US 'deeply concerned' after Egypt raids NGO offices
The US said it was 'deeply concerned' after a series of raids by Egypt's ruling military today on nongovernment organizations promoting democracy and human rights, some US-funded.
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“This is completely unprecedented,” says Ms. Morayef, explaining that while rights organizations were sporadically targeted during Mubarak's rule, there was never such a large-scale operation against NGOs. She confirmed 10 organizations raided today, while a press release from the Ministry of Justice identified 17 organizations.Skip to next paragraph
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Security forces entered the NGOs' offices, prevented employees from leaving, and searched the premises. Among those searched were a number of Egyptian NGOs, including the Arab Center for Independence of Justice and Legal Professions and the Budgetary and Human Rights Observatory. Both were ordered closed and their doors sealed by security forces, according to Morayef.
The Cairo office of International Republican Institute (IRI) quickly released a statement confirming the raid and its operation and said “it is ironic that even during the Mubarak era IRI was not subjected to such aggressive action. Today’s raid is confusing given that IRI was officially invited by the Government of Egypt.” Both IRI and NDI were ordered closed for about a year in 2006, though that was handled through bureaucratic and diplomatic channels, not with armed security agents poring over their records.
In mid-September the Egyptian Cabinet identified 30 NGOs they said are receiving foreign funds and are not registered with the Egyptian Social Solidarity Ministry. Today’s raids mark the first wide-scale action as part of an ongoing government investigation.
“My biggest fear is that this is designed to crack down on the most independent organizations,” says Morayef. “These organizations are dependent on foreign funding because they couldn’t receive local funding under Mubarak. The NGO law should have been amended and wasn’t.”
Condition US aid?
What comes next is uncertain. In November, some members of the US Congress said Egypt's military aid should be tied to concrete and ongoing democratic reform.
The Obama administration urged against conditions on Egypt's aid. Andrew Shapiro, assistant secretary of state for political-military affairs, said "the administration believes that putting conditions on our assistance to Egypt is the wrong approach, and Secretary Clinton has made this point strongly. Egypt is a pivotal country in the Middle East and a long-time partner of the United States. We have continued to rely on Egypt to support and advance US interests in the region, including peace with Israel, confronting Iranian ambitions, interdicting smugglers, and supporting Iraq.... [C]onditioning assistance risks putting our relations with Egypt in a contentious place at the worst possible moment."
Today, the US Embassy in Cairo said it was in close touch with Egyptian officials and urged that "harassment" of NGOs come to an end.
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