Report – A battle for survival: Shrinking space for women’s rights organisations in Egypt


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The period after 25 January 2011 continues to be a pivotal period for Egypt, politically, economically and socially. Civil society has not been immune to the turbulence. Specifically, human rights and women’s rights organisations have borne the brunt of an escalating campaign targeting their presence, security and day-to-day functioning. The prolonged campaign started by banning members of human rights groups from traveling abroad and freezing their assets on account of investigations into what is broadly labelled “foreign funding”. Other human rights organisations, including those working against torture and women’s rights issues, have faced arbitrary closures. In addition, a new law targeting civil society in Egypt has threatened the future of civil society as a whole.

Despite hope, following the 25 January revolution, for a legislative framework that would grant them more freedom, the new NGO law passed by the Parliament at the end of 2016 was a disappointment for civil society. Instead of easing the restrictions imposed by law 84/2002 on the work of associations and organisations, the new law tightens the state’s grip. This law was met with condemnation by local and international observers, among other things for its inconsistency with the Egyptian constitution and international law.

This study examines the environment of civil society in Egypt in general after January 2011, focusing on the situation of women’s organisations through interviews with representatives of six women’s organisations in order to identify their views on the political, legal, cultural and international context, and on the effects on the structure of organisations, trends, and activities. The study also explores their ability to survive and continue under the current conditions. Finally, the study reviews a set of recommendations formulated by interviewees.