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The Formal Birth of the Human Rights Movement in Egypt

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This paper analyzes a chronology of Egypt’s human rights movement since its birth in 1985 going through its different phases and generations until 2016. It starts with a brief history of the Egyptian Organization of Human Rights, the challenges it faced and the conceptual differences that led to its fragmentation in early 1994.

While laying out a chronology of the birth and evolution of different human rights actors and their contribution to the movement, Shash sets the framework in which the work of human rights actors unfolds by dissecting four challenges: the relationship between human rights action (organized or informal) and politics including Islamic factions as well as the rest of civil society; the internal structure and governance of human rights organizations; the issue of foreign funding; and the contentious relationship with the ruling regimes as demonstrated in legal regulations affecting civil society.

The paper concludes with questions and observations that, Shash argues, should be tackled by the human rights community in Egypt with a critical view towards its own history in order for it to learn from the past and hopefully re-adjust its strategies for a greater impact and alternative solutions in the future as it faces tremendous challenges in the present.

 

Photo : Human rights defenders accused of working for unlicensed NGOs and receiving illegal foreign funds, stand in a cage during the opening of their trial in Cairo, Egypt, February 2012, (c) EPA.