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Doaa Mostafa Ahmed Hassan: ‘NGO and defenders in Egypt are under severe threat’

Doaa Mostafa Ahmed Hassan is a lawyer and the director of the criminal justice programme in the Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedoms. Due to the situation in the country and the threats and criminalisation she faced because of her work, Doaa left Egypt with the support of, and is currently participating in a fellowship programme with the accompaniment and collaboration of York University.

"I am working in an increasingly restricted space: NGOs and human rights defenders in Egypt are generally coming under severe threat due to an investigation into their funding sources. A number of key human rights defenders and organisations are under threat of closure, and subject to travels bans, asset freezes and heavy prison sentences. My work as a human rights lawyer researching, documenting and defending those whose rights has been disrupted since the moment of my arrest, and I am regarded as a thorn in the side of the regime. 

There have been attempts to silence me on more than one occasion. I have even been detained in the Supreme State Security Prosecution Headquarters, one of the top investigating bodies in the country, where officers took me into a  room to pressure me to cease my work and intimidated me to drop the work I am doing in the defence of human rights…"

"I work for an organisation whose directors are targets of the regime. Our director and co-founder, Mohamed Lotfy, was subjected in 2015 to a travel ban due to his human rights activities. He was informed of the ban after trying to fly to Germany, where he was invited to give a speech to parliament about the human rights situation in the country, at the same time that the Egyptian President was meeting with Chancellor Angela Merkel. Our other co-founder, Ahmed Abdallah, was arrested from his home on 25 April 2016 and is facing charges under the counter-terrorism law for his human rights activities…"

As a female lawyer, who comes into contact regularly with security officers, I am regularly sexually harassed by them through verbal insults. But this has not deterred me in my job, and going on a weekly and sometimes daily basis to police stations and prosecution offices to defend my clients. Also my 9-year marriage has recently ended because of the constant fear we live in. My husband could no longer take the fact that our home could be stormed by police at any point to arrest me, or anyone of my family as a means of pressuring me to stop the work I am doing. My husband asked me to switch careers even, and I found myself torn between my heart which loves this man, and my heart and mind that loves the work I do. I experienced the heartbreak of my two children, who I adore, moving in to live with their father for their own safety. But I truly believe that as long as a heavy price has been paid, there will be compensation."