On Sunday 20th March, Nazra for Feminist Studies, a former Mama Cash grantee-partner, shared the disturbing news that it would be investigated by Egyptian government officials in the Case No. 173, known in the media as the “NGO Foreign Funding” case. Three staff members of Nazra for Feminist Studies received official summons to undergo an interrogation session on Wednesday 16th March 2016, which was later postponed to Tuesday 22nd March 2016.
In accordance with the summons, the three members of Nazra for Feminist Studies staff attended the interrogation session on Tuesday 22nd March. At the end of the interrogation, summons and charges were brought against Mozn Hassan, the founder and director of Nazra for Feminist Studies. During the interrogation sessions, issues concerning Nazra’s work and the role of the three staff members were raised, and Mozn Hassan was referred to as a defendant. Mozn Hassan was also summoned to be interrogated by a judge on Tuesday 29 March 2016 as a defendant. She is the first defendant to be officially summoned for interrogation in this case.
Mama Cash, an international women’s fund that supports feminist movements, is in solidarity with Nazra for Feminist Studies and supports Nazra For Feminist Studies’ condemnation of this move by the Egyptian government to prosecute Mozn Hassan for her invaluable work to build an Egypt where all women are safe and can contribute to a prosperous Egypt.
We support the call by Nazra for Feminist Studies to the Egyptian government, demanding they immediately drop all charges brought against Mozn Hassan and to cease all harassments against human rights defenders.
We also support Nazra’s demand that the Egyptian government uphold the law that ensures legal organisations like Nazra for Feminist Studies can operate in safety and without any harassment or disruption.
Background to Case No. 173 and Harassment of Egyptian Human Rights Defenders
The Case No. 173 began in 2011 when the Egyptian cabinet ordered the Minister of Justice to set up a fact-finding committee to look into foreign funding received by civil society groups and to determine which of those groups are registered. As part of the case, security forces raided 17 local and international NGOs and they temporarily detained employees and searched computer files. Later, in late June 2013, 43 NGO workers were put on trial, including 32 foreigners, and were sentenced to imprisonment of one to five years; others received sentences in absentia.
This investigation of Nazra for Feminist Studies, and the charges brought against Mozn Hassan is one of the most recent steps the Egyptian government has taken that threatens to restrict and weaken civil society organising -a move that puts members of the Egyptian human rights community at unprecedented risk. The re-opening of this case puts civil society organisations at great risk of being shut down by government edict, a situation that would be detrimental to ensuring the protection of human rights in Egypt. Civil society organisations are often at the fore-front of documenting human rights violations and their closure would mean the discontinuance of this documentation – an action that would multiply human rights violations in Egypt.
It is important to recognise that Nazra for Feminist Studies was registered as an association on 28th December 2007 with the registration number 7184, all its activities are legal and publicly announced, and since its registration has been headed by Mozn Hassan. Further, Nazra obtained the Economic and Social Special Consultative Status with the United Nations in January 2014. Nazra for Feminist Studies is a feminist organisation that works on eliminating violence against women, particularly sexual violence, in the public space. The Egyptian government has declared that preventing violence against women is one of its priorities, and in keeping with this priority they launched a National Strategy for Combating Violence Against Women in April 2015. Given their commitment to preventing violence against women in Egypt, their move to potentially close one of the pre-eminent Egyptian feminist organisations lays a deadly blow to their own strategy. Rather than hindering their work, it is in the Egyptian government’s best interests to support the work of Nazra for Feminist Studies, if they have any chance of realising the plan laid out in their National Strategy for Combating Violence Against Women.