Nonprofit Quarterly: “Don’t You Dare Come Back”, by Rick Cohen

Last week’s conviction and sentencing of 43 people in Egypt for fomenting unrest because they worked for NGOs that received funding from U.S. and German interests still resonates for us…

 

… The prosecution of the 43 NGO workers started not under the Morsi government, but when the post-Mubarak military junta was in control. The advent of Morsi and the political dominance of the Muslim Brotherhood didn’t reverse the nation’s policy toward NGOs. Rather, that policy has grown harder. The NGO employees had to endure charges of being foreign spies—not a charge to be taken lightly—and a call for their execution by a member of the Egyptian parliament.

 

The world press focused on Robert Becker of NDI as the non-Egyptian worker who stayed to fight the charges, but he was actually one of two of the 28 foreign-born workers who stayed. The other was a young British-born, half-Egyptian woman, Hafsa Halawa, who was sentenced to 12 months in prison, though the sentence has been suspended for three years. Halawa was still in Egypt last weekend, according to a Guardian report, though it doesn’t seem likely that she’ll be able to return to her work at NDI after the conviction.

 

Halawa, Becker, and their colleagues faced serious problems and hard choices with the charges they faced in the Egyptian judicial system. Their choices were full of risk, hardship, and potential danger…

 

… In repressive governmental settings, charges of fomenting civil unrest and espionage aren’t to be taken lightly. Put yourself in the positions of the 43 NGO workers arrested in Egypt. How would you have dealt with the potential of imprisonment or worse?

National Post: Canadian journalist faces five years hard labour in Egyptian prison for working with NGO in Cairo

… Judge Makram Awaad told Egyptian media that the 43 individuals received U.S. funding “in an attempt to contain the revolution, distort its trajectories, and directing it for serving the U.S. and Israeli interests” — according to a transcript translated by Freedom House, one of the NGOs implicated in the trial…

 

… “We’ve been living this hell for 18 months,” Ms. Betz. “It’s been particularly hellish watching my Egyptian colleagues receive death threats, have their kids get beaten up at school, lose their jobs”…

 

… Now, the Calgary native is afraid to stray far from her U.S. base, fearing Egypt’s ruling Islamist party could issue a warrant for her arrest with Interpol… Ms. Betz is dismayed by the inaction of the Canadian and American governments, who continue to provide aid to Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood-led government

 

“Where is the outrage here? I don’t see it”…

 

“I never in a million years would have expected my adopted country of the United States to turn a blind eye to the well-being of Americans,” wrote Ms. Betz…