On the 11th of January 2017, the Elementary Court of North Cairo decided to rule with the freeze of assets belonging to the internationally awarded woman human rights defender (WHRD), Mozn Hassan, the Founder and Executive Director of “Nazra for Feminist Studies”. Where the assets of Nazra’s civil company, and registered organization were frozen as well. The decision was based on the request of the judge investigating the case of “NGO Foreign Funding” also known as Case 173 of the year 2011. This decisions is a precedent in the history of Women’s Human Rights’ Organizations and in the Case 173 itself. While on the 14 December 2016, Lawyer and WHRD Azza Soliman – the Founder and Head of Board of Trustees for the Center for Egyptian Women’s Legal Assistance (CEWLA) – and her law firm “Lawyers for Justice and Peace” (LJP) had also faced a similar rule resulting in the freezing of her personal assets and her law firm’s assets.

Both Mozn Hassan and Azza Soliman, serve on the advisory board of the Regional Coalition for Women Human Rights Defenders in the Middle East and North Africa (the former as a Regional Expert and the latter as an Executive Committee Member), and where they played a vital role in protecting, supporting and guiding other WHRDs in the MENA region. The targeting of Mozn Hassan and Azza Soliman does not only disrupt their vital work to defend human rights and women’s human rights in Egypt, it also brings great concern to their physical and emotional safety, since vocal and outspoken women in our region are also punished socially for breaking gender roles, especially that the work of Mozn Hassan and Azza Soliman exposed the extremely violent and unjust reality that women face in Egypt, from sexual violence against women to the inequality and oppression they face in the personal status law.

Mozn Hassan and Azza Soliman frequently, continuously, and unapologetically defended women’s human rights. They were successful in protecting hundreds of women in need of solidarity, services and protection. They have passionately engaged with the Egyptian state and highlighted the areas where the state’s institutions needed to improve so that women in Egypt live safely. To entangle them in Case 173, ironically is to punish them for believing in the ability of the Egyptian state to conduct reforms that lead to the safety and protection of Egyptian women.

The Regional Coalition of Women Human Rights Defenders in the Middle East and North Africa understand the crackdown on civil society of Egypt, and especially on those defending women’s human rights as a dangerous tactic to criminalize HRDs and WHRDs, and to promote WHRDs and HRDs as criminals. Yet what the state fails to see is if such tactic succeeds, it encourages people to regard basic rights such as protection from sexual violence, protection from exploitation, and the right to basic services as a non-issue, and permits the escalation of violence in such areas of concern.

Our colleagues, Mozn Hassan and Azza Soliman have committed no crime, they are regarded as pioneers in our present times, they have inspired women in Lebanon, Yemen, Sudan, Jordan and many other countries in the MENA to speak up against severe human rights violations. They have offered opportunities, resources and strategic advice to WHRDs in the MENA to fight back and resist patriarchal violence and oppression. Our colleagues are well recognized internationally, regionally and locally, and they have offered to Egypt recognition through their work and in their steadfastness.

We at the WHRDMENA coalition are extremely worried about the intentions of the Egyptian state, and we have appealed in the past to the President of the Egyptian state to interfere, we sent letters to the Egyptian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and have issued multiple statements urging the Egyptian State to reconsider the Case 173 and allow our colleagues to defend and protect women’s human rights in Egypt. Our statements and appeals have been met with a frustrating silence, yet our faith remains that our voices will be echoed.

We are issuing this statement to urge all International, Regional and Local organizations in the World to support WHRDs and HRDs in Egypt by maximizing efforts and actions of solidarity, and asking those in decision making positions to open a dialogue with the Egyptian State and urge them to drop the Case 173, and to let our very much honored and beloved colleagues Mozn Hassan and Azza Soliman continue doing their work that inspires the world!