Tough post-revolution reality for NGOs in Egypt

IRIN reports: Egyptian NGOs hoping for greater freedoms and more space to operate after the fall of Hosni Mubarak’s government say they have encountered just the opposite: an unprecedented clampdown by the post-revolution military rulers.

“Following Egypt’s historic protests calling for basic political freedoms, it is deeply disturbing that the Egyptian military has targeted Egypt’s democracy and human rights community in ways not even dared during Mubarak’s despotic rule,” wrote Stephen McInerney, executive director of the Washington-based Project on Middle East Democracy (POMED).

The first parliamentary elections since Mubarak’s fall are scheduled for 28 November, but NGO leaders say the transitional government led by the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) has mounted a “smear campaign” against them by accusing them of receiving millions of dollars from foreign donors to destabilize the country – going so far as to say the violence on the streets of Cairo during and after the revolution was supported by foreign funding channelled through NGOs.

Many of the local organizations being targeted intended to monitor the upcoming elections, but have been prevented from doing so by the Electoral Commission. SCAF has already banned foreign groups from monitoring the vote.

“This [smear campaign] is yet another episode in the suffering of NGOs in this country,” Maged Adeeb, the chairman of local NGO National Centre for Human Rights, told IRIN. “By accusing us of receiving funds and using them in weakening Egypt’s security, the government creates an unbridgeable gap between us and ordinary citizens.”

In a recent conference in Cairo, Negad Al Borae, a leading civil society activist, said the new government was collaborating with some political powers – namely members of the former ruling party – to destroy the nation’s NGOs.

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