With latest crackdown, state dissolves 380 NGOs in just 2 months

The state shut down another 99 non-governmental organizations (NGOs) across Egypt on Wednesday, for a total of 380 NGOs shuttered by government mandate in just the past two months.

Social Solidarity Minister Ghada Waly issued the decision pursuant to a Cairo Court of Urgent Matters ruling, which found that the NGOs in question had ties to the Muslim Brotherhood, the state-owned newspaper Al-Ahram reported.

The Cabinet officially designated the Brotherhood as a terrorist organization on December 25, 2013, and ordered the dissolution of its offices, political party, bank accounts and any affiliated NGOs. Since then, a spate of laws has been issued with the ostensible aim of combating terrorist groups and actions.

By the end of February 2015, the ministry had liquidated the operations of 169 NGOs said to be linked to the Brotherhood. On March 1, the ministry dissolved another 112 NGOs.

The latest wave of organizations to be boarded up were scattered across eight governorates, according to Social Solidarity Ministry sources, with 28 in Qalyubiya, 22 in Fayoum, nine in Luxor, six in Gharbiya, four in Port Said, two in Qena and one in Kafr al-Sheikh.

Authorities claim that the targeted NGOs were acting as fronts to fund the Brotherhood’s illegal activities.

Mainstream media outlets have identified several of the organizations impacted by Wednesday’s order. Their names suggest that they were primarily devoted to religious education or served as Islamic community centers.

“Egypt is a law-abiding state,” Waly told Al-Ahram as she justified the crackdown.

The ministry is “serious about implementing judicial rulings, and pursuing those NGOs that violate the country’s laws as well as those that do not abide by the stated objectives for which they were originally established,” Waly added.

The ministry has not released any information on its official website regarding the liquidation of the dissolved NGO’s assets. But Social Solidarity Ministry sources claim that any resources confiscated from these hundreds of organizations would be channeled into a ministerial fund, and used to support civil society groups that are still in the state’s good graces.

Several local and international rights groups, including Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch (HRW) and the International Federation for Human Rights, have lambasted the Egyptian government for attempting to curtail civil society over the past year.

Recent regulations place NGOs under the direct supervision of the Ministry of Social Solidarity. This affects not only organizations associated with the Islamist opposition, but also independent human rights organizations.

Some of these rights groups have also  been downsizing their workforces and limiting their publications due to new restrictions on receiving foreign funding.

“Egypt is tightening its chokehold on civil society,” HRW claimed in a statement. The new restrictions on NGOs are “inconsistent with Egypt’s international obligation to respect the right to freedom of association,” the statement argued.

Egypt has ratified several international conventions that safeguard the freedom of association and the right to freely establish NGOs.

HRW went on to assert that the new legislation “also contravenes the Egyptian Constitution, which guarantees the right of everyone to form associations by mere notification rather than permission.”

For instance, constitutional Article 75 stipulates that “citizens have the right to establish associations and non-governmental organizations on a democratic basis, and these shall be deemed legal entities upon notification.”

The article also adds the provision that “such institutions shall operate freely, and administrative authorities may not intervene in their affairs, nor dissolve them or their board of directors or trustees without a court order.”

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