A team of NGO workers was arrested while carrying out research in Qalyubiya Governorate on Sunday. The team was released after appearing before the prosecution.
The Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression (AFTE) issued a statement on Sunday denouncing the arrest of architects Amr Abou Taweela and Sherif Helal, lawyer Maha Ahmed and researcher Mohamed Tharwat while doing fieldwork in Khosos Village in Qalyubiya Governorate. The four detainees were doing research and fieldwork for the Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedoms (ECRF) in the Zaraiyeb urban area in Khosos, in order to produce a participatory study for developing the region. ECRF is planning to present the study to official institutions that work on the development of informal settlements.
According to the ECRF website, police from Khosos arrested the team and accused it of unauthorized data collection and working for an unregistered NGO.
AFTE’s statement reported that, “The incident is indicative of the reality hundreds of social workers and researchers are subjected to daily while conducting fieldwork.” The statement added that this is a direct breach of Article 66 of the 2014 Egyptian Constitution, which mandates freedom of scientific research and commits the state to sponsoring researchers and inventors, as well as protecting and applying their inventions.
According to Al-Shorouk Newspaper, ECRF researcher Mina Thabet stated that the team communicated several times with the local council in Khosous in addition to Laila Eskander, minister of urban renewal and informal settlements. Thabet affirmed that the fieldwork was part of the team’s job.
ECRF’s website states that the organization has applied to the Ministry of Social Solidarity for foundation status under the name, “Egyptian Movement for Rights and Freedoms” in January and is effectively a legally authorized NGO.
This occured amid a persistent crackdown the state has been waging against NGOs, predominantly those affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood but also encompassing rights-based organizations under the guise that they are unregistered or receiving foreign funding. Recent regulations have placed NGOs under the supervision of the Ministry of Social Solidarity.
Social Solidarity Minister Ghada Waly said in March that the ministry is “serious about implementing judicial rulings, and pursuing those NGOs that violate the country’s laws as well as those that do not abide by the stated objectives for which they were originally established.”