stating your support to the addresses below, and forward a copy to us.

Prime Minister

Address : 2 Maglas El Shaab
Phone : + 202-793-5000
Fax : +202-795-8048

Email :

Dr. Hany Mahfouz Helal

Minister of Higher Education

101 Kasr Al Aini St,

Phone: + 202 7924189

Fax: +202 7941005


Dr. Mohy Saad Mansour

Dean of NILES

Cairo University, Giza , Egypt

Phone : +202 5675201

Fax: + 202 5708480


Institute for Freedom of Thought and Expression

Arab Institute for Civil Society

Legal Aid Society for Human Rights

The Civil Monitor for Human Rights

36A, el Komy St. 8th Fl. Midan Sayeda Zeinab, Cairo, Egypt

Phone: + 20107697540


For more on the on-going repression of opposition in Egypt, see below:

The Civil Monitor for Human Rights and The Arab Institute for Civil Society

Press Release

Cairo, Egypt

Thursday, May 18, 2006

At ten o’clock Wednesday evening, security guards at the Journalists’ Syndicate refused entry to strikers because they did not have membership cards. This led to a strike by a number of activists on the steps of the Syndicate, in the middle of a police siege around the Syndicate and the Judges’ Club. From one o’clock in the morning on Thursday, May 18, 2006 police closed off Ramses Street and Abd el Khaliq Thorwat Street and forbade passerby from crossing the neighborhood. Likewise the police refused to permit workers or strikers at the Journalists’ and Lawyers’ Syndicate on the steps of the Journalists’ Syndicate. News agencies reported that the police prevented entry or exit from the two syndicates, and at about ten thirty about 250 judges from the Judges’ Club headed to the trial of the two judges, Mahmoud Mekka and Hisham Bastawisi. The latter was not able to attend because of a heart problem which has put him in the hospital.

At about 11 o’clock on the morning of Thursday, May 18, 2006, Egyptian civil organizations went to support the two judges, Hisham Bastawisi and Mekka. As soon as two representatives from the groups entered to negotiate with the police to be allowed to enter the courthouse, outside the police began assaulting the demonstrators, crashing into and beating them and arresting a number of them. When the representatives from the civil organizations tried to side with the protesters, the police beat them as well. The protestors scattered, and it is still not known whether the police arrested some of the activists. Protestors were also assaulted in from of Al Nur Mosque in Abassiya, and activists were arrested at demonstration by the Tegemma and Al Ghad parties on Galaa Street, Ramses Square, and Qase el Nil Bridge. The police pursued them to Attaba and some were arrested in Alexandria. It is still not known how many people were arrested but some news agencies reported the number of detainees reached 300 demonstrators, most of them from the Muslim Brotherhood. Likewise news agencies from Aswan reported the suppression of a large demonstration which began at eight thirty this morning and that police crashed into, beat and arrested tens of demonstrators.

The court ruled one of the judges innocent, and reprimanded the other.

Egypt Represses Freedom of Expression

May 15, 2006

Nagwan Soliman

At around 8 AM on Thursday May 11th, journalist Abeer el Askari of the Egyptian opposition newspaper Al Destour arrived in downtown Cairo to cover a disciplinary hearing for two Egyptian judges. When she climbed out of the taxi she was surrounded by police who threw her into a police van where she was beaten and humiliated.

She tried to ask for help from people outside the police station, but the police told them “Leave her, she’s a prostitute. We just caught her in a furnished apartment.”

At the police station, an officer yelled at the policemen to torture her more. They tore her clothes and threatened to rape her, pretending that they had raped the three other women in the room. They threatened that she would not be freed until she stopped covering police brutality. After much pleading, the men allowed her to put on her clothes. Throughout it all they beat her. When anyone tried to intervene, they answered, “She’s a prostitute.” They finally left Abeer in front of a hospital.

Abeer was attempting to cover the story of two judges that has galvanized the Egyptian reform movement. The judges are facing possible disciplinary measures for raising accusations of fraud by the government in last November’s Parliamentary elections. Protests and sit-ins in support of the judges have repeatedly been met with beatings and hundreds of arrests by Egyptian security forces, most recently last Thursday.

Abeer’s case is one of dozens of violations of journalists’ rights committed recently by the Egyptian government against journalists whose only crime is to oppose the regime. The government aims to silence their voices and suppress freedom of opinion and expression, rights which the government only pays lip service to. In a December 21, 2005 speech, President Mubarak stated his support for these rights, saying, “It is not considered possible or acceptable to criminalize thinking, to confiscate opinion, or to deny a writer, thinker or artist his right of expression and participation in society.” Mubarak added, “Egypt supports and provides guarantees for the freedom of research, thought, opinion and expression.”

Nonetheless, the Organization for Press Freedom in Egypt says, “It is becoming more and more difficult for the local and international press to cover protests that displease the regime.” They point out that at least 50 journalists have been the victims of police violence while covering demonstrations since last November.

Additionally, government Ministers have jailed at least seven Egyptian reporters during the past seven years through an Egyptian law which allows imprisonment for libel, despite President Mubarak’s public promise to end the jailing of reporters.

All this is occurring in a context where Egyptian human rights organizations say the number of political detainees has reached 25,000, but the Interior Minister has announced that there are no such detainees in Egypt.

More than 70% of Egyptians boycotted the recent parliamentary elections, showing the average citizen’s discontent with the Egyptian political system. This demonstrates that change will not come through the Muslim Brotherhood or the other parties which have so far failed to mobilize Egyptian voters.

Freedom of opinion and expression are essential in the movement toward true democracy, but, despite a stated commitment to political reform, the government remains more concerned with covering up its daily violations of citizens’ rights.

A few opposition groups continue in their desperate effort to express their opinions despite the widespread arrests and beatings. During a recent meeting in Cairo on the international day for press freedom, Egyptian civil society groups demanded that the Egyptian government and other oppressive regimes in the region release prisoners of opinion and expression, and end restrictions on press freedom.

Humanity is indivisible and the people’s need to obtain freedom is one demand. It is therefore necessary to guarantee and to work towards achieving freedom of opinion and expression worldwide.

The democratic reform movement in Egypt will effect Egyptians, but also the entire Middle East. The Bush administration recognizes this, but its fear of Islamic groups coming to power has led them to decrease pressure on Egypt to continue political reform.

Egypt is the second largest recipient of U.S. aid. In light of this, I remind American taxpayers that your money is being used not to help the poor to live, but rather to oppress people whose only crime is trying to gain their freedom.

Nagwan Soliman monitors the human rights situation on the ground in Egypt for the Egyptian non-governmental organization Civil Monitor for Human Rights.

Egypt Cracks Down on Pro-Reform Protesters

Nagwan Soliman

Friday, May 12, 2006

(an earlier version of this appeared on ZNet:

On Thursday, Egyptian security forces surrounded downtown Cairo with thousands of security forces, turning the area into an armed camp in an effort to stop opposition protests. Troops beat judges and protesters with sticks to prevent them from reaching a courthouse where a protest was planned. Security forces closed entrances to Cairo, and blocked citizens from arriving downtown. They stopped journalists from covering events, sometimes with violence. Hundreds of protesters were said to have been arrested, including six reporters.

The Egyptian government is conducting an on-going crackdown on opposition, camouflaged under the banner of the war on terrorism, with seeming United States government complicity. The protests were supporting two Egyptian Judges, Mahmoud Mekki and Hesham Bastawisi, leading critics of Egyptian police intervention in last year’s parliamentary elections who were scheduled for a court hearing Thursday. They have been threatened with disciplinary action for raising accusations of government election fraud.

On April 27th, two days after a terrorist bombing that killed 21 at the Egyptian resort of Dahab, thousands of Egyptian riot police beat and arrested peaceful protesters supporting the two judges. They also attacked a protest camp in solidarity with the judges on April 26 and 24.

The September 11 terrorist attacks demonstrated the failure of a longstanding US assumption – that autocratic, pro-American governments, like Saudi Arabia and Egypt, would block the spread of radical Islamist terrorism. Instead, lack of democracy and political reforms in Middle East have hurt US security and interests. In response, the Bush administration declared a commitment to democratization in the Arab world. Last June, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice told a crowd in Cairo, “For 60 years, my country, the United States, pursued stability at the expense of democracy in this region here in the Middle East – and we achieved neither, now, we are taking a different course. We are supporting the democratic aspirations of all people.”

Unfortunately, US pressure on Egypt greatly diminished after the Muslim Brotherhood made gains in Egypt’s November Parliamentary elections and Hamas won January’s elections in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. The Egyptian government has taken the opportunity to crush opposition political parties, even liberal, secular parties like Al Ghad and Al Wafd.

President Mubarak promised political reform and to abolish Egypt’s Emergency Law during his re-election campaign last year. But, capitalizing on the April 25 terrorist attack in Dahab, on April 30th the government extended the controversial Emergency Law which gives the security forces broad powers to arrest and detain people without charge. The Egyptian government claims the Emergency Law has been used to fight terrorism, but opposition groups say the law failed to combat terrorism and was used to violate the rights of Egyptians.

Joe Stork, Deputy Director for Middle East and North Africa at Human Rights Watch, commented last week that, “Deploying thousands of police to smother these protests shows all too clearly that President Mubarak has zero tolerance for peaceful dissent. This is a government that intimidates voters to obtain the parliamentary majority it needs to renew an Emergency Law, which it then uses to silence those who protest election fraud.”

More injustice won’t end terrorism. Most youths who committed terrorist attacks in Egypt and the West would prefer to look forward to their future rather than blow themselves up along with innocent people. Egyptian Sayyed Al Qutub, widely seen as the theorist behind Islamic terrorism, developed his ideology after Egyptian President Nasser detained and tortured him during the 1960s.

Dictatorial governments in Egypt and other Middle Eastern countries have created terrorism. Many activists have been detained, tortured and sometimes even raped for trying to achieve their rights using nonviolent methods. Many youth join Islamic terrorist groups because of government persecution and injustice. Islamic groups convince them that the Egyptian government is led by “unbelievers”, and that to gain freedom and justice, they must use violent methods, without concern for innocent civilians.

I oppose violence, but I recognize that as long as dictatorial governments deny freedom of expression, and economic and political rights, and arrest nonviolent activists, terrorism will flourish and we will all suffer.

We all want to live in peace. To do so we have to address the reasons behind terrorism, not through emergency laws and repression, but through democracy and respect for the human rights of all people throughout the world.

Nagwan Soliman monitors the human rights situation on the ground in Egypt for the Egyptian non-governmental organization Civil Monitor for Human Rights.

See our last post on the Egyptian crackdown.