by Yesim Usluca
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East
CAIRO, Egypt — On Wednesday, November 23rd, a prominent Egyptian human rights activist was banned from leaving the country as she attempted to board a plane.
Ms. Aida Seif Al-Dawla, Director of the El Nadeem Center for Rehabilitation Victims of Violence, was attempting to board a flight before she was stopped by Egyptian authorities. A statement released by the Center indicated that she was traveling to Tunisia to attend a conference bringing together NGOs working on rehabilitating victims of violence in North Africa.
An airport security official stated that the travel ban was implemented because of Ms. Al-Dawla’s involvement in the “ongoing trial implicating the majority of the most active human rights groups in Egypt.” Ms. Al-Dawla issued a statement in which she indicated that the travel ban is aimed at “eradicating the rights movement” in an attempt to cover up the government’s systematically committed violations. Her statement further indicated that the government’s attempt to “prevent individuals who dedicated their efforts to support and alleviate the pain” of violence victims “will not work.” Egyptian human rights activists stated that the travel bans are “part of the authorities’ attempts to silence criticism from civil society groups.”
The Egyptian government had attempted to shut down the Center earlier this year. In February, the Health Ministry had threatened to close the Center due to “violations,” which included “shifting its focus from operating as a medical facility to working in human rights and advocacy.” The threat had attracted local and international criticism and outcries from rights groups. In early November, Egypt’s Central Bank had ordered the freezing of the El Nadeem Center’s bank account. The Bank had lifted the freeze shortly thereafter when the Center documented that it does not fall under the authority of the Social Solidarity Ministry.
Ms. Al-Dawla is one of many human rights activists who have been banned from travel for their involvement in the country’s pending foreign funding case. Earlier this week, the Egyptian legislature also ordered issued travel bans for Ms. Azza Soliman, lawyer and head of the Center for Egyptian Women Legal Assistance, and Mr. Ahmed Ragheb, lawyer and Director of the National Community for Human Rights and Law. Both were on their way to attend international conferences, and were informed that the ban was the result of a judicial order, issued without their knowledge, regarding the case involving illegal foreign funding of NGOs.
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