The aim is political. The same motive that prompted the military government, which seized power in a coup, to close 64 news agencies in two weeks, to crack down on protests against the sale of Tiran and Sanafir islands to Saudi Arabia, to introduce the so-called Case 173 that froze the funds of NGOs that receive funding from abroad (normal practice for local NGOs worldwide).
One of the latest to be affected is CEWLA, the Center for Egyptian Women’s Legal Assistance, founded in 1997 and which the Italian group COSPE is partner. They’re working against gender discrimination and violence against women. (Their Precious Lives supports actions against gender violence in Egypt.) CEWLA’s founder, Azza Soliman, saw her personal accounts, in addition to CEWLA’s, frozen in December and her passport confiscated.
“Under the new law, if a project contains, for example, the word ‘empowerment,’ it will be rejected,” said the activist I spoke to. “The effects will be devastating. Take the case of the thousands of NGOs that work with women in Egypt. Who will provide services and generate awareness in a period in which violence against women is constantly growing?
“Gender-based violence is structural, partly due to the level of frustration and the economic difficulties of the population. People are directing their anger toward the most vulnerable, and in a patriarchal society like the Egyptian the most vulnerable are women. In the past two years, the violence increased again compared to the period immediately following the revolution of January 2011, when the hope was of a change and the economic situation was more stable.”