The Middle East Channel

Egypt rejects licenses for eight U.S. civil society groups

Egypt rejects licenses for eight U.S. civil society groups

Egypt’s Insurance and Social Affairs Ministry rejected the applications of eight United States-based civil society organizations for licenses to operate in the country. According to Egyptian state media, the requests were denied on the grounds that their work would violate Egyptian sovereignty. The groups include the Carter Center, which has been active in Egyptian election monitoring; Coptic Orphans, a Christian group; and Seeds of Peace, an organization that gathers Egyptian, Jordanian, Palestinian, and Israeli youth together at a camp in Maine. The lawyer for Coptic Orphans, Negad al-Borai said, "I don’t understand how a charity group like the Coptic Orphans, which works with over 35 churches in Egypt to provide medical and social aid, was rejected." The decision came after a December 2011 government crackdown on non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and the subsequent arrest of several U.S. NGO workers, which severely strained diplomatic relations between the two countries. The rejection of the applications occured the same day that France denied an  Egyptian request to issue international arrest warrants for 15 employees of U.S.-based NGOs, established in Egypt, who no longer reside in the country. Tensions between the United States and Egypt have recently abated, but human rights activists are concerned that recent actions taken by the Egyptian government imply a renewed crackdown.

Syria

Syrian forces have reportedly returned in full force after the United Nations observers leave beleaguered towns and cities. According to the opposition Local Coordination Committees, 50 people were killed during a tank and shelling assault on Hama after monitors departed the city. The observer mission also reportedly visited Homs, after previously being denied access, as well Zabadani and opposition strongholds near the capital of Damascus, where they encountered thousands of protesters calling for the end to the regime of President Bashar al-Assad. Meanwhile, Syrian pro-government television reported a car bombing in Damascus Tuesday that killed one Syria intelligence officer and wounded three other people. Syria’s Ikhbaria television blamed the attack on "armed terrorists" but no one has claimed responsibility. The recent dramatic rise in violence is testing Kofi Annan’s peace plan and the U.N. observer mission, which is set to expand to 300 monitors.

Headlines  

  • The head of Egypt’s ruling military council ratified a law barring anyone who held high office under the Mubarak regime from presidency, effectively disqualifying Ahmed Shafiq.
  • Israel legalized three West Bank settlements which Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas considered a response to last week’s letter laying out preconditions for peace talks.
  • Iran said it had "sustained no damage" after cyber attacks on the oil ministry and national oil company.
  • Iraq has called back its ambassador to Turkey after days of antagonistic exchanges. 

Arguments & Analysis 

‘Algeria ruling party mutiny reflects race for power‘ (Lamine Chikhi, Reuters)

"The party at the heart of power since Algeria’s independence from France is convulsed by an internal revolt that may be an early skirmish in the battle to succeed 75-year-old President Abdelaziz Bouteflika. Less than a month before the National Liberation Front, known by its French initials FLN, competes in a parliamentary election, an influential faction within the party has tried to oust Secretary-General Abdelaziz Belkhadem."

‘America should pull its fleet out of Bahrain’ (Emile Nakhleh, Financial Times)

"The huge US naval presence in Bahrain has not improved western security in the Gulf; has not altered Iran’s behaviour; and, more important, has not silenced the anti-regime opposition in the Gulf and in other Arab countries. Nor has it given the al-Khalifa and other Sunni regimes more legitimacy. Instead, its presence has arguably increased Iran’s belligerence and given Sunni regimes, including Bahrain and Saudi Arabia, the false impression that Washington has given them a licence to kill their own people. Moving the US military presence from Bahrain to "over the horizon" would be a clear signal that Arab dictatorship will no longer be tolerated, whether in Bahrain, Syria, Saudi Arabia, or elsewhere."

‘Analysis: The multiple sins of the Brothers‘ (Noha El-Hennawy, Egypt Independent)

"First, their perplexed performance has exposed what many observers perceive as political immaturity, to an extent that some of their prominent backers in intelligentsia circles have turned against them. The columns of Islamist writer Fahmy Howeidy are a case in point. Recently, Howeidy – long known for his Brotherhood sympathies – bashed their decision to field a presidential candidate (they had previously promised not to), saying they lack administrative skills and political expertise. He deemed them unfit to rule the country. Second, the group’s credibility must have been shaken in the eyes of nearly 13 million voters who cast ballots in its favor, hoping that Parliament would be able to fix their urgent problems. Third, the group damaged its relations with revolutionary forces in a way that seems beyond repair, portraying itself as a reactionary camp allegedly interested in secret deals with the generals."

–Jennifer Parker and Mary Casey