• Inquisitorial authority

    May 17 coincides with the International Day Against Homophobia. Despite the fact that I’m not the biggest fan of world days to celebrate certain groups, but sometimes they do help to spark a discussion or spotlight the deplorable status of these groups in particular countries, like the status of gay and transgender people in Egypt.

    In December 2014, the Administrative Court issued a ruling in a case filed by a Libyan citizen living in Cairo who challenged a decree from the interior minister and his deputy that included his name on the list of persons banned entry to Egypt, after the Interior Minister deported him for being gay and engaging in debauchery. The court denied the suit. In other words, it ruled that it is within the ministry of interior's rights to deport foreigners based on their sexual orientation, even without any criminal conviction.

    At a time when rights groups around the world are trying to combat the stigma associated with gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people and resist the attempts of their pathologization, some people associated with the rights community in...

  • Who Enforces Egypt’s Laws?

    On May 1, Egyptian Ministry of Interior (MOI) personnel stormed the headquarters of the country’s Syndicate of Journalists and arrested two reporters in an unprecedented move. A sense of anger prevailed among journalists as the union’s general assembly called for the resignation of Minister of Interior Magdy Abdel Ghaffar. While these demands are understandable on their face, given that the minister oversees the police, in fact the decision to raid the press syndicate generally would have been made by the prosecutor-general. This raises the question of whether the minister of interior is truly the appropriate figure at whom to direct the anger caused by this case.

    Dynamics between the Ministry of Justice, the judiciary, the public prosecution, and the Ministry of Interior—the various components of Egypt’s justice system—are intertwined and interrelated. It is hard for lawyers, let alone the average person, to have a clear understanding of these components’ respective mandates. At first glance, they seem to be separate entities that cooperate in the administration of justice. Upon closer analysis, however, there is a degree of interrelatedness—...

  • المواطنون الشرفاء.. والفضاء السياسي

    هالني ما حدث بالأمس عند نقابة الصحافيين من المواطنين الشرفاء، وفي معية الأمن، وهو الأمر الذي بدأ يدور في فلك شارع عبدالخالق ثروت منذ أزمة اقتحام نقابة الصحفيين، حيث قاموا بالتعدي بالضرب على معظم المجتمعين في النقابة أثناء خروجهم، وكان ضمن الذين أصيبوا الأستاذ/ خالد داوود، والأستاذة بيسان كساب، حيث كان لهما النصيب الأكبر من التعدي، هذا غير ما ناله الآخرون من شتائم وسباب أو تمزيق ملابس.

    ولو عدنا للوراء تاريخيا سنجد أن لهذه الظاهرة التي تتلخص في استعانة الأمن بمجموعات من المأجورين لتفريق مظاهرة أو الاعتداء على تجمع، سنجد أن الظهور الأكبر كان في موقعة الجمل الشهيرة إبان فترة الحراك الثوري لثورة يناير 2011، والتي تؤكدها أوراق قضية تحمل ذات الاسم.

    ولكن الأهم في هذا الأمر يخلص في سؤال هل ما يحدث من استطراد لاستخدام هذه المجموعات يمثل إفلاساً سياسياً في مواجهة الأزمات؟ أم يمثل إفلاساً أمنياً في الحفاظ على كيان الدولة، واحترام حقوق الأفراد في التجمع والتعبير عن آرائهم بحرية؟ أم ماذا يعني أن يقوم من يرعى وينفق ويستأجر هذه المجموعات المهمشة، مستغلاً في ذلك أوضاعاً تدفعهم وتجبرهم على الدخول في هذه التجربة «سواء كانت هذه الضغوط أمنية، أم دوافع اقتصادية»، فقد تكرر ذلك المشهد منذ بداية أحداث نقابة الصحفيين، التي كان سببها الرئيسي هو...

  • For the women of Egypt, today is not like yesterday

    International Women’s Day is celebrated around the world on March 8. Egypt celebrates Egyptian Women’s Day on March 16, and March 9 marks the infamous day when members of the Armed Forces performed virginity tests on female protestors detained in Tahrir Square in 2011 — a crime no one has been held accountable for to this day.

    This year, however, the government is trying to contain the feminist movement that picked up pace during the revolution, and which they have frequently used to save face both domestically and internationally, while simultaneously turning a blind eye to sexual crimes committed by security forces.

    Police have waged several campaigns against the LGBT community in a stark violation of personal rights. This sits within a broader crackdown on civil society organizations — the closure of human rights centers and the imposition of travel bans on prominent activists, as well as the complete militarization of the public sphere, evidenced by recent raids on various cultural institutions — all with the aim of consolidating a climate of fear. Despite the recurring political...

  • Sexuality Education: Egypt’s Missed Opportunity

    After more than three decades of national family planning programs, an almost 30-year-old national AIDS program, and two decades of combating female circumcision, a quick look at Egypt’s latest statistics might give you the impression that all this work is Sisyphean. The population clock has just ticked over to 90 million people earlier this month with increasing outcries over the population growth and rising fertility rates. More than nine of every ten ever-married women ages 15-49 have been circumcised, and 56 percent of girls under age 20 are believed to be circumcised as well. A quarter of ever-married women have been subjected to physical spousal violence, and sexual harassment in the public sphere is almost universal. While the world moves forward to eliminate new HIV infections, Egypt is one of the few countries that still suffers from rising HIV numbers. Why is any positive change generated by these national campaigns and programs so transient and ephemeral,...

  • The repercussions of Pope Tawadros' visit to Jerusalem

    Head of the Coptic Orthodox Church Pope Tawadros II made an exceptional visit to Jerusalem last Thursday to lead the funeral prayers for Bishop Abraham, the Metropolitan Archbishop of Jerusalem and the Near East. The trip triggered a wave of controversy and divided public opinion, although state bodies and senior officials didn’t comment on the visit.

    A large number of Copts supported the trip. Some were driven by their objection to the church’s earlier ban on visits to the occupied holy territories, and its decision to excommunicate those who chose to do so. This group has always wanted free access to holy places with no threat or blackmail.

    Others defended church leadership and its decisions, irrespective of what they are, or what their impact is. This group has reduced Christianity to the church and the church to its religious leadership, considering any criticism —...

  • Personal Affairs Law for Christians: The Responsibility of the Church, the State, and Individuals

    Long governed by separate laws on personal status issues—marriage, divorce, and other family law—Egypt’s Christians are awaiting the government’s latest move. The issue of the personal affairs law for Egypt’s Christians has recently returned to the forefront of national debate in Egypt, with President Abdel-Fattah El Sisi instructing the Cabinet to review a draft law it had previously presented to Egypt’s churches. The various denominations have also renewed their interest, forming a number of working groups and committees to review the draft law, which was ultimately rejected by the Coptic Orthodox Church—by far the largest of Egypt’s churches—amid disagreements on a number of its articles. This renewed interest, however, does not point to any upcoming change in the lives of thousands of Christian families with cases pending before the courts or the Ecclesiastical Council for Family Affairs to resolve issues of divorce and remarriage. The Egyptian state has delegated the human rights issues of marriage, divorce, and family law to religious institutions, thus absolving itself of the responsibility to treat Christians as citizens with full rights...

  • The Trouble with Post Mortem Organ Donation in Egypt

    Donating one's organs after death can save countless lives and yet it is something not often done in Egypt, despite the harsh reality of the need for organs. Mona Daoud delves into the legalities, societal perceptions, and issues surrounding the health sector when it comes to this vital matter.

    “What happens when we die?” This question has been circulating itself amongst the entirety of humanity from the moment it came into existence up to this moment.

    There are many answers, speculations, and stories, that range from the peacefully embracing to the ragingly hysterical. However there is only one answer that everyone agrees on and knows for a fact will happen; our bodies will rot. It is because of this indisputable fact that humans who can’t deal with the inevitability of death have gone out of their way to - often in extreme measures - attempt to create alternative realities that cater to whatever speculation they may have about what happens to the soul.


  • One year behind bars: release Egyptian human rights lawyer Yara Sallam

    Today, one year on from the arrest and detention of human rights lawyer Yara Sallam and 22 peaceful demonstrators, the ICJ calls for their immediate and unconditional release.

    On 21 June 2014, Yara Sallam, together with award winning human rights defender Sanaa Seif and 21 others, was arrested and detained in the context of a peaceful demonstration in Heliopolis, Cairo.

    The demonstrators were calling for the revocation of Law No. 107 of 2013, on public meetings, processions and protests, and the release of all those detained under it. It was forcibly dispersed by security forces and men in civilian clothes.

    The ICJ has previously noted that this law is contrary to Egypt’s obligations under international law. It imposes overly restrictive limitations on the exercise of the right to freedom of assembly and it grants...

  • Policing Football in Times of Exception

     On February 8, 2015, at least 19 fans died while waiting to enter the Air Defense Stadium for the match between Zamalek and ENPPI – it was the first Egyptian league game to allow spectators, albeit a small number, after a three-year ban that was put in place in the wake of the Port Said Stadium disaster which left 72 dead in February 2012. The Air Defense Stadium deaths were caused by a human crush that resulted from the police firing teargas into the very tight entrance where fans were packed before the start of the game. But was the tragedy triggered by a sudden surge in crowds, as the police claimed, or did political vendettas and heavy-handed policing practices have a bigger role to play?


    The history of football stadium disasters is a long one – the complex nature of the environment make football games prone to such accidents. The slightest slip-up can cause a crushing stampede of spectators, and there are plenty of things that can go wrong, from engineering failures and structural collapses to overcrowding coupled with poor safety and emergency measures. Although fan violence is rarely...

  • Egypt’s Government Assuages Minya Families after Weeks of Silence

    Over the past week, the village of al-Aour in the governorate of Minya—home to thirteen of the twenty Coptic Egyptian victims killed by the Islamic State (ISIS) in Libya—has been transformed. The once obscure village has become a site for official delegations and mourners to visit, and offer condolences and support to the bereaved families of the victims. This influx of visitors is new for al-Aour.

    During the more than forty-five days between the abductions and executions, the governor of Minya did not visit the town or meet with the families of victims. While families did meet twice with an official from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, they were not provided with any information. The families also met with Prime Minister Ibrahim Mahlab two days before the video depicting their gruesome execution was published.

    The twenty Copts were abducted by armed, masked men in two separate groups. The first group was abducted when armed men stopped a microbus as it was on its way back to the Egyptian border. The armed men asked the passengers about their religions; upon finding that seven...

  • A Closer Look at Egyptian Kidnappings in Libya

    By: Ishak Ibrahim

    The fate of 20 Egyptian Copts, who were kidnapped by masked men in two separate incidents in the Libyan city of Sirte, remains unclear. In the first kidnapping, which took place on December 31, 2014, militants forcefully stopped a microbus transporting Egyptians and kidnapped seven Christians at gunpoint. Four days later, on January 3, 2015, a group of masked militants raided an apartment building that is home to both Muslim and Christian Egyptians. The militants, who had a list of the Christian residents’ names, kidnapped 13 Copts and then left without harming any of the Muslims inside.

    Initially, no group officially addressed the motives or claimed responsibility for the kidnappings. However, on January 12, 2015, an affiliate of the Islamic State in Libya released a statement on a website claiming: “Islamic State soldiers have captured 21 Christian Crusaders from various regions of the State of Tripoli,” and shared pictures of the kidnapped Copts, while issuing no demands. The Egyptian Ministry of Foreign Affairs verified the authenticity of the statement. The Ministry commented...

  • Egyptian Justice Under Collapse

    Egyptian courts have allowed alleged perpetrators of killings and torture from security agencies to walk free, sometimes without ever appearing in court, while relatives of those killed by police brutality suffer in silence. This trend didn't start with dismissing the case against former President Hosni Mubarak, and acquitting his Minister of Interior and top police aides of charges of killing protesters during the 2011 revolution, and apparently won't end with it.

    Amal Helmy will never see justice take its course. Last summer, human rights workers from the Egyptian Initiative of Personal Rights (EIPR) sat with her and her children at their home in the Cairo neighborhood of Matareya, as she recounted how her husband Ezzat Abdel Fattah Sliman was beaten to death at the local police station. "Until my last breath, I will fight for his rights" Ms. Helmy told EIPR researchers, "I will knock on all doors". Tragically, AmalHelmy, her son Ahmed and her daughter Safinaz died on 25 November, when their house collapsed without seeing perpetrators of his brutal killing brought to account. They are survived by Ezzat's younger son, currently completing his military service.

  • The ‘legal woman’: Sexual violence, the state and the law

    On June 5, 2014, an amendment to the Egyptian Penal Code saw the introduction of harassment as a definitive crime. While the amendment does not fully satisfy the aspirations of many stakeholders, who fought for years to enact it (for example, the definition confines harassment to the act of stalking and following the victim, which excludes many acts of verbal harassment), it remains a crucial victory and an achievement worth celebrating. The irony, however, lies in the fact that despite harassment being a crime, the law, the state and society encourage the harassment of women, and here is how.

    The law and the courts indirectly nurture harassment through establishing a definitive image of the model woman — an image that is used by many in society to justify sexual violence and blame the victim. The law has a codified perception of the woman; of her role in society, how she should be dressed, and how valuable her various body parts are. This perception has accordingly become a legal point of reference, making women more susceptible to sexual violence.

    Television host Tamer Amin and Cairo University President Gaber Nassar, were obligated to make public apologies after they audaciously blamed the female victim who was assaulted by a mob of harassers on...

  • How rent could solve the housing problem

    In a previous article I pointed out four main challenges for the housing minister in providing adequate housing to the millions of families seeking their right to an affordable and safe home. One of these challenges was making government housing projects work.

    The last housing project, the National Housing Program (NHP), never achieved its target of 500,000 units, while tens of thousands of completed units have been standing empty — either because they never got their infrastructure hooked up, or because they are in remote areas lacking security and public transportation.

    The most glaring shortfall of the NHP, however, was that middle and upper-middle income earners benefited more than the poor from the billions of pounds in public spending that the project consumed.

    Today, we have three government-backed housing projects currently on the table, all of which are targeting the so-called low-income families. The main project is the...