Egypt Activist Mozn Awaits April 22 Court Verdicts
Prominent human rights activist Mozn Hassan, founder of the Egyptian NGO Nazra For Feminist Studies, is expecting court verdicts on April 22 on appeals against the freezing of the NGO’s assets, and against her travel ban. She has not been allowed to leave the country since June 2016, and her personal assets and those of Nazra have been frozen since January 2017.
Mozn founded Nazra in 2007, and Human Rights First has worked closely with her for many years. She’s an award-winning Women Human Rights Defender, widely known across the region and internationally, and the Egyptian government has targeted her for years with judicial harassment and intimidation and tried to close down her organization.
The charges against her relate to the notorious Case 173, which convicted dozens of Americans and others in 2013 for offenses related to “foreign funding.” Although the Americans and those working for U.S. organizations were eventually acquitted at the end of December 2018, the Egyptian authorities continue to press charges against Mozn and other leading local human rights activists.
Since 2014, judges have opened investigations and frozen the assets of at least seven local NGOs, and dozens of HRDs have been banned from leaving the country. Despite the current pandemic crisis, the Egyptian government continues to spend resources targeting Mozn and other Human Rights Defenders, including Mohamed Zaree and Esraa Abdel Fattah.
But despite the government attacks, and the closing down of its offices, Nazra’s team continues to function. When its assets were frozen the NGO acknowledged that the ruling would hurt its work, but defiantly vowed “continue what we started with all our energy,” and it has managed to maintain an impressively high level of activity on a range of issues, including exposing how violence and discrimination against women in the private sphere affect their participation in the public sphere.
When the assets were frozen, Mozn said of Nazra “We’re not this nice acceptable women’s organization, we’re not a development-only [organization]. We think the feminist movement is a political movement. We’ve always had a human rights perspective … we are not like other feminist organizations….We are trying to have a survival mechanism. As long as we can work, we are doing things.” And survived it has, continuing to work under extraordinarily oppressive and dangerous conditions. Most recently Nazra produced an action plan on How Egypt’s Women Can Survive Amid The Corona Pandemic.
Washington has failed Egypt’s civil society for many years. For decades, the U.S. government has sent over $1 billion of military aid every year to a succession of Egyptian dictators, despite widespread human rights abuses including the targeting of HRDs. Last year Human Rights First detailed how Washington’s allies in the Egyptian government are failing to stop ISIS’s widespread recruitment of prisoners in Egypt’s overcrowded, abusive jail system.
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, strongly supported by U.S. President Donald Trump, still violently crushes peaceful dissent, and the targeting of Mozn and the other rights activists continues.
In the current crisis, the Cairo government’s focus should be on releasing large numbers of prisoners from the country’s overcrowded jails, not convicting rights advocates on spurious charges and damaging their organizations. The only sensible verdict on Wednesday should be the overdue one - unfreeze the assets and let Mozn travel.