Friday, November 15, 2013

Struggles of the Human Rights Community in Egypt

By: MennatAllah Mousa, Kanzy Mahmoud and Malak Naguib

  CAIRO, Egypt – Human Rights Watch (HRW) Egypt Director Heba Morayef held a lecture at The American University in Cairo on Wednesday discussing the shift the human rights community in Egypt experienced in the last three years.

The Middle East Studies Center hosted the event entitled: “From Hero to Public Enemy? Human Rights Workers in Egypt,” where Morayef stressed on the backlash the human rights community received from the media in the last three months for documenting human rights violations under the current regime.

The Egyptian society does not understand that the change human rights organizations are seeking is that “security forces are not above the law,” Morayef said.

According to Morayef, the turning point for the human rights community was January 25th Revolution, after which “talking about human rights became part of central political discussion” and the military government started inviting human rights organizations for consultation on legislative reforms.

 However, there were many incidents such as June 2011 when “the military attacked 6th April, calling them foreign agents,” and others where the military committed human rights violations, said Morayef.

 During former President Mohamed Morsi’s era parliament also invited human rights organizations to discuss law reforms. While the latter pushed for a law on transitional justice to be passed, parliament was dominated by one single group, the Muslim Brotherhood, and, thus, refused to pass it, said Morayef. She added that many human rights violations were committed under Morsi and reporting on them made human rights organizations very popular in the society and the private media.

 It was only after the dispersal of Rabaa Al-Adaweya Square sit-in that the media accused human rights organizations of “being supporters of the Brotherhood or working for the US” as they condemned the dispersal that caused a huge amount of killings. Morayef said that there was no provision of safe exits for the wounded.

In an interview, when asked about the future of human rights organizations in Egypt, Morayef said: “Until we see a shift in media, that influence (shifting government policy, pressuring government to make certain demands) will be limited.”

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