Saturday, September 30, 2017

Egypt: Stop arrests, crackdown on LGBT individuals


Egypt: Stop Anti-LGBT Crackdown, Intimidation
‘Rainbow Flag’ Arrests Violate Privacy, Freedom of Expression

September 30, 2017

Egypt should stop arresting and harassing people suspected of homosexuality using trumped-up “debauchery” and “inciting debauchery” charges, Human Rights Watch said today. Security forces rounded up at least eleven people in the days following a September 22, 2017 concert in Cairo at which young concertgoers waved rainbow flags, a symbol of solidarity with  lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT) people, a defiant act in a country known to persecute gay men and transgender people.

After concertgoers shared photos of the rainbow flag display on social media, pro-government media went on an overdrive attack and conservative politicians and religious leaders demanded that the government take action. Police arrested one man on September 23 through entrapment on a dating app, a common police technique in Egypt, and claimed he had been among those to wave a flag.

On September 25,  the government said that it had arrested seven people identified through video footage of the concert. Several Egyptian activists questioned the veracity of this claim, but they documented additional arrests on September 27, when police picked up six men from the streets, charging them with debauchery and claiming they were all involved in the rainbow flag incident.

“Whether they were waving a rainbow flag, chatting on a dating app, or minding their own business in the streets, all these debauchery arrest victims should be immediately released,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch. “The Egyptian government, by rounding people up based on their presumed sexual orientation, is showing flagrant disregard for their rights.”

The Dokki Misdemeanor Court in Giza sentenced the first victim on September 26 to six years in prison and a fine for “debauchery,” based on his presumed sexual conduct, and “inciting debauchery,” as prosecutors alleged he was among those who raised the rainbow flag at the concert. The court sentenced him to an additional six years of probation which will require reporting to the police from 6p.m. to 6a.m. until 2029. No lawyer was present at his trial.  He now has legal representation, and his appeal will be heard on October 11.

The six men arrested on September 27 are scheduled for trial on October 1. At least two more men were arrested on September 28 because of their presumed sexual orientation, and Egyptian media reported that another six men were arrested on September 28 in a raid on a home, although Human Rights Watch has not independently verified that report.

At the September 22 concert, people raised rainbow flags during the performance of the Lebanese group Mashrou’ Leila, which has an openly gay lead singer and has performed songs addressing same-sex relationships and gender identity. The Egyptian Musicians Syndicate opened an investigation into the event and banned future Mashrou’ Leila concerts in Egypt.

In Egypt, police routinely round up gay and bisexual men and transgender women, actively seeking them out and entrapping them on dating apps and through social media. One Cairo-based organization has documented the prosecution of at least 34 people for consensual same-sex conduct in the last 12 months. Since President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi came into power in 2014, several hundred people have been imprisoned on charges of consensual same-sex conduct.

Egyptian activists told Human Rights Watch they fear that the past week’s arrests could signal the beginning of an even harsher crackdown on LGBT people and those who publicly support them.

Egypt’s Forensic Medicine Authority also routinely subjects people to forced anal examinations. The archaic technique was devised in the 19th century to seek “evidence” of homosexual conduct,  but forensic experts around the world have condemned the practice as lacking any scientific validity and violating medical ethics. The UN  special rapporteur on torture,  the UN Committee Against Torture, and the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights have described the exams as a form of torture or ill-treatment, prohibited under international law. The Egyptian Medical Syndicate has taken no steps to prevent doctors from conducting these degrading exams.

Egypt is a state party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which protects the rights to privacy and to freedom of expression. Egypt’s constitution also protects these rights.

“Egypt should stop dedicating state resources to hunting people down for what they allegedly do in their bedrooms, or for expressing themselves at a rock concert, and should instead focus energy on improving its dire human rights record,” Whitson said.

*Photo by Jamal Saidi, courtesy of Reuters

Former prez. candidate sentenced to jail, in bid to bar him from 2018 elections

Egypt: Former presidential candidate given jail term in bid to stop him running in 2018 election

25 September 2017

Today’s conviction of Khalid Ali, a former presidential candidate and prominent human rights lawyer who is widely viewed as President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s top contender for the 2018 presidential elections, is politically motivated, said Amnesty International.

Khaled Ali was sentenced to three months in prison which would prevent him from standing in the 2018 presidential elections if the verdict is confirmed on appeal. The court found him guilty of “violating public decency” in relation to a photograph showing him celebrating a court victory after successfully reversing a controversial Egyptian government decision to hand over control of two Red Sea islands to Saudi Arabia.

He was released on a bail of 1000 Egyptian pounds pending appeal.

“Khaled Ali’s politically motivated conviction today is a clear signal that the Egyptian authorities are intent on eliminating any rival who could stand in the way of President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s victory in next year’s elections. It also illustrates the government’s ruthless determination to crush dissent to consolidate its power,” said Najia Bounaim, Amnesty International’s Head of North Africa Campaigns.

“It beggars belief that Khaled Ali, a prominent human rights lawyer and political activist, has been given a jail term simply for celebrating his victory in a court case. His conviction on this absurd charge must be quashed.”

The trial in Khaled Ali’s case was also riddled with flaws; the court issued its decision without hearing the defence lawyers’ final pleadings or allowing them to cross-examine witnesses for the prosecution about disputed video evidence submitted against Khaled Ali, which his defence lawyers argued was fabricated.

Earlier this year Amnesty International warned that the Egyptian authorities have intensified their crackdown on opposition activists ahead of the 2018 presidential election by rounding up activists from opposition parties. 

*Photo by Mohamed El-Shahed, courtesy of AFP/Getty Images

Int'l labor unions petition Egypt to release jailed unionists

Ahram Online 
International trade union groups write to Sisi demanding release of 8 Egyptian union members

Monday September 25, 2017 

Two international trade union confederations sent an open letter on Sunday to Egypt's President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi and Prime Minister Sherif Ismail calling for the release of several Egyptian union members detained in the past week.

The letter was signed by the general secretaries of the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) and Public Services International (PSI), which represents 669 public services unions in 154 countries.

The letter was also sent to Egypt's Center for Trade Unions and Workers Services (CTUWS), which provided a copy to Ahram Online.

"We are deeply concerned about the unprecedented and unjustified escalation of retaliation against independent trade unionists over recent days, and we demand their immediate and unconditional release," the letter reads.

According to news reports, eight members of Egyptian independent trades unions were arrested last week following union training events and attempts to organize protest actions.

Two of those detained work for the Egyptian Electricity Holding Company, while another four are employed at the Real Estate Taxes Authority (RETA), including the president of RETA's independent union. Finally, two workers with the Public Taxes Authority were also detained.

All those detained were apparently members of independent trades unions, the legality of which is still a matter of dispute in Egypt.

The taxation union members were arrested after several tax workers applied to the interior ministry for permission to hold a protest demanding pay rises. Egyptian law requires all protests to be authorized by the ministry before going ahead.

The members of the electricity union, meanwhile, were arrested after providing training to members of syndicates representing government administrative workers.

The detainees are facing a range of charges, including inciting strikes and demonstrations, misuse of social media and affiliation to a group banned by law.

"The blocking of a legitimate sit-in and strike action, as well as the arrest of trade unionists on security and anti-terrorism grounds, are a violation of the principle of freedom of association enshrined in the constitution and ILO convention 87," the letter said.

The Egyptian government introduced a law in 2013 that severely restricts protests and strikes, requiring prior notice from the interior ministry, which is rarely given. Thousands have been jailed for violating the law, including workers.

However, in December the Supreme Constitutional Court ruled that Article 10 of the 25-article law was unconstitutional.

In April, the parliament approved an amendment to the protest law, according to which authorities have no right to prohibit protests once all documents have been submitted, except through a court order.

According to the annual report of the Egyptian Center for Social and Economic Rights, issued in December, the governmental sector witnessed almost 478 “industrial actions” during 2016, while the public sector saw 133 actions and the private sector witnessed 107 actions.


*UPDATE: Following domestic and international efforts, along with global solidarity campaigns - the aforementioned jailed workers and unionists were all released on October 17.


KSA Religion Textbooks Promote Intolerance


Saudi Arabia: Religion Textbooks Promote Intolerance

Textbooks Disparage Sufi, Shia; Label Jews, Christians ‘Unbelievers’

September 13, 2017 

Saudi Arabia’s school religious studies curriculum contains hateful and incendiary language toward religions and Islamic traditions that do not adhere to its interpretation of Sunni Islam, Human Rights Watch said today. The texts disparage Sufi and Shia religious practices and label Jews and Christians “unbelievers” with whom Muslims should not associate.

A comprehensive Human Rights Watch review of the Education Ministry-produced school religion books for the 2016-17 school year found that some of the content that first provoked widespread controversy for violent and intolerant teachings in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 attacks remains in the texts today, despite Saudi officials’ promises to eliminate the intolerant language.

“As early as first grade, students in Saudi schools are being taught hatred toward all those perceived to be of a different faith or school of thought,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “The lessons in hate are reinforced with each following year.”

This research was part of a broader investigation into Saudi officials and religious clerics’ use of hate speech and incitement to violence for an upcoming Human Rights Watch report. The reviewed curriculum, entitled al-tawhid, or “Monotheism,” consisted of 45 textbooks and student workbooks for the primary, middle, and secondary education levels. Human Rights Watch did not review additional religion texts dealing with Islamic law, Islamic culture, Islamic commentary, or Qur’an recitation.

The United States Department of State first designated Saudi Arabia a “country of particular concern” under the International Religious Freedom Act for particularly severe violations in 2004. It has continued to do so every year since. The designation should trigger penalties, including economic sanctions, arms embargoes, and travel and visa restrictions. But the US government has had a waiver on penalties in place since 2006. The waiver allows the US to continue economic and security cooperation with Saudi Arabia unencumbered.

Saudi Arabia has faced pressure to reform its school religion curriculum since the September 11 attacks, particularly from the US, after it was revealed that 15 of the 19 hijackers were Saudi citizens. Saudi officials have said repeatedly they will carry out these reforms, although past reviews of the curriculum over the last dozen years have shown these promises to be hollow. In February 2017, Saudi’s education minister admitted that a “broader curriculum overhaul” was still necessary, but did not offer a target date for when this overhaul should be completed.

Saudi Arabia does not allow public worship by adherents of religions other than Islam. Its public school religious textbooks are but one aspect of an entire system of discrimination that promotes intolerance toward those perceived as “other.”

As Saudi Arabia moves towards implementing its Vision 2030 goals to transform the country culturally and economically, it should address the hostile rhetoric that nonconforming Sunni Muslims, Shia Muslims, and non-Muslim expatriate workers face in Saudi Arabia, said Human Rights Watch.

Saudi Arabia’s al-tawhid, “Monotheism,” curriculum harshly criticizes practices and traditions closely associated with both Shia Islam and Sufism. In many cases, the curriculum labels practices, such as visiting the graves of prominent religious figures, and the act of intercession, by which Shias and Sufis supplicate to God through intermediaries, as evidence of shirk, or polytheism, that will result in the removal from Islam and eternal damnation.

The curriculum repeatedly condemns building mosques or shrines on top of graves, a clear reference to Shia or Sufi pilgrimage sites.

The third book in the five-part secondary level curriculum, for example, contains a section, entitled, “People’s Violation of the Teachings of the Prophet with Graves,” stating that “many people have violated what the prophet forbade in terms of bida’ or ‘illicit innovations’ with graves and committed what he prohibited and because of that fell into illicit innovations or the greatest polytheism” by “building mosques and shrines on top of graves.”

The text also states that people use shrines as a place to commit other acts of illicit innovations or polytheism, including: “praying at them, reading at them, sacrificing to them and those [interred] in them, seeking help from them, or making vows by them…”

Ministry of Education, Al-Tawhid, Student Book, Secondary Semester Program, Level Three, 2016-17, p. 104
The second semester of the seventh-grade text expresses similar sentiment, saying that “those who make the graves of prophets and the righteous into mosques are evil-natured.”

Toward the end of one chapter, “The Role of Reformers in Declaring and Defending the Correct Doctrine,” in a secondary-level textbook, a short glossary lists practices of those who have deviated from correct religious practice. It describes Sufism as “a perverse path that began with the claim of asceticism, or severe self-discipline, then entered into illicit innovation, mis-guidedness, and exaggeration in reverence to the righteous.”

Saudi Ministry of Education, Al-Tawhid, Student Book, Secondary Semester Program, Level One, 2016-17, p. 40 
Saudi Ministry of Education, Al-Tawhid, Student Book, Secondary Semester Program, Level One, 2016-17, p. 40

The curriculum reserves its harshest criticisms for Jews, Christians, and people of other faiths, often describing them as kuffar, or “unbelievers.”

In one fifth-grade second semester textbook, the curriculum calls Jews, Christians, and Al Wathaniyeen, or “pagans,” the “original unbelievers” and declares that it is the duty of Muslims to excommunicate them: “For whoever does not [excommunicate them], or whoever doubts their religious infidelity is himself an unbeliever.”

Saudi Ministry of Education, Al-Tawhid, Student Book, Fifth Grade, Second Semester, 2016-17, p. 55

In a chapter listing markers by which one can recognize the approach of the Day of Resurrection, one passage states: “The Hour will not come until Muslims will fight the Jews, and Muslims will kill the Jews.”

Saudi Ministry of Education, Al-Tawhid, Student Book, Secondary Course, Level Two, 2016-17, p. 102.

A recurring and alarming lesson in the curriculum warns against imitating, associating with, or joining the “unbelievers” in their traditions and practices. One passage rejects and denounces the Sufi practice of celebrating the birth of the prophet, accusing Sufis of imitating Christians, i.e. “unbelievers,” in their celebration of the birth of Jesus.

Al-Tawhid, Student Book, Fifth Grade, Second Semester, 2016-17, p. 279
[Translation: Celebrating the prophet’s birth in the spring of every year is prohibited; for it is a new innovation and is in imitation of the Christian celebration of what is known as the birth of Christ.]

In another chapter, “Loyalty to Unbelievers,” the text explicitly calls on Muslims to reserve loyalty to God, the prophet, and other believers and to express hostility and antagonism toward “unbelievers.” It warns Muslims that by imitating “unbelievers” or even joining them in their celebrations, one is at risk of expressing loyalty to them, and worse even, becoming one of them.

Saudi Ministry of Education, Al-Tawhid, Student Book, Secondary Course, Level One, 2016-17, p. 165

The Saudi government’s official denigration of other religious groups, combined with its ban on public practice of other religions, could amount to incitement to hatred or discrimination.

International human rights law requires countries to prohibit “[a]ny advocacy of national, racial or religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence.”

Article 18 of the International Covenant for Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) states: “Everyone shall have the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion. This right shall include the freedom to have or adopt a religion or belief of his choice, and freedom, either individually or in community with others and in public or in private, to manifest his religion or relief in worship, observance, practice and teaching.”

“Saudi Arabia’s officials should stop denigrating other people’s personal beliefs,” Whitson said. “After years of reform promises there is apparently still little room for tolerance in the country’s schools.”


Read also:

“They Are Not Our Brothers” 

Hate Speech by Saudi Officials

Egypt's Torture Epidemic = Crimes Against Humanity


Egypt: Torture Epidemic May Be Crime Against Humanity
Beatings, Electric Shocks, Stress Positions Routinely Used Against Dissidents

September 6, 2017  

Under President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, Egypt’s regular police and National Security officers routinely torture political detainees with techniques including beatings, electric shocks, stress positions, and sometimes rape, Human Rights Watch said in a new report released today.

Widespread and systematic torture by the security forces probably amounts to a crime against humanity, according to the 63-page report, “‘We Do Unreasonable Things Here’: Torture and National Security in al-Sisi’s Egypt.

Prosecutors typically ignore complaints from detainees about ill-treatment and sometimes threaten them with torture, creating an environment of almost total impunity, Human Rights Watch said.

Under President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, Egypt’s regular police and National Security officers routinely torture political detainees with techniques including beatings, electric shocks, stress positions, and sometimes rape. 

“President al-Sisi has effectively given police and National Security officers a green light to use torture whenever they please,” said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “Impunity for the systematic use of torture has left citizens with no hope for justice.”

The report documents how security forces, particularly officers of the Interior Ministry’s National Security Agency, use torture to force suspects to confess or divulge information, or to punish them.

Allegations of torture have been widespread since then-Defense Minister al-Sisi ousted former President Mohamed Morsy in 2013, beginning a widespread crackdown on basic rights. Torture has long been endemic in Egypt’s law enforcement system, and rampant abuses by security forces helped spark the nationwide revolt in 2011 that unseated longtime leader Hosni Mubarak after nearly 30 years.

Human Rights Watch interviewed 19 former detainees and the family of a 20th detainee who were tortured between 2014 and 2016, as well as Egyptian defense and human rights lawyers. Human Rights Watch also reviewed dozens of reports about torture produced by Egyptian human rights groups and media outlets.

The techniques of torture documented by Human Rights Watch have been practiced in police stations and National Security offices throughout the country, using nearly identical methods, for many years.

Under international law, torture is a crime of universal jurisdiction that can be prosecuted in any country. States are required to arrest and investigate anyone on their territory credibly suspected of involvement in torture and to prosecute them or extradite them to face justice.

Since the 2013 military coup, Egyptian authorities have arrested or charged probably at least 60,000 people, forcibly disappeared hundreds for months at a time, handed down preliminary death sentences to hundreds more, tried thousands of civilians in military courts, and created at least 19 new prisons or jails to hold this influx. The primary target of this repression has been the Muslim Brotherhood, the country’s largest opposition movement.

Human Rights Watch found that the Interior Ministry has developed an assembly line of serious abuse to collect information about suspected dissidents and prepare often fabricated cases against them. This begins at the point of arbitrary arrest, progresses to torture and interrogation during periods of enforced disappearance, and concludes with presentation before prosecutors, who often pressure suspects to confirm their confessions and almost never investigate abuses.

The former detainees said that torture sessions begin with security officers using electric shocks on a blindfolded, stripped, and handcuffed suspect while slapping and punching him or beating him with sticks and metal bars. If the suspect fails to give the officers the answers they want, the officers increase the power and duration of the electric shocks and almost always shock the suspect’s genitals.

Officers then employ two types of stress positions to inflict severe pain on suspects, the detainees said. In one, they hang suspects above the floor with their arms raised backwards behind them, an unnatural position that causes excruciating pain in the back and shoulders and sometimes dislocates their shoulders.

In a second, called the “chicken” or “grill,” officers place suspects’ knees and arms on opposite sides of a bar so that the bar lies between the crook of their elbows and the back of their knees and tie their hands together above their shins. When the officers lift the bar and suspend the suspects in the air, like a chicken on a spit, they suffer excruciating pain in shoulders, knees, and arms.

Security officers hold detainees in these stress positions for hours at a time and continue to beat, electrocute, and interrogate them.

“Khaled,” a 29-year-old accountant, told Human Rights Watch that in January 2015, National Security officers in Alexandria arrested him and took him to the city’s Interior Ministry headquarters.

They told him to admit to participating in arson attacks on police cars the previous year. When Khaled denied knowing anything about the attacks, an officer stripped off his clothing and began shocking him with electrified wires.

The torture and interrogations, involving severe electric shocks and stress positions, continued for nearly six days, during which Khaled was allowed no contact with relatives or lawyers. Officers forced him to read a prepared confession, which they filmed, stating he had burned police cars on the orders of the Muslim Brotherhood.

After 10 days, a team of prosecutors questioned Khaled and fellow detainees. When Khaled told one prosecutor that he had been tortured, the prosecutor replied it was none of his business and ordered Khaled to restate the videotaped confession, or else he would send him back to be tortured again.

“You’re at their mercy, ‘Whatever we say, you’re gonna do.’ They electrocuted me in my head, testicles, under my armpits. They used to heat water and throw it on you. Every time I lose consciousness, they would throw it on me,” Khaled recalled.

Egypt’s history of torture stretches back more than three decades, and Human Rights Watch first recorded the practices documented in this report as early as 1992. Egypt is also the only country to be the subject of two public inquiries by the United Nations Committee against Torture, which wrote in June 2017 that that the facts gathered by the committee “lead to the inescapable conclusion that torture is a systematic practice in Egypt.”

Since the military unseated former president Morsy in 2013, the authorities have reconstituted and expanded the repressive instruments that defined Mubarak’s rule. The regularity of torture and the impunity for its practice since 2013 has created a climate in which those who are abused see no chance to hold their abusers to account and often do not bother even filing complaints to prosecutors.

Between July 2013 and December 2016, prosecutors officially investigated at least 40 torture cases, a fraction of the hundreds of allegations made, yet Human Rights Watch found only six cases in which prosecutors won guilty verdicts against Interior Ministry officers. All these verdicts remain on appeal and only one involved the National Security Agency.

Al-Sisi should direct the Justice Ministry to create an independent special prosecutor empowered to inspect detention sites, investigate and prosecute abuse by the security services, and publish a record of action taken, Human Rights Watch said. Failing a serious effort by the Sisi administration to confront the torture epidemic, UN member states should investigate and prosecute Egyptian officials accused of committing, ordering, or assisting torture.

“Past impunity for torture caused great harm to hundreds of Egyptians and laid the conditions for the 2011 revolt,” Stork said. “Allowing the security services to commit this heinous crime across the country invites another cycle of unrest.”

*Photo by Mohamed Abd El Ghany, courtesy of Reuters


Available in Arabic:

مصر: وباء التعذيب قد يشكل جريمة ضد الإنسانية

المعارضون يخضعون روتينيا للضرب، الصعق بالكهرباء، والتعليق

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Trump & Sisi Talk Business

Fucking birds of a feather...

*Artwork by Carlos Latuff, courtesy of Latuff Cartoons

Egypt authorities now blocking 405 websites, VPNs & proxy servers

Egyptian Streets
Egypt Blocks More Websites Raising the Total Number of Blocked Sites to 405    

August 31, 2017

The blocking of websites still continues with banning 261 VPN and proxy websites on 29 August raising the total number of blocked sites to 405, according to the latest report by the Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression (AFTE.)

On 24 May, the Egyptian authorities started blocking news websites on alleged claims of “supporting terrorism.”     In a span of 3 months, the blockade expanded from news websites to banning VPN sites, websites of non-profit organizations and personal blogs of journalists.

Among the blocked websites are the independent news website Mada Masr and the privately-owned Daily News Egypt.

The Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI) and Reporters Without Borders (RWB) websites have also been blocked.   

Also, the blog of Ahmed Gamal Ziada, a writer for Masr Alarabia, researcher, and photojournalist, has been blocked preventing readers in Egypt from accessing his blog.

The blocked VPN websites are Tunnelbear,  Cyberghost, Hotspot Shield Elite VPN (Hsselite), Tigervpn and Zenvpn among many others.

The United Nations Special Rapporteur on freedom of expression, David Kaye, and the Special Rapporteur on human rights and counter-terrorism, Fionnuala Ní Aloáin, today raised grave concerns with the Government of Egypt over its ongoing assault on freedom of expression.

“Limiting information as the Egyptian Government has done, without any transparency or identification of the asserted ‘lies’ or ‘terrorism’, looks more like repression than counter-terrorism,” they said in the report.


Read Also:   

UN rights experts express concern over blocked websites in Egypt  


Strike at Egypt's largest textile mill empowers workers with sense of hope

Socialist Worker
Strike gives hope in Egypt’s textile mills
The Mahalla textile strike shows the potential for Egyptian workers to fight in the face of repression

August 29, 2017

Tom Kay 

A recent 14-day strike by Egyptian textile workers was an impressive display of workers’ organisation and resilience in the face of Abdel Fatah el-Sisi’s military regime.

At its height, the strike involved 16,000 workers at the state-owned Misr Spinning and Weaving Company in Mahalla in northern Egypt.

It was suspended on Tuesday of last week after management agreed to consider the workers’ demands.

When workers launched their strike on 7 August, bosses had insisted that their demands would not be met.

The Misr Spinning and Weaving Company chair threatened to lock out workers.

But this threat was met by a demonstration of thousands of workers and their families through Mahalla.

There were also signs that their action could spread. Some 3,000 workers at the nearby Al-Nasr Processing and Dyeing factory joined the strike, and other factories reported slowdowns.

This clearly made bosses nervous, with Al-Nasr management quickly making promises to resolve the dispute.

The Misr Spinning and Weaving Company chairman instructed factory management to open dialogue with the workers.

Before the strike was suspended bosses had ramped up their rhetoric, branding it as “led by terrorists”. This is a reference to the banned Muslim Brotherhood organisation.

But last Sunday a leaflet signed by the company’s commissioner-general and a group of local MPs promised to consider workers’ demands within the week.

Workers responded by suspending their strike. But they made clear that it will restart after the Eid Al-Adha festival, ending on 4 September, if the promises prove hollow.

While the outcome of the dispute is yet to be seen, it is hugely important.

The Mahalla workers refused to be intimidated by the security forces, and have successfully forced Egypt’s largest state-owned company to consider their demands.

This may seem a small step, but is significant in a country where strikes are illegal and strike leaders and thousands of activists have been jailed.

Workers’ demands included payment of a delayed 10 percent bonus and increasing the monthly food allowance. These issues point to bigger problems the regime is facing.

It has recently pushed through series of “economic reforms” in exchange for a $12 billion International Monetary Fund (IMF) loan.

The IMF declared the Egyptian Central Bank’s governor its “Central Bank Governor of the Year” for the role he played in pushing through the free market reforms.

But these measures have seen inflation jump as high as 30 percent, plunging millions deeper into poverty.

Further laws favourable to foreign investors are expected soon. But alongside more attacks, there is a potential for a fightback.

Recent weeks have seen wildcat strikes by Egyptian train drivers over safety and large protests by residents of Warraq Island in Cairo. The regime is trying to demolish their homes and sell land to investors.

Resistance at Mahalla has often played an important role in Egypt, including during the 2011 revolution.

Mass strikes and uprisings in the city can give confidence to workers and poor people across Egypt to fight.

Total impunity for Sisi's security personnel who killed 900+ protesters four yrs ago

Egypt: Rampant impunity for security forces illustrates dark legacy of Rabaa massacre

Four years since security forces violently dispersed two sit-ins at Rabaa al Adawiya and al-Nahda squares in Greater Cairo, leaving at least 900 people dead and thousands more injured, Egypt is experiencing an unprecedented human rights crisis, said Amnesty International.

Not a single person has been held to account for the events on 14 August 2013, widely known as the Rabaa massacre. Instead, hundreds who attended the protests, including journalists and photographers who were covering the events, have been arrested and are facing an unfair mass trial. This vacuum of justice has allowed security forces to commit serious human rights violations, including using excessive lethal force and carrying out enforced disappearances, entirely unchecked.

“President Abdel Fattah al-Sissi’s regime has been determined to wipe out all memory of the massacre of the summer of 2013. The dark legacy of this failure to bring anyone to justice is that Egypt’s security forces today feel that they will not be held accountable for committing human rights violations,” said Najia Bounaim, North Africa Campaigns Director at Amnesty International.

“The Rabaa dispersal marks a defining turning point for human rights in Egypt. In the years since then, security forces have stepped up violations and varied their methods, carrying out enforced disappearances and extrajudicial executions on a scale never seen before.”

Since 2015, at least 1,700 people are estimated to have been “disappeared” by state agents for periods ranging from a few days to up to seven months. Most victims are abducted from the streets or their homes and held incommunicado for months, cut off from their families and lawyers. Egyptian security forces have also carried out dozens of extrajudicial executions.

The Egyptian government’s efforts to erase all memory of the 2013 massacres appear to have had some impact. In August 2013, following the excessive use of lethal force by security forces at Rabaa, the EU Foreign Affairs Council agreed to suspend export licenses to Egypt of any equipment which could be used for internal repression.  Despite this, many EU member states have continued to supply the country with arms and policing equipment. The latest EU country report published last month also makes no mention of the Rabaa massacre or the impunity security services still enjoy.

Grossly unfair trials

Since the Rabaa massacre, the Egyptian authorities have led a bitter crackdown against political dissidents, rounding up thousands and sentencing hundreds to life in prison

or death, after grossly unfair trials. In many cases defendants were convicted in mass trials based on scant or dubious evidence. Most faced charges including participating in unauthorised protests, belonging to the banned Muslim Brotherhood group, damaging state and private property, possessing firearms and attacking security forces.

The prosecution authorities, who have an obligation to bring those responsible for the 2013 tragedy to justice, have proven unwilling to investigate and prosecute those responsible for these crimes. Instead of offering justice and remedy for victims, they have helped shield perpetrators from prosecution.

“The level of disparity between the rampant impunity enjoyed by security forces who took part in the Rabaa dispersal on one hand, and the mass persecution of Muslim Brotherhood supporters who participated in protest as well as journalists reporting that day, is shocking,” said Najia Bounaim.

According to official statistics, six security officers were killed during the Rabaa dispersal and three during the al-Fateh protest two days later, also in Cairo. At least 1,231 people are being prosecuted in two mass trials collectively charged with their killing.

At least 737 people were charged for participating in the 2013 sit-in in what is known as “Rabaa dispersal case”. Among them is the journalist Mahmoud Abu Zeid, known as “Shawkan” who was arrested for taking photographs during the sit-in at Rabaa.

Many of those detained are held in appalling conditions including prolonged solitary confinement amounting to torture. They have frequently been beaten and denied access to lawyers, medical care or family visits.

In another emblematic case, known as the “Fateh mosque case”, at least 494 people are on mass trial for participating in a protest on 16 August 2013, while no investigation was conducted into the use of excessive lethal force by security forces that day that killed 120 protesters.

Those on trial include the Irish Egyptian national Ibrahim Halawa. The group are facing charges including participating in an unauthorised protest, belonging to a banned group, as well as murder and attacking the security forces. The prosecution failed to investigate claims by defendants that they were tortured by police to “confess” to crimes they did not commit.

The “Rabaa operations room case” involving four journalists from the RASSD news network - Youssef Talaat, Abdallah Al-Fakharany, Samhi Mostafa and Mohamed El-Adly – is another case that exemplifies the blatant injustice characterizing such trials.

The journalists were sentenced to five years in prison on 8 May 2017 after being convicted of charges including creating and overseeing media committees at the Rabaa sit-in to spread “false information and news”.  During the trial, their lawyers were unable to attend several crucial court sessions leaving them unable to prepare a proper defence. The court’s judgement also relied primarily on investigations by Egypt’s National Security Agency that were not substantiated by material evidence.

Egypt: Journalist jailed for 21 months without trial - health deteriorating at Scorpion Prison

Egypt: Detained Journalist’s Health Deteriorating

Held 21 Months Without Trial Despite Serious Illness

August 14, 2017

1. Egyptian journalist Hisham Gaafar before his detention in October 2015.

Egyptian authorities should immediately provide appropriate health care to the imprisoned journalist Hisham Gaafar, whose health, including his eyesight, is deteriorating in detention, Human Rights Watch said today. If prison authorities are unable to provide him necessary health care, they should allow him to seek care in private health facilities.
The Interior Ministry’s National Security Agency arrested Gaafar, director of the Mada Foundation for Media Development, a private media company, at his office in October 2015. Prosecutors have ordered Gaafar detained pending investigation on charges that include membership in the Muslim Brotherhood and illegally receiving foreign funds for his foundation, his lawyers told Human Rights Watch.

“Egypt’s Interior Ministry has shown contempt for Hisham Gaafar’s health and well-being,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “The fact that the Interior Ministry refuses to provide him his rightful care is a sad testament to Egyptian authorities’ disregard for detainees’ most basic rights.”

Gaafar, 53, has an eye condition – optic nerve atrophy – that requires ongoing specialist care or he may risk losing his sight altogether. He also suffers from a years-long prostate enlargement condition and risks complications if he does not receive the proper treatment. His eyesight is deteriorating and his health has worsened during his time in detention, in poor conditions, his family said.

Immediately following his arrest, police took Gaafar to his home, where officers seized his personal publications, work papers, computers, and phones, including those belonging to his wife and children. They detained his family inside the home for 17 hours. Security officers confiscated all his medical documents and reports and have not returned them to his family, despite their requests.

National Security officers then took Gaafar to an undisclosed location and held him for two days without access to his family or lawyers. His family heard of his whereabouts when a lawyer saw him by coincidence in the Supreme State Security Prosecution office in Cairo. Prosecutors have kept him in pretrial detention since then.

Under Egyptian law, prosecutors have broad power to hold those suspected of committing major offenses, including political and national security crimes, in pretrial detention for up to five months without regular judicial review, and judges can extend the detention for up to two years without requiring any substantive justification from prosecutors.

A judge should immediately review the necessity and legality of Gaafar’s detention and either send him to trial without further delays or release him, Human Rights Watch said.

During Gaafar’s time in detention, most of it spent in the maximum security Scorpion Prison in Cairo, the Interior Ministry’s Prisons Authority has not provided needed medicine but has intermittently allowed Gaafar to receive the eye vitamins and prostate medicine he required, after completely banning such supplies for the first two months of his detention. During those two months, his wife, Manar, told Human Right Watch, prison authorities kept Gaafar alone in a cell that, in his words, resembled a “tomb” without sunlight.

Later, they allowed his family very short and irregular visits, with no chance to verify whether he had received the medicine they had given to prison guards for him. Since March 2017, prison authorities have again denied him visits from relatives and his lawyer.

Before he was detained, Gaafar used special optic tools to read and glasses for everyday life. He also needed some assistance in his daily routine, his wife said. Prison authorities allowed his wife to deliver the glasses several months after his detention, but when they reached him, they were broken.

The way the glasses were broken suggested it had been deliberate, his wife said. She delivered new ones, but he has not had a new eye examination. His wife said that he recently told her he was not seeing as well as before, even with the glasses, suggesting his eyesight may have deteriorated.
Gaafar has had optic nerve atrophy in both eyes since he was a teenager, according to his wife.

Medical documents and reports from 2012, which she provided to Human Rights Watch after she retrieved them from a hospital, stated that at the time he had only 10 percent of his vision remaining in his left eye. Optic nerve atrophy has no cure, but it can be slowed by exposure to sunlight, medicine, and a healthy diet, his wife said doctors had told them. These are not available in adequate amounts to inmates at Scorpion Prison and many other Egyptian detention facilities.

A Human Rights Watch report on Scorpion Prison, published in 2016, documented cruel and inhuman treatment by officers of the Interior Ministry’s Prisons Authority that probably amounted to torture, including preventing food and medicine deliveries and other interference in medical care that may have contributed to prisoners’ deaths.
Gaafar’s wife said he appeared weak and to have lost significant weight during her March 2017 visit. She said she saw bite marks all over his body, which he said were from insects that had infested his cell due to a sewage leak. He told her he had suffered pain for weeks because he was sleeping on the concrete floor without a mattress. Human Rights Watch previously documented that Scorpion Prison authorities deny inmates a wide variety of basic necessities for hygiene and comfort, including beds, pillows, and mattresses.

In late February 2016, after a public outcry and growing criticism from the Journalists’ Syndicate, human rights organizations, and public figures, the authorities transferred Gaafar to the Tora Prison Hospital after he began suffering from urinary retention – the inability to fully empty his bladder.

Prison authorities then transferred him to al-Manial University Hospital, which is affiliated with Cairo University. Doctors who examined him there on March 4, and again on March 10, 2016, asked prison officials to allow him to be kept at Cairo University hospitals to prepare for more tests, including diagnostic surgery on his enlarged prostate, the apparent cause of the urinary retention.

Gaafar spent five months at the prisoners’ ward at Qasr al-Aini Hospital, where ill inmates who are hospitalized are usually held, but the authorities repeatedly failed to give Gaafar timely permission to go for needed tests. Human Rights Watch has previously documented that prison authorities pressure hospitals not to admit inmates or to return them without necessary treatment.

Gaafar told his wife that he received very little medical care there. In August 2016, the authorities sent Gaafar back to Scorpion Prison before he had undergone the examinations that he was told he needed. Prison authorities and Cairo University hospitals have not allowed Gaafar’s family to read or obtain a copy of the medical reports issued during his detention, his wife said.

The family managed to obtain the hospital discharge report through unofficial means, however, and provided a copy to Human Rights Watch. The report contained no detailed information on any tests Gaafar may have undergone or treatment received but stated that he suffers from “mild prostate enlargement" and that "the patient needed no surgical intervention.” The report did not state what caused the enlargement or whether it was benign or cancerous – a primary concern for the family.

A couple of days after returning to prison, Gaafar found blood in his urine, and officers transferred him again to Tora Prison Hospital. But the facilities there lack a urology specialist, his wife said, and the prison authorities have refused to arrange for Gaafar to be seen by one. He appeared before a court in August 2016 carrying a urinary catheter, his lawyers said.

His wife said that after filing several complaints, a National Security officer visited Gaafar in detention in November 2016, and told him, “don’t worry, we will treat you.” But Gaafar’s request to seek treatment in a private health facility was ignored.

One of his lawyers and his wife both told Human Rights Watch that prosecutors never allowed them to obtain a copy of the official charges against him or the rest of his case file. However, Hossam al-Sayed, another Mada Foundation journalist who was arrested with Gaafar on the same day, was released without bail in March 2016, said the lawyer Karim Abd al-Rady of the Arab Network for Human Rights Information (an independent rights group).

Under an amendment to the penal code decreed by President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi in September 2014, Gaafar could face a 25-year sentence if convicted of receiving foreign funds illegally.

Prisoners have the right to the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health guaranteed in the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, which Egypt ratified in 1982.

The Committee Against Torture, the monitoring body of the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment – ratified by Egypt in 1986 – has found that failure to provide adequate medical care can violate the treaty’s prohibition of cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment.

“It is deeply concerning that Egypt’s judiciary has become complicit in human rights violations by cruelly detaining people like Gaafar for years without justification, exposing them to serious abuse and harm,” Whitson said.

Saudi-led war on Yemen contributes to cholera outbreak, killing ~2,000 & affecting 500,000+

Yemen cholera cases soar past half-million: WHO

Cholera is believed to have affected more than 500,000 people and killed nearly 2,000 since late April, the World Health Organization said Monday.

A full 503,484 suspected cases and 1,975 deaths are attributable to the outbreak that erupted last than four months ago in the war-ravaged country, a WHO overview showed.

The UN health agency said the speed at which the deadly waterborne disease was spreading had slowed significantly since early July, but warned that it was still affecting an estimated 5,000 people each day.

The collapse of Yemen's infrastructure after more than two years of war between the Saudi-backed government and Shiite rebels who control the capital Sanaa has allowed the country's cholera epidemic to swell to the largest in the world.

WHO warned that the disease had spread rapidly due to deteriorating hygiene and sanitation conditions, with millions of people cut off from clean water across the country.

"Yemen's health workers are operating in impossible conditions," WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in a statement.

"Thousands of people are sick, but there are not enough hospitals, not enough medicines, not enough clean water," he said, also lamenting that many of the doctors and nurses needed to rein in the outbreak had not been paid for nearly a year.

"They must be paid their wages so that they can continue to save lives," he said.

WHO said that it and its partners were "working around the clock" to support the national efforts to halt the outbreak, adding that more than 99 percent of people who contract cholera in Yemen can survive if they can access health services.

More than 15 million people in the country have no access to basic healthcare.

Tedros called on all sides in Yemen's conflict, which has killed more than 8,300 people since March 2015, to urgently seek a political solution.

"The people of Yemen cannot bear it much longer - they need peace to rebuild their lives and their country," he said.

*Photo courtesy of AFP 

Tunisia: Fishermen prevent anti-migrant ship from docking

BBC News
Tunisia fishermen prevent far-right ship from docking

Sunday, 6 August 2017

Tunisian fishermen have prevented a ship carrying European far-right activists from docking, dealing a blow to their mission to disrupt the flow of migrant boats from Africa to Europe.

The C-Star, chartered by French-based group Génération identitaire (GI), was unable to berth in Zarzis.

GI says non-governmental organisations active in the Mediterranean collude with people traffickers.
But the Zarzis fishermen said the anti-migrant activists were racists.

They vowed not to let the C-Star refuel if it landed and the vessel is now expected to try another Tunisian port on Monday.

"It is the least we can do given what is happening out in the Mediterranean," Chamseddine Bourassine, head of the local fishermen's organisation, told AFP news agency. "Muslims and Africans are dying."

A port official who asked to remain anonymous said: "Us let in racists here? Never."

Meanwhile humanitarian groups say any attempt to turn migrant boats back to Libya could be very dangerous and illegal under international law.

About 600,000 migrants have been rescued from traffickers' boats and taken to Italy since the beginning of 2014.

More than 10,000 people have died attempting to cross the Mediterranean over the same period.
Earlier this month rights group Amnesty International accused the EU of mostly leaving it up to sea rescue charities to save migrants.

At the same time, NGOs have come under criticism from the Italian authorities, who have threatened to stop vessels of other countries from bringing migrants to Italian ports.

Italy's parliament has approved a plan to send naval boats to Libya as part of its efforts to stop migrants crossing the Mediterranean, and is asking NGO rescue ships to abide by a code of conduct.

*Photos courtesy of AFP/Getty Images

Monday, July 31, 2017

Egypt police kill protester, injure 50 others in clashes over Nile island

Associated Press
Egypt Says 1 Killed, 50 Injured in Clashes on Nile Island 
July 16, 2017 


Egyptian authorities say police have fired tear gas to disperse a rock-pelting crowd of residents on a River Nile island in Cairo, clashes that left one person killed and 50 others injured.

CAIRO (AP) — Egyptian police on Sunday fired tear gas to disperse a rock-pelting crowd of residents defending their homes on a Nile River island against bulldozers sent by the government to demolish their illegally-built dwellings. The clashes left one person dead and 50 others injured.

The violence on the island of el-Waraq on the southern fringes of Cairo is likely to stain a nationwide campaign launched this summer by Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, Egypt's general-turned-president, to restore government control over state-owned land.

El-Sissi has vowed in televised comments to show no lenience to anyone taking illegal advantage of state-owned property, saying the law would prevail regardless of how powerful or wealthy the offenders were. Anyone using land that does not rightfully belong to them, he angrily said, is a "common thief."

Illegal use of state land is widespread in Egypt, as well as building on agrarian land in violation of the law. Since el-Sissi launched his campaign earlier in the summer, local media has been showing images of police and army troops demolishing buildings illegally built or operating without a license, attempting to project an image of a government keen on protecting what is being billed as "people's property."

To el-Waraq's middle class and poor residents, however, the sight of bulldozers coming to demolish their homes may have been more than they could bear at a time when they, like most Egyptians, are struggling to cope with soaring prices for food and services, a result of ambitious reforms introduced by el-Sissi's government to revive the country's battered economy.

"Get lost! Get lost!" the protesters shouted at the scores of policemen who descended on the island early Sunday, backed by bulldozers, scores of riot policemen and led by senior police generals. The protesters, mostly young males, succeeded in forcing the bulldozers to turn away, but clashes soon began.

The Health Ministry said a resident died and another 19 were wounded in the clashes. It did not say how the man, Sayed el-Tafshan, died, but a photo of his body posted on social media networks showed chest wounds compatible with birdshot.

The Interior Ministry, which controls the police, said its forces only used tear gas.

A ministry statement said a total of 31 people — policemen as well as contractors who arrived with them on the island — were injured in the clashes. The injured policemen included two generals.
Ten residents were arrested for their part in the violence, it added.

Video clips posted on social media networks showed hundreds of angry islanders, mostly young men, at the man's funeral, marching through farm fields while chanting "We will sacrifice the martyr with our soul and blood."

The statement said the residents attacked police with firearms, birdshot guns and rocks, and that police responded with tear gas. It said up to 700 building and land violations were recorded on the island. It acknowledged the death of one islander and that 19 others were injured.

In el-Waraq, a mostly agricultural island with shoddily built apartment blocks, residents maintain that their homes are legal, citing the government's supply of drinking water and electricity.

One of the Nile's largest islands in Egypt, it is home to nearly 200,000 people and is linked to the mainland by six ferries.

"How is my home illegal when you have for years provided me with water and electricity," said resident and civil servant Mahmoud Essawi. "It's our land and we are not leaving."

In a separate development, Egypt's military said its jet fighters destroyed 15 all-terrain vehicles carrying weapons and explosives along with "criminal elements" after they were detected getting ready to cross the Libyan border into Egypt.

A military statement Sunday said the warplanes monitored and "dealt" with the vehicles over the past 24 hours, but it did not say whether the airstrikes targeted them while on Egyptian soil. It also did not mention Libya by name, making only a thinly veiled reference to the North African nation.

*Photo by Mostafa Darwish, courtesy of AP

Egypt arrests/deports 200+ Uighur students

VOA News
More Than 200 Uyghur Students Detained in Egypt

July 14, 2017

Officials in Egypt continue to detain and send ethnic Uyghur students to China.

Radio Free Asia (RFA) reports the students were studying at Al-Azhar Islamic University in Cairo.
RFA and VOA are each part of the United States government-supported Broadcasting Board of Governors.

Uyghurs are a mostly Muslim ethnic group in China and Central Asia. Most live in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region of western China.

RFA reported in May that Chinese officials had begun ordering Uyghurs studying outside of China to return to their hometowns.

A Uyghur student at Al-Azhar told RFA at the time that classmates who had returned to China seem to have disappeared.

“We haven’t been able to contact any of them,” the student said.

More than 200 Uyghurs, many of them religious students, have been detained in Egypt since July 4. Some were seized in restaurants or at their homes. Others were stopped at airports while trying to flee to safer countries, sources told RFA.

The Middle East Monitor reported that as many as 80 Uyghur students may have been seized on Wednesday. They were arrested for alleged problems with their Egyptian residency papers, the Monitor said in its report.

Criticism of China's treatment of Uyghurs

Human rights and Uyghur exile groups have condemned China for violating the rights of the Uyghurs and for breaking a United Nations treaty.

The agreement bars forced repatriations.

Sandra Jolley is with the United States Commission on International Religious Freedoms. She told RFA that the Egyptian government’s actions violate international rules against torture.

Such rules protect people who may face “imprisonment, torture and death should they be deported to their homes,” Jolley said.

She and others are urging the Grand Imam at Cairo’s Al-Azhar Islamic University to help stop the forced repatriations of Uyghurs.

Dr. Ahmed El-Tayeb currently serves as the school’s Grand Imam.

“He has a powerful voice. He leads Al-Azhar, and he should accept some role in protecting the students who attend this very prestigious university,” Jolley said.

Call for protection

A group of Uyghur students living in Cairo have also appealed to El-Tayeb. In a letter, they asked him to prevent future deportations.

“Our only sin is that we want to learn and study religion,” the students said.

The Arabic-language news service HuffPost Arabi received a copy of the letter.

Last week, Al-Azhar said in a statement that no Uyghur students had been arrested on the university’s grounds or while in any buildings connected with the school.

Friday, June 30, 2017


Sometimes you just have to break the rules :-)

*Photo courtesy of Fabulous Animals

Egyptian authorities now blocking over 100 websites

Quartz Africa
Egypt has blocked over 100 local and international websites including HuffPost and Medium

Thursday, 29 June 2017

Abdi Latif Dahir

The list of blocked websites in Egypt keeps growing, as the government widens what some say is an unprecedented crackdown on both local and international digital outlets. So far, 114 websites have been blocked in the north African nation since May 24, according to the latest figures from the non-governmental organization Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression.

A majority of these are news websites, but also included are platforms that can be used to access blocked sites or that allow for anonymous browsing and communication.

The affected websites include sites like Mada Masr, the financial newspaper Al Borsa, and Huffington Post Arabic. Twelve websites linked to Al Jazeera were also been blocked. Medium, the online publishing platform, was also banned.

The outage also affected Tor, the free software that provides users with online anonymity, and Tor bridges, which helps users circumvent the blocking of Tor itself. The website of the Open Observatory of Network Interference (OONI), an international network that monitors internship censorship and surveillance, was also blocked.  

The growing censorship comes as the government says it’s cracking down on websites that are “publishing false information” and “supporting terrorism.” (Link in Arabic) Egypt is currently in the midst of a three-month state emergency, following twin attacks on churches that killed almost 50 people in April.

The country is also part of a Saudi-led coalition that has put a blockade on Qatar, demanding, among other things, the closure of the Doha-based Al Jazeera media network which it considers to a be a propaganda tool for Islamists. The government of president Abdel Fattah el-Sisi is also embroiled in a maritime demarcation agreement over its decision to vote on the transfer of two islands in the Red Sea to Saudi Arabia—a move that has angered many Egyptians.

However, journalists and activists say the campaign is suppressing free expression and voices critical of the government. Some are accusing the regime of failing to disclose any judicial or administrative decision to block the sites—or whether emergency law provisions were applied.

“Even in the darkest days of the repressive Mubarak era, the authorities didn’t cut off access to all independent news sites,” Najia Bounaim, Amnesty International’s north Africa campaigns director, said.

In a June 19 report, OONI stated that deep packet inspection technology was being used to monitor and block these websites. Mada Masr, one of the blocked sites, also reported that the decision to block the sites was carried through a “centralized decision” by the government rather than by the country’s telecoms or internet service providers.

Since going offline, sites like Mada have been publishing articles on Facebook. Lina Attallah, the editor of the site, said the strategy of blocking the sites works to the government’s advantage for now.

“If they did something more grave like arresting team members or me it would make big noise, whereas blocking the website is the best way to paralyze us without paying a high price for it,” Attallah told Reuters.

*Photo by Mohamed Abd El Ghany, courtesy of Reuters