Egypt. Ideology and History of the Muslim Brotherhood. March, 2018

The MB was founded in Egypt in 1928 by and Islamic scholar and teacher by the name of Hassan al-Banna. He had a vision of a universal Islamic system of rule that could be attained by promoting Islamic laws and morals and by engaging society through offering social services.

The ideology of the MB is mainly focused on reform of existing political systems in the Arab world. It embraces the idea of political activism and social responsibility, organising charitable works and social support programmes as part of its outreach to its core support base of lower-income populations. The members of the MB represent a broad spectrum of interpretations of the initial ideology of Hassan al-Banna. Many members embrace a more pragmatic idea of achieving their goals, urging political participation and cooperation.

There were a couple of shifts in the MB’s ideology over the years, as they developed from an active participant in a nationalist movement to a banned group forced to operate underground and leaning towards an armed struggle for their ideology, and then back to a reformist-minded party. Throughout they have always adhered to their ideal of a society governed by Islamic laws and morals.

In its early days in Egypt, the MB was involved in the active struggle against British occupation, and also cooperated with the Free Officers movement to liberate Egypt from the monarchy. The MB officially renounced violence in the 1970s during the rule of Egyptian President Anwar el-Sadat. They formally adopted a mandate of democracy in 1995 and their influence became apparent in professional work syndicates and social welfare work circles. To date, the countries that have labelled the MB as a “terrorist organisation” are: Egypt, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Syria, and the United Arab Emirates.[1]

Hassan al-Banna, the founder of the modern Muslim Brotherhood movement, was highly influenced by Rashid Rida’s thought, and developed his ideas into a social organization dedicated to the implementation of those principles. Alongside the Muslim Brotherhood’s rapid expansion in the 1930s, Al-Banna wrote five risalat (letters) to his young, educated supporters. The ideas he set forth in the letters are still the pillars of the movement’s worldview.

In his ideological messages, Al-Banna defined his movement as a group of believers on a quest for the revival of Islam, seeking to establish a Sharia state based on the Quranic “law of Allah”. It is an objective Al-Banna hoped to achieve by liberating the Muslim world from any kind of foreign rule, followed by shaping a state governed by Islamic religious law. According to Al-Banna, the establishment of such a state is not the final goal. On the contrary, the new Sharia state must realize its social order in accordance with Islamic religious law and become a basis for the worldwide spread of Islam, eventually culminating in the emergence of Islamic hegemony around the globe.

Al-Banna listed seven stages to achieve these objectives, each to be carried out in a gradual fashion. The stages are divided into social and political: the first three are based on educating the individual, the family, and the entire society of the Muslim world to implement Sharia laws in every aspect of daily life. The next four stages are political by nature, and include assuming power through elections, shaping a Sharia state, liberating Islamic countries from the burden of (physical and ideological) foreign occupation, uniting them into one Islamic entity (“new caliphate”), and spreading Islamic values throughout the world.

Al-Banna’s principles still constitute the ideological foundation of the Muslim Brotherhood. However, there occurred considerable developments in the validity of his ideological message since the end of World War II. The change stemmed mostly from the appearance of radical Muslim Brotherhood factions in Egypt following the mass arrests of their members by Nasser’s regime in the 1950s and 1960s, and the lifting of restrictions on their political participation in various Arab countries since the 1970s.

The growth of the Muslim Brotherhood’s radical faction is associated with Sayyid Qutb (1906-1966), a senior ideologue in the movement’s Egyptian branch. In the 1950s and 1960s, Qutb wrote several books (some during his prison term) supplementing Al-Banna’s ideas with a radical spirit. Thus, he developed the idea of “modern jahiliyya”, according to which modern Islamic society is ignorant and has strayed from the code of conduct required by divine precepts. In this context, Qutb discussed the phenomenon of Westernization, as well as the existence of regimes based on earthly, man-made legal systems. Accordingly, in Qutb’s view the Arab regimes were considered as lacking religious and divine legitimacy (which he considered a supreme value), and thus he publicly called to resist these regimes.

Even though Qutb did not emphasize that resistance to the regimes must be violent, he created an opening for such violent activity by defining jihad for the enforcement of religious law (Sharia) in Muslim society as every Muslim’s duty. Qutb’s execution in 1966, which many saw as shahada (martyrdom for the sake of Allah), served to further disseminate his ideas. Starting from the 1970s, these ideas gained even more popularity thanks to the educational activity of his supporters, who came to Saudi Arabia and linked Qutb’s principles to those of Salafism and Wahhabism. Later, this link gave rise to the idea of global jihad and takfir (accusing others of infidelity).

Alongside the radical ideology of Qutb and his successors, another faction developed starting from the mid-1980s, also originating in the ideology of the Muslim Brotherhood. It is the Wasatiyya (middle ground) faction, mostly associated with a well-known Qatari cleric of Egyptian descent, Yusuf al-Qaradawi. This faction supports the idea of adjusting Islam to modern reality and religious tolerance, strongly opposes the idea of global jihad, and attempts to give religious-legal validity to changes resulting from the adoption of modern technology, social modernization (in women’s status, for example) and the need to contend with the influence of other cultures (as part of life in immigrant communities, among other things).

The messages of this school of thought focus mostly on the attempt to fight the spiritual influence of the followers of global jihad. However, despite the fact that it contains different liberal ideas, this faction’s adherence to the fundamental principles of the Sharia, without implementing a comprehensive reform in the Muslim worldview, reflects a desire to “conquer Rome” (i.e., victory over the West) and reiterates vicious anti-Semitic views. The faction supports terrorism (including suicide bombings and murder of civilians) “only” against Israel and the occupation in Iraq, while the struggle as a whole — against Middle Eastern and Western regimes — should take place through the da’wah and without the use of violence (see Chapter 11 for Qaradawi’s profile).

Since the Muslim Brotherhood supports the worldwide spread of Sunni Islam, it shares the Sunni-Shi’ite debate. Early on, the Muslim Brotherhood considered the Shi’ites an inseparable part of the Muslim nation, and even expressed support for the Islamic revolution in Iran. Afterwards, the Muslim Brotherhood’s attitude towards Iran grew much more hostile due to Iran’s efforts to export the revolution to the Sunni Arab domain. In recent years, and all the more so since the second Lebanon war, the question of the attitude towards the Shi’ites has reemerged once again. In general, the basis for the debate is the difference in the perception of Iran’s political role in the region.

Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood has not reached an agreement on the stance towards Iran. Some members of the Muslim Brotherhood leadership in Egypt lead support for Iran as the “engine of resistance”, making official Egyptian observers claim that the movement’s leadership attempts to find ways to strengthen its ties with Iran to form an alliance against the Egyptian regime. On the other side of the fence are Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi, who on several occasions has expressed concerns over the threat of “Shi’itization” of Sunni population in Arab countries, and the leadership of the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood, which considers Iran an ally of Assad’s oppressive regime, responsible for the brutal suppression of the movement in Syria.

Ultimately, it appears that the Muslim Brotherhood’s stance to the Shi’ites is one of ambivalence. This is a result of the built in tension between its fundamental support for the idea of “resistance”, currently led by Shi’ite Iran and implemented, among others, by Hamas, and its character as a Sunni organization par excellence, requiring a certain level of commitment to Sunni traditions that don’t take kindly to the Shi’ite faith.[2]

From the 1970s to the late 1990s, militant Islamic groups in Egypt posed the greatest challenge to the regime in terms of internal security. The number of groups was estimated at several dozens, the largest and most important being Al-Jama’ah al-Islamiyya and Al-Jihad.[82] Some of them splintered from the Muslim Brotherhood due to differences of opinion over the means to achieve the goal of turning Egypt into an Islamic Sharia state and apply Islamic religious law to all spheres of life. Other groups were ideologically and organizationally inspired by the Muslim Brotherhood and its leaders.

The ideology of the Islamic groups is based on accusing the regime of heresy against Islam (takfir). Within militant Islam there are two conflicting ideological approaches for achieving the goal of establishing a Muslim state and society:

  1. Jihad — waging a holy war against the regime until the goal is achieved, including a violent struggle against the leaders and branches of the regime to topple it. This approach is followed by the two leading organizations, Al-Jama’ah al-Islamiyya and Al-Jihad al-Islami.
  2. Al-Takfir wal-Hijra — like the regime, the society is also corrupt and rotten, and is also to blame for the current social situation. Accordingly, it is the believers’ duty to work against the infidel society, seceding from it physically and living a true Islamic life while advancing the collapse of the regime and the society. Following the collapse, the believers must assume leadership and establish a pure and just Islamic society. Until then, the believers are forbidden to mingle in society, take part in elections, or serve in government positions.

The different groups strongly oppose the West in general and Israel and the Jews in particular, believing they are largely to blame for the decline of Islam in the modern era. However, resistance to the West and Zionism is not the first priority of the groups — in their view, the war on Israel will be launched after first disposing of the Egyptian regime, their main enemy.

Al-Jama’ah al-Islamiyya – Al-Jama’ah al-Islamiyya is the largest and most active radical Islamic organization operating in Egypt. It was established in the late 1960s as a student organization affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood. In the mid-1970s it splintered from the Muslim Brotherhood over differences of opinion, as it considered that organization to be too moderate in its approach towards the regime. It became institutionalized in the late 1970s and in the early 1980s formed a military wing for violent terrorist attacks. Its ties to Al-Jihad grew closer at the time, and the two organizations cooperated fully with each other, including in the assassination of President Sadat in 1981 (the assassination itself was carried out by Al-Jihad, while Al-Jama’ah al-Islamiyya simultaneously attacked the security department in Asyut, killing dozens of police officers). The cooperation between the two organizations decreased following Sadat’s assassination due to disputes between their leaders.

Al-Jihad al-Islami – Al-Jihad al-Islami was established in 1975. Upon its exposure by the regime in 1978, its members were arrested and the organization was disbanded. In 1978-1979, the organization was reestablished and became at the time the largest and most powerful of its kind in Egypt at the time. Al-Jihad was exposed once again after the assassination of President Sadat. Some of its leaders were executed; others were imprisoned or put under police surveillance. It was a hard blow for Al-Jihad to recover from, and it therefore went from being a major militant organization to the second largest organization (after Al-Jama’ah al-Islamiyya).

In 2000, the organization’s leadership called to “cease all hostilities against Egypt and focus on the main objective — a holy war for the liberation of the Al-Aqsa Mosque”. While the initiative gained increasing support from the detained inside leadership and was encouraged by the regime, which publicly took positive measures towards the organization and released hundreds of its operatives, Al-Jihad’s outside leadership persisted with the same kind of operative terrorist activity as before the initiative.

In 2001, Ayman al-Zawahiri announced that his organization had decided to cease anti-regime activities, but stressed the need to continue terrorist attacks against Western targets. The organization’s leadership condemned the terrorist attacks carried out in Egypt in recent years, announcing that Al-Jihad intended to launch an initiative to stop the violence, similarly to Al-Jama’ah al-Islamiyya. However, it appears that the organization believes that the initiative can only be launched once Egypt has implemented political reforms, guaranteed civil rights, and given the organization’s members their political rights immediately upon their release.

Al-Takfir wal-Hijra – The organization was established in 1971 and carried out violent activities in the late 1970s and early 1980s, although its low-profile operations continued for several years afterwards. According to an announcement released by the Interior Ministry in 1989, the authorities exposed a secret radical organization established by Al-Takfir wal-Hijra members with Iranian supervision and funding. In December 1992, the Egyptian interior minister defined Al-Takfir wal-Hijra as one of the two most dangerous organizations in Egypt.

Major Al-Qaeda members who got their start in the Muslim Brotherhood – Dr. Abdullah Yousef Mustafa Azzam. Palestinian, from the village of Silat al-Harithiya, near Jenin. Al-Qaeda’s former ideologue and Osama Bin Laden’s spiritual guide. Still viewed as a role model by Hamas. His teachings emphasized the significance of jihad (war on the infidels) as a personal duty shared by all Muslims. He fought against the Soviets in Afghanistan and died when a bomb exploded in his car in Peshawar, on November 24, 1989.

Ayman al-Zawahiri: Al-Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden’s second-in-command. Joined the Muslim Brotherhood when he was 14, and at a young age decided to turn Sayyid Qutb’s vision of an Islamic government into reality. He was arrested following Sadat’s assassination, charged with possession of arms, and sentenced to three years in prison. After his release, he moved his focus of activities outside of Egypt (Pakistan, Afghanistan, Sudan and Yemen).[3]

The BBC in its news profile of December 2013 stated: ‘Founded by Hassan al-Banna, the Muslim Brotherhood – or al-Ikhwan al-Muslimun in Arabic – has influenced Islamist movements around the world with its model of political activism combined with Islamic charity work… ‘The movement initially aimed simply to spread Islamic morals and good works, but soon became involved in politics, particularly the fight to rid Egypt of British colonial control and cleanse it of all Western influence… ‘While the Ikhwan say that they support democratic principles, one of the group’s stated aims is to create a state ruled by Islamic law, or Sharia. Its most famous slogan, used worldwide, is “Islam is the solution.” [4]

In the published main findings of the UK Government’s review of the Muslim Brotherhood, it was noted that the group was dissolved in 1954 ‘which led to the arrest, torture and execution of many members and the co-option of others’. The MB were, however, rehabilitated under President ‘Sadat 20 years later. In the 1970s the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt expanded, established a foothold within the Egyptian political system and took a firm hold on student organisations, professional syndicates and trades unions. It also developed a large, sophisticated and often clandestine network of commercial enterprises, small businesses and charities. [5]

The Council for Foreign Relations noted in January 2014: ‘The MB… has spawned Sunni Islamist groups throughout the Arab world. Banned from politics for its early aim of overthrowing the Egyptian government, the Brotherhood renounced violence in the 1970s and earned popular support by providing social services such as pharmacies, hospitals and schools.’ [6]

The MB stated in 2013 that its members number over a million. The majority rank-and-file are said to be lower-middle-class, but leaders are often doctors and businessmen. Each pays a portion of their income to help fund the movement.[7]

Janes provided a brief description of the Muslim Brotherhood’s activities: The Muslim Brotherhood’s activities are social, economic, charitable, and political. Indeed, its supporters often refer to the Muslim Brotherhood’s “society” and its plan to “enable” itself to govern starting at a grassroots level. The group emphasised the building social acceptance of Islamist ideas and its own soft power until it is in a position to govern. Its relationship with the state historically swung among direct military conflict, support, and silent opposition… [the Muslim Brother gained power in 2011 but were subsequently ousted by the military in 2013 which] triggered an ongoing confrontation between the state and the Muslim Brotherhood, with the youth wing adopting terrorist tactics against the state and foreign interests allied to it, and the older generation adhering to mostly peaceful unrest. The organisation is now banned. Its members cannot participate publicly in political life, and their assets are targeted for expropriation. The Al-Wasat Party and Strong Egypt Party are both offshoots of the Muslim Brotherhood. Proponents of the violent approach to opposition are likely to continue with a campaign of targeted assassinations against state officials for as long as the military remain opposed to negotiation.’ [8]

Khalil al-Anani, Associate Professor of Political Science at the Dohar Institute for Graduate Studies, writing in Al Jazeera, observed: ‘Since the coup of 2013, the Brotherhood has seen myriad organisational, political and ideological divisions. [President al] Sisi’s repression has divided the movement and created significant differences among members over several issues, ranging from the position towards the regime to its political, ideological and religious views.

‘These divisions have shaped the Brotherhood’s strategy and tactics on how to respond to Sisi’s repression. Organisationally, with many of its senior members in prison and exile, the Brotherhood is facing a crisis of leadership. The gap between the older and younger leaders is increasing and affecting the movement’s strategy.

‘Over the past three years, the Brotherhood has been divided into two camps: the old and conservative leaders versus the young and revolutionary members. The latter have gained influence over the movement because of their tendency to confront the regime… The new and relatively young leadership formed a committee called “The High Administrative Committee” and was led by Mohamed Kamal, a former member of Brotherhood’s Guidance Bureau who was assassinated by security forces last October.

‘The new committee claimed leadership over the movement against veteran leaders such as Mahmoud Ezzat, the acting General Guide of the Brotherhood, who is believed to be hiding in Egypt, Mahmoud Hussein, the secretary-general of the movement, and Ibrahim Munir, who was appointed Deputy of the General Guide and has been in London since the late 1980s.

‘In December [2016], the High Administrative Committee was dissolved and the formation of a new Guidance Bureau declared, which was rejected by the old leadership.

‘Also, for the first time in its history, the Brotherhood is divided between internal and external leadership. Senior members who fled to Turkey after the coup have formed a new office called the External Office to run and supervise the Brotherhood’s members and activities overseas.’

‘Politically, the Brotherhood is divided on how to deal with regime repression and which strategy it should adopt to remain relevant. ‘While the new leadership has adopted a confrontational and non-compromising position, the old leadership tends to accommodate regime repression and keeps the door open for bargaining and reconciliation with the regime. ‘The new leadership of the Brotherhood finds support and appeal among young members, as they see it as more revolutionary and willing to challenge the regime.’[9]

Alaraby reported in an article following the Palm Sunday Bombings of a Christian church and cathedral in April 2017 that, at least, some elements of the MB accused the government of being responsible for the attacks and ongoing violence generally: ‘The Egyptian regime had a hand in the twin church bombings that killed dozens on Palm Sunday, the blacklisted Muslim Brotherhood has said. ‘The Islamist group accused Egyptian authorities on Sunday of complicity in the deadly bomb attacks in the Nile Delta cities of Tanta and Alexandria, which killed at least 44 people.

‘”Fascist regimes have taken a unified approach in their struggle to ensure their survival by creating an imaginary enemy called terrorism to cover up their failure and garner the sympathy of ordinary people,” the banned group said in a statement. ‘”We accuse the…regime of orchestrating or facilitating the two incidents,” it said. ‘”The Muslim Brotherhood condemns this painful incident and professes its innocence of the innocent blood that has been spilt,” the statement added.

‘Qatar-based prominent Muslim theologian Yusuf al-Qaradawi, who is close to the Brotherhood, also denounced the Palm Sunday attacks. ‘”We condemn all attacks on peaceful souls and confirm that these crimes are inconsistent with religious laws, ethics and customs. Those who have done this will face great torment,” Qaradawi tweeted.[10]

[1] Al Jazeera; Article “What is Muslim Brotherhood?” published: 18 June, 2017; available at: https://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/features/2017/06/muslim-brotherhood-explained-170608091709865.html [accessed 1 march 2018]

[2] Crethi Plethi; Middle East Affairs Information Center; The Muslim Brotherhood – Chapter 2: The ideology of the Muslim Brotherhood; 19 June, 2011; available at: http://www.crethiplethi.com/the-ideology-of-the-muslim-brotherhood/global-islam/2011/ [accessed 1 March 2018]

[3] Crethi Plethi; Middle East Affairs Information Center; The Muslim Brotherhood – Chapter 12: Islamic jihadist organizations in Egypt ideologically originating in the Muslim Brotherhood; 19 June, 2011; available at: http://www.crethiplethi.com/islamic-jihadist-organizations-in-egypt-ideologically-originating-in-the-muslim-brotherhood/global-islam/2011/ [accessed 1 March 2018]

[4] BBC News Profile; Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood; 25 December, 2013; available at: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-12313405 [accessed 19 February, 2018]

[5] UK Government; Muslim Brotherhood Review: Main Findings, para 10; 17 December, 2015; available at:

. [accessed 19 February, 2018]

[6] Council on Foreign Affairs – CFA Backgrounder; Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood; January 2014; available at: http://www.cfr.org/egypt/egypts-muslim-brotherhood/p23991 [accessed 19 February, 2018]

[7] The Guardian; Who are the Muslim Brotherhood?; 2 April, 2013; available at: http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/apr/02/who-are-the-muslim-brotherhood [accessed 19 February, 2018]

[8] United Kingdom: Home Office, Country Policy and Information Note – Egypt: Muslim Brotherhood , 26 July 2017, v 3.0, available at:

[accessed 19 February 2018]

[9] Al Jazeera; What happened to Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood? By Khalil al-Anani, Associate Professor of Political Science at the Dohar Institute for Graduate Studies; 15 February, 2017; available at: http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2017/02/happened-egypt-muslim-brotherhood-170212130839987.html [accessed 19 February 2018]

[10] AlAraby; Muslim Brotherhood denounces Egypt church bombings, blames Sisi regime; 10 June, 2017; available at: https://www.alaraby.co.uk/english/news/2017/4/10/muslim-brotherhood-denounces-egypt-church-bombings-blames-sisi-regime [accessed 19 February 2018]

Egypt. Freedom of the press and the security conditions of journalists. February, 2018

According the Human Rights Watch Report President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s government maintained its zero-tolerance policy towards dissent, introducing repressive legislation, notably a nongovernmental organization (NGO) law that may end independent associations, reinstating a state of emergency and continuing near-absolute impunity for abuses by security forces under the pretext of fighting “terrorism.”

Security forces rounded up hundreds of dissidents, mainly targeting the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood. The Ministry of Interior’s National Security Agency arbitrarily detained, disappeared, and tortured people. There were numerous incidents of what appeared to be extrajudicial killings, including of previously detained persons in staged “shoot-outs.”

Authorities placed hundreds of people on terrorism lists and seized their assets for alleged terrorism links without due process.

The government imposed a media blackout on its counterterrorism operations in Northern Sinai. Wilayat Sinai, an affiliate of the extremist group Islamic State (ISIS) operating there, targeted civilians as well as security forces.

Military prosecutors continued to send hundreds of civilians to military trials in cases related to political dissent, whether violent or peaceful. President al-Sisi has approved in August 2016 a five-year extension of a 2014 law that expanded, to an unprecedented extent, grounds for trying civilians before military courts. Between October 2014 and September 2017, authorities sent at least 15,500 civilians to military courts including over 150 children

The government placed two independent newspapers, Al-Borsa and Daily News Egypt, and two independent news websites, Misr al-Arabiya and Cairo Portal, on the terrorist entities lists. The placement led to asset freezes and brought the four outlets under the administration of the government-owned Akhbar al-Youm newspaper, according to Reporters Without Borders (RSF).

In March, an appeals courts reduced a two-year prison sentence to one-year suspended sentence for the former head of the Journalists’ Syndicate, Yehya Qallash, and two former board members, Khaled al-Balshy and Gamal Abdel Rahim. A final appeal was ongoing before Egypt’s highest appellate court, the Cassation Court.

According to RSF, as of late October, 17 journalists remained in jail. On October 21, journalist Hisham Gaafar had spent more than two years in pretrial detention, the maximum allowed by Egyptian law, on charges of receiving foreign funds for his institution, Mada Media Foundation, and joining a banned group. Authorities denied him proper medical care for prostate disease. Ismail al-Iskandrani, a journalist who reported on Sinai, will have entered his third year of pretrial detention in December 2017. He faces charges of spreading false news and joining a banned group.

In May, the government blocked 21 websites of political groups and news outlets. As of October, the Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression, an independent Egyptian group, said that the number of websites blocked reached more than 425, including rights groups such as Human Rights Watch and RSF.

President al-Sisi signed parliamentary amendments to the 2013 protest law intended to meet a Supreme Constitutional Court ruling, but they did not affect the highly restrictive nature of the law, and peaceful gatherings remain effectively banned and penalized. Al-Sisi pardoned a total of 705 prisoners in March and June, most of whom had been convicted in cases related to peaceful protests.[1]

According the Freedom House report President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, who first took power in a July 2013 coup, continues to govern Egypt in an authoritarian manner, though the election of a new parliament in late 2015 ended a period of rule by executive decree. Serious political opposition is virtually nonexistent, as both liberal and Islamist activists face criminal prosecution and imprisonment. Terrorism persists unabated in the Sinai Peninsula and has also struck the Egyptian mainland, despite the government’s use of aggressive and often abusive tactics to combat it.

The Egyptian media sector is dominated by progovernment outlets, as most critical or opposition-oriented outlets were shut down in the wake of the coup. Moreover, over the past three years, a number of private television channels and newspapers have been launched or acquired by progovernment businessmen and individuals with ties to the military and intelligence services. Journalists who fail to align their reporting with the interests of owners or the government risk dismissal. Journalists also continued to face arrest for their work, and 20 remained behind bars as of December 2017, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists.

A law adopted in late 2016 created the Supreme Council for Media Regulation, with broad discretion to control the content of broadcast, print, and online media. In September 2017, during a crackdown on LGBT people, the council banned any media coverage of “homosexuality” except to “convey the danger of the problem.”

The Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression (AFTE) reported a major escalation in the government’s efforts to censor online media beginning in May 2017. It found that nearly 500 websites had been blocked by December, though the authorities had yet to acknowledge the scale of the blocking or provide a legal justification.[2]

According the Committee to Protect Journalists, more than half of the journalists imprisoned in Egypt, where the number in jail fell to 20 from 25 last year, are also in poor health. Among them is photographer Mahmoud Abou Zeid, known as Shawkan, who was arrested covering a violent dispersal of protesters by Egyptian security forces and has been in pretrial detention for more than four years. He and his 738 co-accused are charged with possessing weapons, illegal assembly, attempted murder, and murder, according to CPJ research. Shawkan is anemic and needs blood transfusions, but has been denied hospital care, according to his family. Of the 20 journalists in Egyptian jails, 12 have not been convicted or sentenced for any crime.

The prolonged imprisonment of Egyptian journalists comes as President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi battles deadly extremism and high unemployment in the country, and as Cairo and Washington cooperate closely on security. Soon after el-Sisi met Trump at the White House in April, his government passed a draconian anti-terrorism law that furthered its crackdown on the press by, among other things, enabling authorities to put journalists acquitted of terrorism-related charges on a terror watch list that restricts their financial and other rights, according to news reports.[3]

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) has released a report on Wednesday listing world’s top jailors of journalists. CPJ’s annual prison census found that 262 journalists have been imprisoned worldwide which makes the year 2017 the worst year on record since CPJ started its census in the early 1990s. After Turkey and China comes Egypt as the worst country for journalists with 20 journalists currently behind bars.

“Among them is photographer Mahmoud Abou Zeid, known as Shawkan, who was arrested covering a violent dispersal of protesters by Egyptian security forces and has been in pretrial detention for more than four years,” states the report.[4] [5]

According to Radidja Nemar, a North Africa legal officer for human rights group Alkarama, the Egyptian government has “targeted either news outlets or human rights organisations who would be covering human rights violations in the country”.

But journalists, in particular, can be silenced under a 2016 law that makes it a crime to spread false news, Nemar told Al Jazeera. Often, this law is used against journalists “covering what the government would consider [hurts] the image of the state”.

That’s what Al Jazeera Arabic news producer Mahmoud Hussein was accused of last year, when he was detained on December 20 on accusations of “incitement against state institutions and broadcasting false news with the aim of spreading chaos”. Al Jazeera has denied the charges against him and demanded Hussein’s immediate and unconditional release.

A 2015 law broadened the scope of what is considered a “terrorist crime” and criminalised reporting on “terrorism” and “terrorist acts” in Egypt that go against reports by the Egyptian Ministry of Defense, CPJ reported, citing various news sources. “The law defines ‘terrorist crimes’ as any act aiming to harm public order, social peace, or national unity,” the group said.

According to Nemar, while journalists covering state repression, politics or human rights abuses since the military’s takeover in 2013 have been prosecuted and imprisoned, “there is no clear line” that journalists cannot cross, which highlights “the whole arbitrary [nature] of the process”. “We don’t know the rationale [behind] every arrest or every judicial decision or sentence,” she said.[6]

According the Reporters Without Borders 2017 World Press Freedom Index Egypt ranks 161 out of 180 countries in the world rankings in 2017. In the name of combating terrorism, Egypt has become one of the world’s biggest prisons for journalists, most of them held on trumped-up charges.[7]

[1] Human Rights Watch /World Report 2018- Egypt- Events of 2017; available at: https://www.hrw.org/world-report/2018/country-chapters/egypt [accessed 19 February 2018]

[2] Freedom House: Freedom in the World 2018/ Egypt; available at:  https://freedomhouse.org/report/freedom-world/2018/egypt [accessed 19 February 2018]

[3] Committee to Protect Journalists: Record number of journalists jailed as Turkey, China, Egypt pay scant price for repression; Published December 13, 2017. available at https://cpj.org/reports/2017/12/journalists-prison-jail-record-number-turkey-china-egypt.php [accessed 20 February 2018]

[4] Egyptian Streets: Egypt Ranks Third Worst Jailer of Journalists in 2017: CPJ; December 14, 2017; available at https://egyptianstreets.com/2017/12/14/egypt-ranks-third-worst-jailer-of-journalists-in-2017-cpj/ [accessed 20 February 2018]

[5] Al Jazeera: Egypt’s journalists face ‘unprecedented’ threats; 20 Dec 2017; available at:

http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2017/11/egypt-journalists-face-unprecedented-threats-171130130036948.html  [accessed 20 February 2018]

[6] Al Jazeera: Egypt’s journalists face ‘unprecedented’ threats; 20 Dec 2017; available at:

http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2017/11/egypt-journalists-face-unprecedented-threats-171130130036948.html  [accessed 20 February 2018]

[7] Reporters Without Borders: 2017 World Press Freedom Index; avaliable at https://rsf.org/en/ranking# [accessed 20 February 2018]

Egypt. Treatment of supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood. December, 2017

Human Rights Watch published its “World Report 2017 – Egypt” on 12 January, 2017. According to this report, officers of the National Security Agency routinely tortured and forcibly disappeared suspects with few consequences. Many of the detainees who suffered these abuses were accused of sympathy with or membership in the Muslim Brotherhood, which the government named a terrorist group in 2013 but has remained the country’s largest opposition movement.[1]

Freedom House published its “Freedom in the World 2017 – Egypt” on 15 April, 2017. According to this report, the government systematically persecutes opposition parties and political movements, disrupting their operations and constraining their ability to organize. Large numbers of Muslim Brotherhood members and supporters, including nearly all of the organization’s senior leadership and Morsi himself, were arrested following the coup, and arrests continued through 2016. Some Brotherhood members have been killed under unclear circumstances, with police reporting gun battles during attempted arrests and the group claiming summary executions. Civil society organizations estimate that as many as 40,000 people were being detained for political reasons as of 2016, most of them for real or suspected links to the Muslim Brotherhood. Authorities declared the Brotherhood a terrorist organization in December 2013, which allowed them to charge anyone participating in a pro-Morsi demonstration with terrorism and laid the foundation for the complete political isolation of the Islamist opposition.[2]

Amnesty International published its “Amnesty International Report 2016/17 – Egypt” on 22 February, 2017. According to this report, the Ministry of the Interior repeatedly announced that security forces had shot dead suspects during raids on residences, including members of the Muslim Brotherhood and alleged members of armed groups. No police officers were formally investigated, raising concern that security forces may have used excessive force or in some cases carried out extrajudicial executions. Critics and opponents of the government continued to face arbitrary arrest and detention on charges that included inciting protests, “terrorism” and belonging to banned groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood or the 6 April Youth Movement. The authorities also arbitrarily detained several human rights defenders.[3]

United Kingdom: Home Office published its “Country Policy and Information Note – Egypt: Muslim Brotherhood” on 26 July, 2017. According to this report, the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) has been designated a terrorist organisation in Egypt and members may be prosecuted under the Penal Code. Many senior and mid-level leaders of the MB have been arrested and faced prolonged detention, some have also been handed death sentences. Thousands of members and supporters have also been arrested, particularly during demonstrations, by the state security forces. Some members and supporters have also been killed and injured during these protests. Persons with a high profile, who have been politically active or have come to the attention of the authorities, particularly in demonstrations, may be subject to arrest and detention, where they may be at risk of ill-treatment and / or face trial without due process and disproportionate punishment, which amounts to persecution or serious harm. Additionally, persons who are not members but are high profile supporters or those perceived to support the MB, such as journalists, may be at risk of persecution or serious harm. Low-level, non-political or inactive members and supporters, or those perceived to be supporters, are not generally being targeted and it is unlikely that they will be able to demonstrate a real risk of persecution. The onus is on the person to demonstrate that they are at risk of persecution, however each case will need to be considered on its facts.[4]

[1] Human Rights Watch, World Report 2017 – Egypt, 12 January 2017, available at:

[accessed 29 December 2017]

[2] Freedom House, Freedom in the World 2017 – Egypt, 15 April 2017, available at:

[accessed 29 December 2017]

[3] Amnesty International, Amnesty International Report 2016/17 – Egypt, 22 February 2017, available at:

[accessed 29 December 2017]

[4] United Kingdom: Home Office, Country Policy and Information Note – Egypt: Muslim Brotherhood , 26 July 2017, v 3.0, available at:

[accessed 29 December 2017]

Egypt – Treatment of Proselyte Copts – September, 2017

The constitution specifies Islam as the state religion and the principles of sharia as the primary source of legislation. The constitution prohibits discrimination on the basis of religion and makes incitement to hate a crime. It describes freedom of belief as absolute; however, it limits the freedom to practice religious rituals and establish places of worship to adherents of Islam, Christianity, and Judaism. The constitution prohibits the exercise of political activity or the formation of political parties on the basis of religion.

While neither the constitution nor the civil or penal codes prohibit apostasy from Islam or efforts to proselytize Muslims, and the law states individuals may change their religion, the government does not recognize conversion from Islam for those born Muslim.

The government generally permitted foreign religious workers in the country on condition they not proselytize to Muslims. According to community representatives, non-Muslim minorities and foreign religious workers generally refrained from proselytizing to Muslims to avoid risking legal penalties and extralegal repercussions from authorities and members of the local community.[1]

On 10 July 2015 in Alexandria, three young Christian men, one of whom was 16, were arrested on charges of denigration of Islam after one of the three distributed flyers containing an excerpt from the Sermon on the Mount. According to a local human rights group and press reports, a Muslim man detained one of the men, assaulted him physically, locked him in a store for more than an hour, and then took him to a police station. The youth called two Christian friends who joined him at the police station, and who were then detained. The three were then referred to prosecutors on suspicion of “defamation of religions and new ways of proselytizing among Muslims,” according to press reports. All three were released on a bail of 10,000 Egyptian pounds ($1,250) each on July 12.

Freedom House, a NGO based in the United States who is researching and advocating the issues of democracy, political freedom and human rights, writes in its Freedom in the World report of January 2016 (report period: 2015) that abuses against Copts continued in 2015, with numerous cases of forced displacement, physical assaults, bomb and arson attacks, and blocking of church construction. Christians were also arrested on charges of proselytizing.[2]

On current evidence there are some areas where Coptic Christians will face a real risk of persecution or ill-treatment contrary to Article 3. In general these will be (a) areas outside the large cities; (b) where radical Islamists have a strong foothold; and (c) where there have been recent attacks on Coptic Christians or their churches, businesses or properties. ‘On the evidence before the Upper Tribunal, the following are particular risk categories in the sense that those falling within them will generally be able to show a real risk of persecution or treatment contrary to Article 3, at least in their home area:

(i) Converts to Coptic Christianity;

(ii) Persons who are involved in construction or reconstruction/repair of churches that have been the target for an attack or attacks;

(iii) Those accused of proselytizing where the accusation is serious and not casual;

(iv) Those accused of being physically or emotionally involved with a Muslim woman where the accusation is made seriously and not casually..

‘Coptic Christian women in Egypt are not in general at real risk of persecution or ill-treatment, although they face difficulties additional to other women, in the form of sometimes being the target of disappearances, forced abduction and forced conversion.[3]

[1] USDOS – US Department of State: 2016 Report on International Religious Freedom – Egypt, 15 August 2017 (available at ecoi.net)
http://www.ecoi.net/local_link/345218/476369_en.html  (accessed 07 September 2017)

[2] ACCORD – Austrian Centre for Country of Origin and Asylum Research and Documentation: Anfragebeantwortung zu Ägypten: Staatliche Repressionen im Falle einer Missionstätigkeit eines Kopten [a-9804-2 (9805)], 31 August 2016 (available at ecoi.net)
http://www.ecoi.net/local_link/329184/456638_en.html (accessed 07 September 2017)

[3] UK Home Office: Country Policy and Information Note Egypt: Christians, July 2017 (available at ecoi.net)

(accessed 7 September 2017)

Egypt – Rights and Treatment of LGBT People – June, 2017

According to Amnesty International’s report on Egypt dated 2016/2017 individuals continued to face arrest, detention and trial on “debauchery” charges under Law 10 of 1961, on the basis of their real or perceived sexual orientation and gender identity.[1]

Freedom House published its Freedom in the World 2017 – Egypt on 15 April 2017. According to this report LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) people face severe persecution, and conditions have grown worse under the Sisi regime. While same-sex sexual activity is not explicitly banned, LGBT people have been charged with prostitution or “debauchery.” In April 2016, a court sentenced 11 men to between 3 and 12 years in prison on charges of debauchery. New raids and arrests were reported over the course of 2016.[2]

According to Human Rights Watch’s World Report 2017 – Egypt sexual relations outside marriage are criminalized. Since 2013, authorities have pursued a campaign to intimidate, track, and arrest lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people, including entrapment using social media applications. Police regularly used forced anal examinations in prosecutions of those suspected of homosexual sex.

Solidarity With Egypt LGBTQ+, an advocacy group, said it had recorded 114 criminal investigations involving 274 LGBT individuals launched between the end of 2013 and November 2016, 66 of which involved the authorities’ use of social media.[3]

United States Department of State published its 2016 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices – Egypt on 3 March 2017. According to this report while the law does not explicitly criminalize consensual same-sex sexual activity, it allows police to arrest lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) persons on charges such as “debauchery,” “prostitution,” and “violating the teachings of religion” and provides for prison sentences of up to 10 years. According to a local rights group, there were at least 250 reports of such arrests since 2013. Authorities did not use antidiscrimination laws to protect LGBTI individuals. Gay men, lesbians, and transgender persons faced significant social stigma and discrimination, impeding their ability to organize or publicly advocate on behalf of LGBTI persons. Information was not available on official or private discrimination in employment, occupation, housing, statelessness, or access to education or health care based on sexual orientation and gender identity. There were no government efforts to address potential discrimination.

There were few reported incidents of violence against LGBTI individuals, although intimidation and the risk of arrest greatly restricted open reporting and contributed to self-censorship. Rights groups and activists reported harassment by police, including physical assault and forced payment of bribes to provide information about other LGBTI individuals or to avoid arrest. The government has the authority to deport or bar entry to gay foreigners.

There were reports that authorities used social media, dating websites, and cell phone apps to entrap persons they suspected of being gay or transgender, a tool that LGBTI advocates described as especially effective as LGBTI-friendly public spaces had largely closed over the past two years.

On April 24, an Agouza misdemeanor court convicted 11 men of debauchery, incitement to debauchery, and other charges, sentencing three of the 11 to 12 years in prison, three to nine years, one to six years, and four to three years. A local rights group condemned the verdict as part of an orchestrated police campaign against LGBTI individuals. On May 29, an appeals court acquitted one of the defendants and reduced the others’ sentences to one-year’s imprisonment.

In January the court acquitted television host Mona Iraqi of defaming the 26 arrested men charged with “practicing debauchery” and “indecent public acts.” Police had raided a traditional bathhouse known as a hammam in Cairo in 2014 and arrested them, but a misdemeanor court acquitted all 26 in January 2015. Iraqi had posted photographs of the men being dragged out of the hammam on Facebook and had been convicted of publishing false news in November 2015. Her acquittal came after a Cairo court accepted her appeal.

Authorities continued to subject individuals detained on suspicion of debauchery to forced anal examinations, according to a local rights group.[4]

[1] Amnesty International, Amnesty International Report 2016/17 – Egypt, 22 February 2017, available at:

[accessed 30 June 2017]

[2] Freedom House, Freedom in the World 2017 – Egypt, 15 April 2017, available at:

[accessed 30 June 2017]

[3] Human Rights Watch, World Report 2017 – Egypt, 12 January 2017, available at:

[accessed 30 June 2017]

[4] United States Department of State, 2016 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices – Egypt, 3 March 2017, available at:

[accessed 30 June 2017]

Egypt – treatment of Arabs Converted to Christianity from Islam – June, 2017

United States Department of State published its 2015 Report on International Religious Freedom – Egypt on 10 August 2016. According to this report the constitution describes freedom of belief as “absolute” but only provides adherents of Islam, Christianity, and Judaism the right to practice their religion freely and to build houses of worship. The government does not recognize conversion from Islam by citizens born Muslim to any other religion and imposes legal penalties on Muslim-born citizens who convert. One Muslim family reportedly killed a family member for her alleged conversion to Christianity. According to a 2008 court ruling that tested the constitutional provision of religious freedom, conversion from Islam is apostasy and forbidden based on principles of sharia. This ruling was followed by a second 2008 ruling that allowed for conversion from Islam for individuals who were not born Muslim but later converted to Islam. In those cases in which Muslims not born Muslim convert from Islam, their minor children, and in some cases adult children who were minors when their parents converted, automatically remain classified as Muslims.

The government held Bishoy Armia Boulous, a convert from Islam to Christianity, in pretrial detention without charges beyond the six-month legal limit for misdemeanors. The government continued to prohibit conversion from Islam by those born Muslim. Lethal sectarian violence continued over the year, and included the killing of a convert to Christianity by her Muslim family. On November 18, the Muslim uncles and cousins of a 26-year-old convert to Christianity killed her for conversion and marriage to a Christian man. Prosecutors and police officers started an investigation. Following the killing, the press reported that senior security officials, the family of the victim, and her Christian husband’s family held a reconciliation session to avoid further sectarian violence in the village.[1]

United States Commission on International Religious Freedom published its USCIRF Annual Report 2017 – Tier 2 countries – Egypt on 26 April 2017. According to this report discriminatory laws and policies that remain in place continue to negatively impact Christians, including the blasphemy law (see next section) and limits on conversion from Islam. Egyptian-born Muslims who have converted to Christianity still cannot reflect their change of religious affiliation on identity documents, and in many cases, these converts also face intense social hostility.[2]

United Kingdom: Home Office published its Country Policy and Information Note – Egypt: Christians on 21 November 2016. According to this report there is no statutory prohibition on conversion from Islam to other religions in Egypt. However, officials — including courts — frequently interpret sharia as prohibiting Muslims from converting to another religion and refuse to recognize such conversions legally. By contrast, converts to Islam will generally have their conversions recognized, and their identity cards changed accordingly without difficulty or delay.[3]

[1] United States Department of State, 2015 Report on International Religious Freedom – Egypt, 10 August 2016, available at:

[accessed 26 June 2017]

[2] United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, USCIRF Annual Report 2017 – Tier 2 countries – Egypt, 26 April 2017, available at:

[accessed 26 June 2017]

[3] United Kingdom: Home Office, Country Policy and Information Note – Egypt: Christians , 21 November 2016, Version 2.0, available at:

[accessed 26 June 2017]

Egypt – Treatment of Atheists and Availability of State Protection – June, 2017

United States Commission on International Religious Freedom published its USCIRF Annual Report 2017 – Tier 2 countries – Egypt on 26 April 2017. According to this report during the year 2016, the number of blasphemy cases decreased when compared to the previous year. While the majority of charges are leveled against Sunni Muslims, most of those sentenced by a court to prison terms for blasphemy have been Christians, Shi’a Muslims, and atheists. A conviction can result in a prison term up to five years and a fine.

In recent years, Egyptian atheists have seen a rise in blasphemy charges, as well as growing societal harassment and various Egyptian government-sponsored initiatives to counter atheism. For example, in February 2016, online activist Mustafa Abdel-Nabi was convicted in absentia to three years in prison for blasphemy for postings about atheism on his Facebook page. In addition, over the past few years, the Ministries of Religious Endowments and Sports and Youth co-sponsored a national campaign to combat the spread of atheism among Egyptian youth.[1]

United States Department of State published its 2015 Report on International Religious Freedom – Egypt on 10 August 2016. According to this report some government entities used anti-Shia, anti-Bahai, and anti-atheist rhetoric, and the government regularly failed to condemn anti-Semitic commentary. Some press reports estimate the number of atheists to be as high as four million, although other accounts place their number in the low thousands. Some government officials, including those at Al-Azhar, vilified Shia and atheists.

According to a local human rights organization, El-Banna – reported to be an atheist – was arrested in November 2014 after he attempted to file a police complaint against a group of his neighbors for harassing him for his personal beliefs. Police then detained El-Banna on charges that reportedly had been issued against him at an earlier time for the posts. According to the local rights organization, El-Banna’s father testified against him in court under pressure from friends and family. Human Rights Watch said El-Banna’s lawyers appealed the verdict, and the court released him on bail of EGP 1,000 ($145). El-Banna’s appeal process was ongoing at the end of the year. El-Banna’s name had been published by Al Bawaba News website in 2014 as one of a number of people who publicly professed their atheism on Facebook, as part of a campaign calling on atheists to go public with their beliefs.

On March 15, the minister equated atheism with terrorism, and said the two were promoted by “invisible powers” with the aim of destroying the military, economic, and intellectual structures of Arab societies.[2]

Freedom House published its Freedom in the World 2017 – Egypt on 15 April 2017. According to this report Islam is the state religion, and most Egyptians are Sunni Muslims. Coptic Christians form a substantial minority, and there are very small numbers of Jews, Shiite Muslims, atheists, and Baha’is.[3] According to Human Rights Watch’s World Report 2017, Egyptian human rights groups documented unlawful harassment of other religious minorities, including Shia Muslims and atheists, such as arbitrary travel bans and summonses for interrogations.[4] Minority Rights Group International published its State of the World’s Minorities and Indigenous Peoples 2016 – Egypt on 12 July 2016. According to this report an atheist student was also given a three-year prison sentence in January for ‘belittl[ing] the divine’ through Facebook postings, an increasingly perilous activity.[5]

[1] United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, USCIRF Annual Report 2017 – Tier 2 countries – Egypt, 26 April 2017, available at:

[accessed 26 June 2017]

[2] United States Department of State, 2015 Report on International Religious Freedom – Egypt, 10 August 2016, available at:

[accessed 26 June 2017]

[3] Freedom House, Freedom in the World 2017 – Egypt, 15 April 2017, available at:

[accessed 26 June 2017]

[4] Human Rights Watch, World Report 2017 – Egypt, 12 January 2017, available at:

[accessed 26 June 2017]

[5] Minority Rights Group International, State of the World’s Minorities and Indigenous Peoples 2016 – Egypt, 12 July 2016, available at:

[accessed 26 June 2017]

Egypt – Women Rights and Availability of State Protection against Violence – June, 2017

Amnesty International published “Amnesty International Report 2016/2017” about Egypt on 22 of February, 2017. According to this report women continued to face inadequate protection from sexual and gender-based violence, as well as gender discrimination in law and practice, particularly under personal status laws regulating divorce. A 17-year-old girl died on 29 May, reportedly from hemorrhaging, following female genital mutilation (FGM) at a private hospital in Suez Governorate. Four people faced trial on charges of causing lethal injury and FGM, including the girl’s mother and medical staff. On 25 September, President al-Sisi signed a law increasing the prison sentence for any individual who carries out FGM, from a minimum of three months and maximum of two years, to a minimum of five years and a maximum of 15 years, also punishing those who force girls to undergo FGM.[1]

Freedom House published its report “Freedom in the World 2017 – Egypt” on 15 of April, 2017. According to this report the 2014 constitution clearly affirms the equality of the sexes, but this has not resulted in practical improvements for women. Thanks in large part to quotas, women won 75 seats in the 596-seat parliament in 2015, and another 14 were appointed by the president. Some laws and traditional practices discriminate against women, job discrimination is common, and Muslim women are disadvantaged by personal status laws. Domestic violence is widespread, and spousal rape is not illegal. Other problems include forced marriages and high rates of female genital mutilation or cutting. In August 2016, the parliament approved harsher penalties for female genital mutilation or cutting, but the ban on the practice has long been poorly enforced.

According to the same report, violence against women has surfaced in new ways since 2011, particularly as women have participated in demonstrations and faced increased levels of sexual violence in public. A 2014 decree criminalized sexual harassment, with prison terms of up to five years, as part of a national strategy to combat violence against women. Critics argued that the law was inadequate and the strategy was failing, citing a lack of protection for witnesses, continued cases of group sexual harassment in public, and harassment by police officers, which deters women from reporting crimes. Egyptian women and children, migrants from sub-Saharan Africa and Asia, and increasingly Syrian refugees are vulnerable to forced labor and sex trafficking in Egypt. The Egyptian authorities routinely punish individuals for offenses that stemmed directly from their circumstances as trafficking victims.[2]

Human Rights Watch published its report “World Report 2017 – Egypt” on 12 of January, 2017. According to this report In August 2016, parliament passed an amendment to a law prohibiting female genital mutilation (FGM), increasing the penalties. The new law provided for prison terms of five to seven years for those who carry out FGM and up to 15 years if the procedure results in permanent disability or death. Anyone who escorts girls to undergo female genital mutilation will also face one to three years in prison. FGM is still widely practiced, and prosecutors have only obtained one conviction since the law was passed in 2008.

According to the same source, in September 2016, a group of eight women’s rights organizations released a statement commending the government for initiating its “National Strategy to Combat Violence against Women” in 2015 but recommended creating a follow-up committee to ensure that government ministries were actually carrying out the strategy. Sexual harassment and violence against women remained endemic. The Interior Ministry appointed Brig. Gen. Nahed Salah, a woman, to a new position in charge of combating violence against women. Salah publicly urged women to avoid talking or laughing loudly in public and to be cautious about how they dress to avoid street harassment. Women continued to face discrimination under Egypt’s personal status law on equal access to divorce, child custody, and inheritance.[3]

United Kingdom’s Home Office published its “Country Policy and Information Note – Egypt: Women” on 8 of March, 2017. According to this document since coming to power, the al Sisi government has committed to protecting women’s rights and has strengthened existing laws on discrimination and violence, specifically those on FGM and sexual harassment. However, despite the changes in the government’s approach, the state is often ineffective at implementing the law in practice. Women are often unwilling to report abuses to the authorities due to social stigma and sometimes under pressure from the police. The police are also reportedly reluctant to investigate cases of violence against women, particularly where it is domestic. While prosecutions do occur against perpetrators of violence against women, these appear low for sexual crimes and domestic violence, and the law on FGM remains rarely enforced. In addition to the state there are a number of civil society groups of which offer practical help and shelter to assist women. In general, the state may be willing and able to provide protection from non-state agents. The onus is on the woman to demonstrate that the state is not willing and able to provide her with effective protection.[4]

[1] Amnesty International, Amnesty International Report 2016/17 – Egypt, 22 February 2017, available at:

[accessed 20 June 2017]

[2] Freedom House, Freedom in the World 2017 – Egypt, 15 April 2017, available at:

[accessed 20 June 2017]

[3] Human Rights Watch, World Report 2017 – Egypt, 12 January 2017, available at:

[accessed 20 June 2017]

[4] United Kingdom: Home Office, Country Policy and Information Note – Egypt: Women, 8 March 2017, v 1.0, available at:

[accessed 20 June 2017]

Egypt – Treatment of Copts and State Reaction on Sectarian Violence – June, 2017

United States Department of State published its “2016 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices – Egypt” on 3 March, 2017. According to this report on December 11, 2016, a terrorist attack during Mass at the Boutrusiya church, adjacent to the Coptic Orthodox Cathedral, killed 27 and injured dozens more, most of whom were women and children. Authorities stated that a suicide bomber collaborated with the Muslim Brotherhood to carry out the attack, a claim Muslim Brotherhood spokesmen denied. Da’esh later claimed responsibility for the attack. There was no published official data on the number of victims of terrorist violence during the year. According to local media reports, terrorists killed hundreds of civilians throughout the country. In Sinai alone, as of the end of October, militant violence had killed at least 230 civilians and 299 security force members (police and military), according to publicly available information. During the same period in Sinai, the government killed 2,436 terrorists, according to official public statements. There were incidents of mob violence and vigilantism, particularly sectarian violence against Coptic Egyptians. On May 20, 2016 a mob of approximately 300 armed Muslim residents of Minya’s el-Karm village attacked seven Christian households after rumors spread of an affair between a Christian man and Muslim woman, according to media reports.[1]

United States Commission on International Religious Freedom published its “USCIRF Annual Report 2017 – Tier 2 countries – Egypt” on 26 April 2017. According to this report despite the government’s widespread repression of human rights, religious freedom conditions improved in several areas over the past year. President Abdel Fattah Sisi consistently condemned sectarian attacks and pressed for assistance for victims and accountability for perpetrators, pushed for reform in religious discourse, and attended a Coptic Christmas Eve mass for the third consecutive year. In August, the newly-seated parliament passed a long-awaited law on the construction and maintenance of churches and, by early 2017, the government completed rebuilding and restoring more than 50 churches destroyed by extremists in 2013. While sectarian attacks targeting Christians spiked, particularly in Upper Egypt and North Sinai, and a major suicide bombing occurred near St. Mark’s Coptic Orthodox Cathedral in Cairo, Egyptian courts made some progress in bringing to justice perpetrators of past attacks. In 2016, prosecutions, convictions, and imprisonment of Egyptian citizens for blasphemy and related charges decreased. Some discriminatory and repressive laws and policies that restrict freedom of religion or belief remain in place, but public debates occurred in parliament and civil society on a range of religious freedom concerns. Based on these developments, while still deeply concerned by the deplorable human rights conditions in Egypt, USCIRF places Egypt on its Tier 2, as it did from 2002 to 2010. From 2011 to 2016, USCIRF had recommended that Egypt be designated as a “country of particular concern,” or CPC, under the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998 (IRFA).

According to the same report in December 2016, an ISIS affiliate claimed responsibility for the December 11 attack on St. Paul and St. Peter’s Church near St. Mark’s Coptic Orthodox Cathedral that killed 29 individuals, mainly women and children, and injured approximately 50. In January 2017, at least four perpetrators were arrested and an investigation is ongoing. The Coptic community praised President Sisi for directing government authorities to repair damage to the cathedral in time for Christmas celebrations to be held less than a month later.

According the same source during the year 2016, Christian leaders lauded President Sisi’s ongoing active engagement with the community, including his attendance for the third consecutive year at a Coptic Christmas Eve mass at St. Mark’s Cathedral in Cairo. During that visit, President Sisi announced that the government would build the largest church and mosque in the country in the new administrative capital, New Cairo, by 2018. In addition, by early 2017, the government had completed rebuilding and repairing 56 churches that were destroyed or damaged by extremist attacks in the summer of 2013 following former President Morsi’s ouster. Moreover, in some parts of the country, Egyptian security services increased protection of churches during significant religious holidays, which lessened fear and insecurity among members of the Coptic community. In August 2016, the Coptic Orthodox, Catholic, and Anglican denominations welcomed the passage of the new law regulating church construction and maintenance.[2]

Amnesty International published its “Amnesty International Report 2016/17 – Egypt” on 22 February 2017. According to this report religious minorities, including Coptic Christians, Shi’a Muslims and Baha’is, continued to face discriminatory restrictions in law and practice and inadequate protection from violence. There were repeated attacks targeting Coptic Christians. On 11 December a bomb attack on a church in Cairo killed 27 people. The armed group IS claimed responsibility, while the authorities blamed a “terrorism cell” linked to the Muslim Brotherhood. A new law regulating churches, signed by President al-Sisi on 28 September, arbitrarily restricted their construction, repair and expansion.[3]

Freedom House published its “Freedom in the World 2017 – Egypt” on 15 April 2017. According to this report the constitution bans parties based on religion, though a number of Islamist parties continue to operate in a precarious political and legal position. The Coptic Church leadership has allied itself with Sisi since the coup, apparently to ensure the security of its constituents. Coptic Christians, who account for some 10 percent of the population, are allocated 24 of the parliament’s 120 party-list seats. Thirty-six Christians were elected in 2015, and an additional three were appointed by the president, for a total of 39 Christians in the parliament. The party-list quotas also set aside small numbers of seats for workers and farmers, people under 35, people with disabilities, and Egyptians living abroad.[4]

United Kingdom: Home Office published its “Country Policy and Information Note – Egypt: Christians” on 21 November 2016. According to this report the Upper Tribunal (UT) further found that: ‘… on current evidence there are some areas where Coptic Christians will face a real risk of persecution or ill-treatment contrary to Article 3. In general these will be (a) areas outside the large cities; (b) where radical Islamists have a strong foothold; and (c) where there have been recent attacks on Coptic Christians or their churches, businesses or properties (Para 151(2)). ‘On the evidence before the Upper Tribunal, the following are particular risk categories in the sense that those falling within them will generally be able to show a real risk of persecution or treatment contrary to Article 3, at least in their home area: (i) converts to Coptic Christianity; (ii) persons who are involved in construction or reconstruction/repair of churches that have been the target for an attack or attacks; (iii) those accused of proselytising where the accusation is serious and not casual; (iv) those accused of being physically or emotionally involved with a Muslim woman where the accusation is made seriously and not casually (Para 151(3)). ‘Coptic Christian women in Egypt are not in general at real risk of persecution or ill-treatment, although they face difficulties additional to other women, in the form of sometimes being the target of disappearances, forced abduction and forced conversion (Para 151(4)). ‘However, depending on the particular circumstances of the case, Coptic Christian women aged between 14-25 years who lack a male protector may be at such risk (Para 151(5)).

According to the same source, while some Christians in Egypt may face discrimination, they are not in general at risk of persecution or serious harm by the state. Christians face societal discrimination and sectarian violence but they are not in general at risk of persecution or serious harm by non-state actors. However, in some areas outside the main cities where religious extremists have a stronger foothold, and where there have been attacks on Christians, against their property, businesses and churches, they may be at risk of persecution or serious harm at the hands of non-state actors. In addition there may be particular factors in an individual case which do put a person at risk. While existing case law has found that there is no effective state protection of Christians, the situation in Egypt has since improved and there is evidence of the state being both willing and in some cases able to provide protection. Therefore, each case will need to be considered on its merits. In general a Christian will be able to internally relocate, especially to an area where extremists do not have a strong presence. Each case will need to be considered on its specific facts and the person’s individual circumstances. Internal relocation is generally possible, depending on the particular individual circumstances of the person.[5]

Human Rights Watch published its “World Report 2017 – Egypt” on 12 January 2017. According to this report in August, 2016 parliament passed a long-awaited law on church building that maintained restrictions over the construction and renovation of churches and discriminated against the country’s Christian minority. The new law allows governors to deny church-building permits with no stated way to appeal, requires that churches be built “commensurate with” the number of Christians in the area, despite the lack of official census statistics, and contains provisions that allow authorities to deny construction permits if granting them would undermine public safety, potentially subjecting decisions on church construction to the whims of violent mobs that have attacked churches in the past.

According to the same source, between May and July, anti-Christian violence, prompted or preceded by suspicion among some local Muslims about actual or alleged church construction, left one person dead, several injured, and numerous Christian properties destroyed. Authorities continued to fail to protect Christian minorities from sometimes fatal attacks and imposed “reconciliation sessions” that allow Muslim perpetrators to escape prosecution and foster impunity.

According to the same report, in February, a juvenile minor offenses court sentenced four Christian children to five years in prison for posting a video online mocking the Islamic State (also known as ISIS). The boys fled Egypt in April. In March, an appeals court upheld a three-year sentence for contempt of religion against the writer Fatma Naout for criticizing the Muslim tradition of slaughtering livestock as a sacrifice on Eid al-Adha. Egyptian human rights groups documented unlawful harassment of other religious minorities, including Shia Muslims and atheists, such as arbitrary travel bans and summonses for interrogations.[6]

The Guardian published its article “Egypt launches raids in Libya after attack on Coptic Christians kills 26” on 26 May 2017. According to this article Egypt has carried out airstrikes in Libya after at least 26 people, including children, were killed and 25 wounded in a gun attack on a bus carrying Coptic Christians south of Cairo, the latest in a series of terrorist incidents targeting the religious minority. Local media reported witnesses saying that between eight and 10 gunmen, dressed in military uniform, carried out the attack. Egypt’s interior ministry said the attackers, travelling in four-wheel-drives, “fired indiscriminately” at a car, bus and a truck in the al-Idwah district outside Minya, about 135 miles (220km) south of Cairo. In a speech to the nation broadcast on Friday evening, President Abdel-Fatah al Sisi said: “If Egypt falls, so will the rest of the world.” “Egypt will not hesitate at all to strike terrorist camps anywhere,” he said. Shortly after the end of the broadcast, Egyptian fighter jets carried out six strikes against camps near Derna in Libya where the militants responsible for attack are believed to have been trained. Sisi declared a state of emergency last month after two suicide bombings on Coptic churches killed at least 45 people. The attacks on 9 April, for which Islamic State claimed responsibility, struck worshippers in the town of Tanta and the Egyptian port city of Alexandria as they celebrated Palm Sunday.[7]

[1] United States Department of State, 2016 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices – Egypt, 3 March 2017, available at:

[accessed 10 June 2017]

[2] United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, USCIRF Annual Report 2017 – Tier 2 countries – Egypt, 26 April 2017, available at:

[accessed 10 June 2017]

[3] Amnesty International, Amnesty International Report 2016/17 – Egypt, 22 February 2017, available at:

[accessed 10 June 2017]

[4] Freedom House, Freedom in the World 2017 – Egypt, 15 April 2017, available at:

[accessed 10 June 2017]

[5] United Kingdom: Home Office, Country Policy and Information Note – Egypt: Christians, 21 November 2016, Version 2.0, available at:

[accessed 16 January 2017]

[6] Human Rights Watch, World Report 2017 – Egypt, 12 January 2017, available at:

[accessed 16 January 2017]

[7] The Guardian; Egypt launches raids in Libya after attack on Coptic Christians kills 26; 26 May 2017; available at: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/may/26/several-killed-in-attack-on-bus-carrying-coptic-christians-in-egypt

Egypt – Interfaith Marriage between Muslim Women and Non-Muslim Men – March, 2017

The constitution specifies Islam as the state religion and the principles of sharia as the primary source of legislation. The constitution describes freedom of belief as absolute; however, it limits the freedom to practice religious rituals to adherents of Islam, Christianity, and Judaism, to which it refers as “the divine religions.”

In keeping with sharia, non-Muslim men must convert to Islam to marry Muslim women, although non-Muslim women need not convert to marry Muslim men. A non-Muslim woman who converts to Islam must divorce her husband if he is not Muslim and is unwilling to convert. Custody of children is then awarded to the mother.[1]

Laws affecting marriage and personal status generally corresponded to an individual’s religious group. For example, a female Muslim citizen cannot legally marry a non-Muslim man. If she were to do so unofficially, she would face significant societal harassment. Under the government’s interpretation of Islamic religious law, any children from such a marriage could be placed in the custody of a male Muslim guardian.[2]

[1] United States Department of State, 2015 Report on International Religious Freedom – Egypt, 10 August 2016, available at:

[2] United States Department of State, 2015 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices – Egypt, 13 April 2016, available at: