Anonymous sources from the security agencies in Egypt revealed that a high profile security official had decided the crackdown on the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, a research and human rights NGO, in Last November, to thwart the civil society organizations.
Human rights activists, lawyers and even politicians put their hope on the new American administration awaited to take office in next February in putting pressure on the Egyptian authorities to improve the human rights situation. This hope was seen by the high profile security official as a threat, which should be suppressed as soon as possible in order to assert the dominance of the security agencies on the public sphere in Egypt. This was disclosed in a report by Mada Masr news website, which is known of its deep acquaintance of what is happening inside the kernel of the Egyptian institutions.
The story of the crackdown
The crackdown on the EIPR began on November 15, when security forces arrested Mohamed Basheer, the administrative manager of the EIPR, from his home. This came a week after a meeting held between the EIPR and 13 foreign diplomats and ambassador to brief them about the deteriorating human rights situation in Egypt; a step which sounded the alarm of the security official about the resistance that could be raised by the civil society against the violations of the Egyptian security.
The tepid response to the arrest of Basheer encouraged the security official to escalate its attack so that he could prove more and more dominance and kill any rising hopes. Indeed, the security forces arrested Karim Ennara, the head of EIPR’s criminal justice unit, from a restaurant. The security official was not satisfied with that, but he went ahead to order the arrest of Gasser Abdel Razek, the executive manager of the EIPR, who has a higher profile than his 2 colleagues.
The report revealed that, on contrary to what was expected, the international reaction against the arrest of the three activists was not enough to persuade the security official to take a step back. Instead, high profile officials in the National Security Apparatus (NSA), the Egyptian secret police responsible of the political issues, and other security agencies met and decided to push the three activists in the same trajectory of other political detainees in Egypt. According to that, the three activists were to stay in remand with repetitive renewals by the State Security Prosecution, who is practically subject to the instructions of the NSA, then longer renewals by the criminal court before releasing. This means months or even years in an ostensibly lawful detention.
However, reports from the Egyptian diplomatic delegations directly to the Egyptian presidency had made some difference. From Washington, the Egyptian Embassy conveyed the fear of that such action could put Abdel Fattah al-Sisi in embarrassment in front of Joe Biden, who does not carry the same sympathy towards al-Sisi as his predecessor Donald Trump. While from Paris, the Egyptian ambassador there Ehab Badawi conveyed the French Foreign Ministry’s worry that al-Sisi’s violations would embarrass the French President Emanuel Macron who holds tight relationships with al-Sisi. On November 22, another blow was directed through a letter signed by 19 foreign ambassadors including the American Ambassador in Cairo demanding the release of the three detainees.
Moreover, domestic dynamics was necessary to mediate a resolution between the different parties. Here came the role of the well-known politician, human rights defender and former MP Mohamed Anwar al-Sadat. Al-Sadat seized the opportunity that Farida al-Naqqash, Gasser’s mother, was chosen to be a member in the new senate, and contacted Abdel Wahab Abdel Razeq, the president of the senate, to look for a way out of the crisis. The mediators succeeded in persuading security officials in other security agencies that the crisis could be presented as a legal issue arising from the 2019 new NGO law. Finally, the Egyptian presidency decided to intervene directly and ordered the release of the activists to save al-Sisi in his visit to France and to prevent the embarrassment of his ally Macron.
Egypt in the maze
Although the three activists of the EIPR were saved, the story tells a lot about the terrifying logic of the Egyptian authorities and its security agencies. The security official’s decision to launch a preemptive strike against the efforts of the civil society unveiled the intention of the Egyptian security to go on its suppression of any political or human rights activity. It is clear too that the Egyptian security is ready to stand any pressure and persist in its violations.
The so complicated dynamics which led finally to the saving of the three activists say that a lot of the innocent are and will face their fate without any possibility to save them from the hellish machine driven by al-Sisi and his organs to shut up the Egyptians. Thousands of Egyptian detainees suffer in al-Sisi’s prisons without having a relative who is a member in the senate.
Moreover, the crisis showed the chaos in the security agencies’ system and the individual structure of decision making. This increases the risk of assaulting the rights of more citizens who do not basically engage in any activity that could disturb the authorities. This fact makes every day comes loaded with the danger of making ‘a new Regeni’.