Ahead of German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s visit to Cairo to meet with Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah El Sisi, the Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy (TIMEP) joined fellow non-governmental organizations in signing two open letters addressing the chancellor.
On February 24, TIMEP—along with peer organizations Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies and CIVICUS, among others—signed a letter to Merkel delivered by EuroMed Rights. The letter specifically addressed the current crackdown on Egypt’s civil society organizations, human rights defenders, and media workers as evidenced by the continuation of the 2011 legal case against nongovernmental organizations, and recent travel bans, asset freezes, and closures faced by NGOs and their workers. Signatories also referenced the the damage dealt to civil society by new legislation such as the NGO and media laws, and the dwindling opportunities for women to participate in public life as well as the harassment of women human rights defenders.
The second letter was sent by the European Working Group on Egypt under the coordination of the European Council on Foreign Relations and the International Crisis Group on March 1. Signatories spoke to the perils of an “uncritical”’ approach to engagement with Egypt. Such an approach ignores the adverse effects that the Egyptian government’s repression of civic engagement and “over-securitized” governance have on Egypt’s economic crisis and the aspirations of Egyptian citizens and German interests more broadly. The letter also spoke to immigration, explaining that as Germany seeks to protect E.U. stability and manage the flow of refugees and migrants, Egypt’s current trajectory of repression and the mounting pressure placed on the population will lead to further instability, with possible spillover effects that will threaten German interests.
Both letters addressed the recent closing of the El Nadeem Center for the Rehabilitation of Victims of Violence, highlighting it as just another example of the broader constriction of civil society in Egypt. Such oppressive, non-inclusive governance and the closure of the public sphere will only help create favorable conditions for radicalization, and ultimately foment long-term instability. Both letters agree that it is imperative that Egypt undertake significant reform and cease its repression of civil society, both for its own security and interests, as well as for Germany’s.