The Cabinet announced in a press conference on Wednesday that the decision to freeze the assets of 1055 non-governmental organisations (NGOs) will not affect the poor who depend on them for services.
Minister of Social Solidarity Ahmed Al-Borai assured that “the aid to the poor has not stopped following this decision”.
On Tuesday, the Central Bank of Egypt (CBE) froze the assets of 1055 NGOs, accused of connection with the Muslim Brotherhood group. The action was in line with the Justice Ministry’s recent decision to dismantle Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated organisations on 23 September.
The General Federation of Non-Governmental Organizations (GFNO) announced on Wednesday that an emergency meeting will be held on Sunday to address the recent freeze.
“The federation was not told of this decision beforehand,” said Anwar Al-Sadat, member of the GNFO , “[and] a large number of poor people depend on these NGOs.” Al-Sadat criticised the timing of the decision saying that, with the government’s failure to provide economic aid and the approaching referendum, the decision causes a rift in society.
“I understand the need for monitoring NGOs funds, especially those funded by the Gulf states,” he explained, “but most of these NGOs work in extremely poor areas and offer [much needed] medical services to the poor.”
Al-Sadat added that he does not believe that these NGOs will be closed down, rather a monitoring system will result out of this decision.
The Islamic- based charity Al-Gameya Al-Shareya issued a statement on Wednesday vowing to keep its operations ongoing as long as there is money available.
In an emergency meeting held by the charity’s board on Wednesday, the charity cited the number of people they serve on daily basis as proof of their importance in poorer communities: “Al-Gameya Al-Shareya has over 1090 newborn incubators in 18 governorates, 30 medical centres…which focus on treating illnesses such as kidney dialysis, burns and cancer.” The statement added that it has projects serving over 450,000 orphans and 250,000 women.
“This decision’s effect is instantaneous,” said Mohamed Hassanein, the financial and administrative director of Al-Gameya Al-Shareya. “We cannot access our bank accounts.”
“We have over 30 medical centres in the different governorates,” said Hussein Ahmed, editor-in-chief of the charity’s magazine. “Some include kidney dialysis [centres] that closed down today in Sohag [as well as] the newborn incubators the charity is running.”
Hussein added that the charity can only continue its operations for “a few more days” under the current situation.
Nader Bakkar, Al-Nour Party’s deputy chairman for media affairs, criticised the decision. Bakkar claimed that Al-Gameya Al-Shareya and Ansar Al-Sonna Al-Mohamedeya charity organistations support 26% of Egypt’s poor.
“If by issuing this decision the government believes they are punishing the Muslim Brotherhood, they are mistaken,” Bakkar said. “The poor and the orphans are ones who will be punished.”
Bakkar also criticised the authorities for failing to clearly announce the decision and its rationale. “This isn’t a simple decision,” Bakkar said. “The Ministry of Social Solidarity should have at least confirmed that the decision was made.”
He said that if the government could incriminate any charity organisation, they have the right to freeze their assets or monitor their activities.
Wafaa Al-Banna, member of the Muslim Brotherhood and its Freedom and Justice Party, denied that the Brotherhood runs any charity organisations. She also condemned the decision, adding that the authorities are creating enemies within the underprivileged population.
Neither the Cabinet nor the Central Bank of Egypt was available for comment.