The decision by the interim government to freeze the funds of 1,055 NGOs and civil society groups has created “a standoff between the government and Islamic movements of various components, whether political, societal or charitable,” the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR) said on Monday.
The group also questioned the motivation behind such decisions.
The cabinet announced in December that the Central Bank of Egypt had frozen the funds of more than 1,000 NGOs accused of being connected to the Muslim Brotherhood. The decision followed the justice ministry’s September ruling to dissolve Brotherhood-affiliated organisations.
EIPR said the decision has “grave societal implications, which impedes the activity of charitable NGOs”. The group pointed to Al-Gameya Al-Shareya, an NGO that was established over 100 years ago. The EIPR statement said this group, along with others have filled the gap in providing for people where the state has failed. “Al-Gameya Al-Shareya has approximately 1,000 nurseries to care of premature babies” and 34 specialised medical centres, according to EIPR. Al-Gameya Al-Shareya announced earlier in January that “the crisis is over and we pledged to continue services.”
EIPR says “the decision sheds light on the crisis of civil [society] work and philanthropy in Egypt.” The group added that NGO and civil society work “is subject to regulatory law that does not establish protections for civil liberties”. It says the current “siege of civic activity” is related to “the withdrawal of the state from the provision of services to its citizens, as civil society organisations fill the void”. EIPR says that because these groups and the state often have a political or religious association, the services for citizens are affected by political conflicts.
The rights group called for the “liberalisation of civil work from the dominance of the state” and called for “narrowing the scope of the prosecution and the freezing and confiscation [of assets] on the basis of specific non flexible laws that are not subject to interpretation for the sake of the authority and its supporters.”
The Brotherhood said in December that the decision could “open the door” for Christian missionary organisations to convert poor Muslims to Christianity.