The Arab Spring uprising may have come to Egypt in 2011, but the country had been in turmoil for decades. After simmering in the 1980s under the increasingly corrupt and repressive dictatorship of Hosni Mubarak, the country’s unease boiled over in the January 2011 revolution that ousted him.
However, in the years since the Arab Spring reached the country and toppled its government, Egypt has slowly but surely crept back towards the oppression that Mubarak was known for.
In February, the march back reached a new landmark when the government mandated the closure of a famous torture and domestic violence rehabilitation center in Cairo.
The El Nadim Center for the Management and Rehabilitation of Victims of Violence was a Bastion of Human Rights
The El Nadim Center for the Management and Rehabilitation of Victims of Violence was created in 1993 by Drs. Susan Fayad, Magda Adly and Aida Seif Al Dawla. Operating during some of the most repressive years of Mubarak’s reign, the Center and its founders gained an international reputation for its protection of civil and human rights in the midst of widespread state torture and other atrocities.
By providing medical and psychological support to torture survivors, the Center gave help to the same dissidents that attracted government attention, were arrested, and were tortured by the state. The Center also maintained a program specifically to address violence against women, including domestic violence. In a culture where domestic violence is accepted, religiously permitted, and not punishable by law, the Center filled a void for abused women with little other hope. It also documented state-sponsored torture and other human and civil rights violations.
Together, these three practices of civil disobedience towards the Egyptian government incited its ire.
In February, the Egyptian government ordered the Center to be closed down.
The process started in early February when the Minister of Health, Ahmed Rady, personally called for the Clinic to be inspected. During the inspection, the Ministry ordered a copy of the Center’s license. On February 8, the Ministry determined that the Center was breaching the terms of its license by publishing reports of torture and human rights violations, which it argued were not within the Center’s scope of providing rehabilitation and medical services.
On the afternoon of February 17, two police officers and a city employee ordered the Center’s workers to leave, and delivered an administrative closure order, mandating that the Center shut its doors. During meetings on February 21, the Center requested that the closure be suspended so it could separate its human and civil rights advocacy from its medical and rehabilitation functions, but the Ministry rejected its request.
The Center’s founding members have vowed not to stop documenting cases of torture, despite the Center’s closure.
What We Can Do
Any struggling government that turns to human rights violations to retain power has one great fear: publicity of their atrocities. When news of their actions reaches international ears, foreign countries begin investigating, uncovering more violations, and dissidents inside the country become more outspoken of their plight.
Unfortunately, word of the Clinic’s closure has not reached mainstream news sources, despite its significant struggles with the Egyptian government. Of those media outlets covering the situation, most of them are human rights organizations like Amnesty International, the International Federation for Human Rights, and underground Egyptian journalism.
Calling on your preferred news outlet and requesting coverage of the Clinic’s closing is a good way to push media into reporting on the topic. With more media presence, the Egyptian government’s actions will reach a broader audience and may even cause it to back off its conduct. Making a point to stay informed is a crucial follow-up. By reading and watching developments on the Center’s closure, you create web traffic and a demand for even more coverage, which media outlets will notice and satisfy.
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