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Egyptian authorities arrest women’s rights activist Azza Soliman

On December 7 2016, Egyptian authorities arrested Azza Soliman, the co-founder of the Center for Egyptian Women’s Legal Assistance (CEWLA), on charges related to her NGO work. 

The authorities arrested her at her home in Heliopolis, and then brought her to the Masr el Gedida police station. She was then transferred to the investigative judge’s office in New Cairo for questioning after which she was released on bail for 20,000 EP.

Soliman is one of several prominent Egyptian human rights defenders under investigation in Case #173 – also known as the foreign funding case – who have been subjected to asset freezes and travel bans. Last month, the World Movement for Democracy reported on the government’s travel ban on Soliman, as well as her and her law firm’s assets being frozen. The investigative judge in Case #173 at the Cairo High Appeal Investigations ordered the asset freezes, and also submitted the arrest warrant against Soliman.

Last year, Egyptian authorities arrested Soliman and 16 other witnesses for providing evidence about the killing of the Egyptian protester Shaimaa al-Sabbagh. Though Soliman was charged with “protesting without notifying the authorities and disturbing public order,” she was later acquitted of all charges. Both of her arrests are indicative of the Egyptian government’s systematic crackdown on human rights in the country.

Arrest widely condemned

Since her arrest, Azza Soliman has received support from human rights activists and CSO’s in Egypt and abroad, and actions taken by the Egyptian authorities are being widely condemned. The crackdowns on CSO’s and human rights activists have been ongoing since President Sisi took office in June 2014, but many feel that the situation has escalated recently, with a new and stricter law regulating non-governmental organisations in Egypt also recently been passed in Parliament. All in all, the critical voices of civil society are under increased pressure.

Azza Soliman speaks at "100 Years of Women in Politics" conference in Denmark, June 2016

Azza Soliman speaks at “100 Years of Women in Politics” conference in Denmark, June 2016.

A strong voice

In June 2015, Azza Soliman took part in the international DIPD/KVINFO conference “100 Years of Women in Politics”. Here she gave an inspired presentation on the theme of political violence and women, where she drew on her vast experience with the work on women’s rights in Egypt. Through CEWLA, Azza Soliman has promoted the rights of women and marginalized groups in Egypt for more than 20 years, where her organisation has provided free legal, social and psychological services.

DIPD would like to express our support for Azza Soliman.

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