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Egyptian Crackdown Denies Licenses to American NGOs

Egyptian authorities have refused to license eight American civil society groups, including the election-monitoring Carter Centre, MENA.
By Rachel Hirshfeld
First Publish: 4/24/2012, 9:19 AM

Egyptian Protestors
Egyptian Protestors
Israel news photo: Flash 90

Egyptian authorities have refused to license eight American civil society groups, including the election-monitoring Carter Centre, MENA, the state news media reported.

The crackdown on foreign non-governmental organizations (NGOs) working in Egypt comes only a month prior to the country’s first presidential elections since Hosni Mubarak was ousted from power.

A Social Affairs Ministry official claimed that the licenses were denied because the groups’ activities “breach the country’s sovereignty.”

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, also warned that if any of the groups attempt to operate without permits they will be penalized in accordance with the law, which makes it unlikely that The Carter Center would be allowed to observe the upcoming vote, The Washington Post reported.

The eight NGOs include the Carter Center, Seeds of Peace, Coptic Orphans, the Latter-day Saints Association and others.

"I do not understand how a charity group like the Coptic Orphans, which works with over 35 churches in Egypt to provide medical and social aid, was rejected," said Negad al-Borai, a lawyer for Coptic Orphans.

In late December 2011, Egyptian police raided offices of US pro-democracy groups.

In February, Egypt charged 43 individuals from five foreign NGOs with obtaining international funds illegally and failing to register their organizations with the government.

The move, which sparked a crisis in relations between the two countries over US aid and influence in the region, was later diffused when the employees were granted permission to leave Egypt following severe pressure from the United States.

Under former President Hosni Mubarak foreign-funded human rights groups were allowed to work in Egypt but repeatedly had their application for licenses rejected by the government.