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Freedom House on Human Rights in Egypt: a Q&A with Charles Dunne
Freedom House’s director of Middle East and North Africa programs, Charles Dunne, spoke July 24 to a House Foreign Affairs subcommittee about the endangered status of human rights and civil society in Egypt. Dunne highlighted key points in a Freedom House Q&A:
Q: The Egyptian government in 2012 forcibly closed the Cairo offices of several NGOs, including Freedom House. Why do these organizations matter?
They’re the organizations and people who can hold government accountable and can draw attention to government abuses. If they’re not allowed to do it, no one else can, not even the press, as we saw when Egypt’s government arrested journalists from Al Jazeera.
Why did Egypt go so far as to close NGO offices?
The government wanted to narrow the field of action for Egyptian NGOs and putting pressure on both international and local groups was one of the government’s tools. WE see the government placing more and more limits on what civil society can do, especially through a new “NGO law” that requires groups to re-register with the government, to have permission to operate.
How should the United States respond?
The United States should re-evaluate the relationship with Egypt and consider whether it’s getting full value for the $1.5 billion it spends annually on military and economic aid. The U.S. should consider redirecting some of the money to education and economic programs that would genuinely help Egyptians. And the U.S. needs to hold the Egyptian government accountable to higher standards. When the U.S. sees wrong-doing, it should say it’s wrong, as when the Egyptian government holds thousands of civilians in custody on dubious charges.
Click here to read Charles Dunne's full testimony.