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02/12/2021 Egypt (International Christian Concern) – The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders and their families has expressed concern over the Egyptian regime’s increasing crackdown on dissent and the shrinking of civic space within the country. Egypt has continued this practice despite repeated calls from the UN and the international community, claiming that the regime specifically targets human rights defenders, journalists, and civil society activists and their family members.

In her statement, the special rapporteur pointed to the detention of blogger Mohammed Ibrahim Radwan who was charged by the Egyptian government with being a member of a terrorist organization and “misuse of social media” for his coverage of human rights. Also cited was the case of Patrick Zaki, a post-graduate student from Italy who was arrested in Egypt last year while visiting his parents. Egyptian security forces allegedly held Zaki incommunicado for 24 hours and tortured him before charges against him were announced.

A coalition of rights groups including Reporters Without Borders and Human Rights Watch has recently sent a letter to the European Union raising concern over Egypt’s “disregard for human rights,” a sentiment echoed by the UN Human Rights Council in a statement calling out the usage of vague terrorist charges and exceptional courts by the Egyptian government to target and silence legitimate human rights activities.

Such targeting of human rights defenders by the Egyptian government goes beyond the immediate realm of human rights and has serious implications for religious freedom and religious minority advocates within the country. The continued deterioration of human rights protections in Egypt could spell a serious problem for religious minorities in the country as government crackdowns and detentions on vague terrorism charges could be extended to individuals and groups working in legitimate channels to maintain and expand religious minority rights and security within the country. Egypt’s largest minority religious group, the Coptic Christian community, has historically been a target of anti-minority sentiment within the country, and the worsening situation could have an immediate effect on that community as it becomes a target for attacks and detentions by the government and outside groups looking to eradicate or substantially constrain its activities. However, such targeting by the Egyptian government goes beyond just the Coptic community and has substantially wider repercussions for any religious minority community existing in the country and presents a serious human rights and religious freedom concern for many groups going forward.

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