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.
"I'm in awe of the bravery of these men who continue their work to defend human rights at such a great personal cost."— Free Karim (@freekarimnow) December 1, 2020
Scarlett Johansson wishes Karim a happy birthday and sends her solidarity to @EIPR staff. #FreeKarimEnnarah #FreeEIPRstaff pic.twitter.com/IborWQhssP
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.
Human rights activist Karim Ennarah is currently jailed in Egypt, along with several colleagues from @EIPR. Karim’s wife, documentarian @Jeky_Kelly, is urging for him to be released: “He’s the kind of person that Egypt should be building its future around, and not jailing.” pic.twitter.com/JjSQgK8OIp— Christiane Amanpour (@camanpour) December 1, 2020
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.
Share concern re. #Egypt's arrests of three employees of the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights. Meeting with foreign diplomats is not a crime. Nor is peacefully advocating for human rights. https://t.co/hR5JtLcAYI— Antony Blinken (@ABlinken) November 20, 2020
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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