Posts Tagged Dr. Aida Seif El Dawla
One year on: Egyptian government shuts down country’s only rehabilitation centre for victims of torture
A year ago, we shared a story about how Egypt’s last remaining centre for the treatment and documentation of alleged torture victims was ordered to close by the Egyptian authorities. The reason given at the time was that the Nadeem Center for the Rehabilitation of Victims of Violence and Torture had ‘breached unspecified health ministry regulations’. Critics on the other hand labelled the order a crackdown on human rights organisations and defenders in the country.
Now El Nadeem has been closed after it allegedly violated terms of its licence. A few weeks ago, El Nadeem staff arrived at the centre to find that it had been sealed by police. According to the co-founder of the centre, Aida Seif el-Dawla, the building’s doorman was taken into police custody, but was later released.
Last year, when the centre was ordered to close, Aida Seif el-Dawla called the decision politically motivated. She said at the time that: “This is a political decision and it’s coming from the cabinet that represents all the actors that are keen on the survival of this regime, despite the oppression and the torture that the Egyptian people are living through on a daily basis.”
Not much has changed since then. Since President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi took office in June 2014, repression and shrinking of the public space has only increased, targeting the entire spectrum of human rights organisations, professional and labour associations, political activists, journalists and media.
In its 2017 World Report, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said that authorities continued to effectively ban protests and that police had arrested scores of people in connection with protests, many preemptively. What is more, HRW noted that authorities had also ordered travel bans and asset freezes against prominent human rights organisations.
Despite the constitution forbidding torture and the abuse of detainees, the practice is widespread in Egyptian prisons. Reports of torture and ill-treatment and enforced disappearances in Egypt are frequent, with El Nadeem consistently recording high numbers of allegations of police torture. In late 2015 the centre and other civil society organisations announced they were able to document 625 torture cases in Egyptian prisons.
In the wake of El Nadeem’s closure, international rights organisations, including the International Rehabilitation Council for Torture Victims (IRCT), of which El Nadeem is a member, have come out in support of the centre.
“El Nadeem provides crucial psychological support to torture victims and is a credible public voice when the Egyptian authorities try to silence the victims. We know from our members around the world that torture inflicts terrible damage to individuals, families and societies. El Nadeem performs a crucial societal function in promoting human rights and democracy and it is high time that all of us who believe in human rights and democracy take a close look at Egypt,” said Victor Madrigal-Borloz who is the Secretary-General of the IRCT.
Whether the government will eventually provide an explanation as to why it closed the centre remains to be seen. But one thing is clear: as long as the El Nadeem remains closed, torture victims in dire need of help are not able to receive the treatment they need.
Dr. Aida Seif El Dawla, founding member, psychiatrist, and human rights defender at Egyptian member centre El Nadeem, has been awarded the 2011 Alkarama Award for Human Rights Defenders.
The IRCT wishes to warmly congratulate Dr. Seif El Dawla for her much-deserved recognition from the international human rights community for her long and fervent work on behalf of the victims of torture and other human rights abuses.
“This prize is not the first or the last that the collective of El Nadeem receives,” said IRCT’s Middle East and North Africa regional coordinator Giorgio Caracciolo. “And yet a thousand prizes would not be enough to reward a life dedicated to human rights and people’s well-being after torture.”
For more than 30 years, Dr. Seif El Dawla has worked toward combating torture and investigating human rights abuses in Egypt, where she co-founded IRCT member El Nadeem Centre for Psychological Rehabilitation of Victims of Violence and Torture, the Egyptian Association Against Torture, and the New Women Research Center. She was previously recognized in 2003 by Human Rights Watch for their highest honour for global human rights defenders.
Please read the full statement from the IRCT here.
Also, our Middle East North Africa regional coordinator Giorgio Caracciolo, who is quoted in this story, offered up a much more lengthy quote that we would like to post in its entirety:
It is four years now that I have worked closely with Aida and the other incredible women that, for almost 20 years, have led El Nadeem Centre and the struggle against torture in Egypt. Working with Aida, Suzanne, Magda, Basma and the others (and the guys too!) has meant a lot to me not only on the professional level but also on the personal one. This prize is not the first or the last that the collective of El Nadeem receives, and yet a thousand prizes would not be enough to reward a life dedicated to human rights and people’s well-being after torture. But if a thousand prizes would not lift the burden left by the stories received from the hundreds and hundreds torture victims supported in the last decades; if a thousand prizes will not give them satisfaction for the work that they have done until torture is brought to a halt in Egypt – every prize has its own infinite importance as this is one of the few ways for us – as an international community – to acknowledge the immense value of the work done by El Nadeem in Egypt.
I have had the privilege to support them closely in the recent past, and I wish them all the strength to continue leading their work towards a Egypt without torture.