Egypt: Call for immediate release of WHRD Amal Fathy
On 11 May 2018, Egyptian security forces stormed into the house of woman human rights defender Amal Fathy in Cairo, where she lives with her husband. Security forces searched the premises and confiscated cell phones belonging to the couple, who were denied access to a lawyer or their relatives.
Following the police raid on their house, the couple were taken with their three-year-old child to the Maadi police station in south Cairo. Three hours later, police released Mohammed Lutfi and his child and detained Amal Fathy on the pretext that the prosecutor should investigate her case.
The woman human rights defender was interrogated that afternoon by the Maadi Prosecution which ordered her detention for 15 days pending the completion of the investigation.
Amal Fathy was charged with: “incitement to overthrow the government in Egypt,” “spreading false news on Facebook”, and “abuse of social media.” The charges are directly related to a video posted by Amal on May 9, two days before her arrest, calling out the state’s failure to protect women in the public sphere. She also talked about the harassment she was subjected to on that day. Fathy also questioned the government’s involvement in the deterioration of public services for citizens in terms of accessibility, especially for women survivors of all forms of violence.
During the interrogation on the day of her arrest, the prosecutor informed her that she would be transferred to the State Security headquarters for investigation into another case related to her “cooperation” with anti-government groups such as the April 6 Youth Movement and the Muslim Brotherhood to undermine the recent presidential elections and to cause political unrest and tensions. This case comes within the framework of (621/2018) which is targeting a number of human rights defenders, bloggers, and online activists.
On 13 May, State Security Prosecutor questioned Amal Fathy’s relationship with the April 6 Youth Movement and the Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedoms (ECRF) and was asked about the activities of her husband and colleagues in the ECRF. She was charged with “joining a terrorist group and using the Internet to call for terrorist acts, spreading false news and rumors to disrupt public security and harm national interests.”
The State Security Prosecution ordered her detention for 15 more days pending investigation. She was transferred to Qanater’s women’s Prison in north Cairo.
Following her arrest, various media outlets launched a defamation campaign, including state-media news agencies such as Al-Ahram which reported that Amal Fathy “has caused harm to the reputation of the Egyptian government and she confessed her crime”. Add to that, several libel campaigns on social media which called for stripping Fathy from her Egyptian nationality and accused her of treason. Such campaigns included a lot of derogatory sexist comments, death threats and sexual harassment, all in the context of a concerted and systematic response to her daring to speak out on sexual harassment as a woman human rights defender.
WHRD Amal Fathy is one of the most prominent activists on social media. She has been involved in several campaigns against torture, enforced disappearances in the framework of her work with the Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedoms, in addition to her legitimate activities in defending human rights and democracy.
The legal actions taken against WHRD Amal Fathy are clear acts of reprisals and intimidation as a direct response to her critique of the government’s failure to protect women from daily violence, including sexual harassment. Her arrest is an attempt to silence her and it constitutes a clear message for women human rights defenders and women in general who may share their experiences or express their anger at abuses and violations.
Authorities’ oppresive acts against Amal Fathy cannot be separated from the oppression that women face in general. State-sanctioned violence against Amal Fathy, which came in the form of detention, a widespread libel campaign, and legal and judicial harassment is directly linked to her being a woman who shared her experience and refused to stay silent about sexual harassment. Violence against Fathy is the same, familiar violence against all women’s voices and stories, it is rejection of their right to exist in the public sphere peacefully, to engage in in human rights work without risking their bodies and mental well-being, their right to express consent and rejection, and to voice and view their experiences as free individuals and citizens who have full, equal rights. Amal Fathy has a right to criticize the authorities that have failed her. She has a right to call out the authorities that, instead of addressing the issues she raised in the video, arrested her.
The Regional Coalition of Women Human Rights Defenders in the MENA stands in solidarity with Amal Fathy and demands the Egyptian authorities to:
– Drop all charges against Amal Fathy. The Coalition believes that Fathy is being detained as a result of her legitimate and peaceful work in the defense of human rights and because she is a woman who spoke without fear or hesitation about her experience and held the authorities accountable for failing to protect her as a woman.
-Release Amal Fathy immediately and unconditionally, and to ensure her freedom and safety and to end all forms of harassments against her.
-Review the constitution and the signed and ratified agreements and charters. WHRD, Amal Fathy, expressed her opinion peacefully, which is guaranteed by the Egyptian Constitution in Articles 47 and 48, in addition to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) .