What Messages Are Emma Thompson and Scarlett Johansson Sending to Egypt?

Published December 3rd, 2020 - 11:12 GMT
What Messages Are Emma Thompson and Scarlett Johansson Sending to Egypt?
The arrest of Ennarah and Basheer comes at a critical time especially as Egyptian authorities were expected to show a softer approach towards the country's civil society it has been crushing ever since the 2013 military coup. (Al Bawaba)

In a new escalation against human rights organizations in the country, Egyptian authorities have arrested a number of notable activists last Sunday, which has alerted many of the world's celebrities who decided to use their stardom to call for the immediate release of Egyptian civil society members.

Gasser Abdel-Razek, the executive director

Last Sunday, the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights announced that its executive director Jasser Abdel-Razek, its director of criminal justice, Karim Ennarah, and the office manager, Mohammed Basheer, have all been arrested by Egyptian police in different parts of the country.

According to Basheer's lawyers, he has been facing questions regarding a visit paid by some Western diplomats to the IEPR's office in Cairo in early November, including the ambassadors of Germany, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, and Switzerland, one that was publicly announced through the organizations' social media channels. 

The ambassadors were also accompanied by the chargés d’affaires of Canada, Norway, and Sweden, the deputy ambassador of the United Kingdom, in addition to representatives from the European Commission in Cairo, where "human rights issues were discussed as well as ways of supporting the enhancement of human rights in Egypt and globally," as per the IEPR's statement.

Following the arrest, Karim Ennarah's wife, a British national who resides in London, has been exerting every effort to pressure the Egyptian government to release her husband and the IEPR's arrested staffers, including a New York Times op-ed she wrote to explain her husband's role and the possible allegations that might be pushed against him and his colleague.

Jess Kelly has also appeared on a number of English speaking TV shows on CNN and PBS, urging the international community to help her free her activist husband.

The arrest of Abdel-Razek, Ennarah, and Basheer comes at a critical time; especially as Egyptian authorities were expected to show a softer approach towards the country's civil society, which it has been crushing ever since the 2013 military coup, now that US president-elect Joe Biden had pledged a tougher stance on human rights violations in Egypt, in contrast to "the black check" previously granted to the Egyptian president Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi by the soon-leaving President Donald Trump.

In addition to a tweet by the official nominee for the US State Department Antony Blinken, in which he expressed deep concern towards the arrests of IEPR staff, Hollywood stars Scarlett Johansson and Emma Thompson have also posted video messages via their social media accounts, calling on Egypt to release the arrested human rights activists.


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