Egypt’s El-Sisi says law curbing NGOs needs to be more “balanced“

In this photo provided by Egypt's state news agency MENA, Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, speaks during a youth conference in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt, Monday, Nov. 5, 2018. (AP)
Updated 05 November 2018

Egypt’s El-Sisi says law curbing NGOs needs to be more “balanced“

  • Rights groups say the May 2017 law effectively bans their work and makes it harder for charities to operate
  • El-Sisi said: “I believe in the work done by civil society organizations.”

CAIRO: Egypt’s president has signalled he might order a review of a law restricting the work of non-governmental organizations, which has raised an outcry from human rights groups, saying it needed to be “balanced.”
Rights groups say the May 2017 law effectively bans their work and makes it harder for charities to operate. Officials have said it is necessary, arguing that foreign-funded NGOs threaten national security.
Responding to a request from a participant in a youth forum in the Red Sea city of Sharm Al-Sheikh on Sunday to revisit the NGO law, President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi said: “I agree with you. I believe in the work done by civil society organizations.”
“The law contained phobia and a fear of these organizations for Egypt,” he added.
“I want to reassure those who are listening to me inside Egypt and outside of Egypt, that in Egypt, we are keen that the law becomes balanced and achieves what is required of it to regulate the work of these groups in a good way. This is not just political talk,” El-Sisi said.
The measure restricts NGO activity to development and social work and brought in jail terms of up to five years for violation.
El-Sisi said the government was dissatisfied with the law when it was issued last year and he had opted not to actively enforce it, “in the hope that we can move to redraft it.”
While critics have said that the law mainly targets rights groups, even apolitical charities have complained it restricts them at a time when subsidy cuts and tax increases have made it harder for Egyptians to make ends meet.
Charities have long played an important role in feeding, clothing and providing health care and education in a country where millions live on less than $2 a day.
Under the law, donations exceeding 10,000 Egyptian pounds ($560) must be pre-approved. If no approval is granted within 60 days the request is automatically denied. Failure to inform authorities could result in jail terms of up to five years and fines of up to 1 million Egyptian pounds ($56,000).
Gamal Eid, founder and director of the Arab Network for Human Rights Information, expressed skepticism over El-Sisi’s seriousness in amending the law.
“If the calls for an independent civil society from abroad ease, he will not amend the law,” Eid said, adding that the government did not respect civil society in Egypt. ($1 = 17.8600 Egyptian pounds)


Over 3 million virus cases reported in Mideast

Labourers, wearing protective face masks, disinfect the front of restaurant in Dubai's marina on March 16, 2020. (AFP)
Updated 31 October 2020

Over 3 million virus cases reported in Mideast

  • Labourers, wearing protective face masks, disinfect the front of restaurant in Dubai's marina on March 16, 2020

DUBAI: The number of reported coronavirus cases has gone over 3 million in the Middle East, an Associated Press count showed on Friday, with the true number likely even higher.
Across the Mideast, there have been over 75,000 deaths attributed to the virus by health authorities, the AP count relying on reported figures by individual countries shows.
There have been 2.5 million recoveries from the virus causing the COVID-19 illness.
In the Mideast, the hardest-hit nation remains Iran, which served as the initial epicenter of the virus in the region. In Iran alone, authorities say there have been over 600,000 confirmed coronavirus cases, with some 477,000 recoveries and 34,000 deaths. Yet even those numbers are believed to be low, Iranian officials say.

NUMBER

Deaths have been reported in the Middle East region due to the coronavirus, according to health authorities.

In some war-torn nations, it remains difficult to know the scope of the pandemic as well. In Yemen for instance, it’s believed that the vast majority of the country’s cases have gone undiagnosed and untreated, and health workers have said only those who are near death are usually brought to hospitals.