About us Home FAQ


  search HSJE site or the web


























About us Home FAQ


  search HSJE site or the web


























About us Home FAQ


  search HSJE site or the web


























About us Home FAQ


  search HSJE site or the web

























TITLE:  EGYPT HUMAN RIGHTS PRACTICES, 1993                             
DATE:  JANUARY 31, 1994


According to its Constitution, Egypt is a social democracy in 
which Islam is the state religion.  In July the People's 
Assembly reelected President Hosni Mubarak, who was unopposed, 
to a third 6-year term by a 439 to 7 margin.  In accordance 
with the Constitution, Mubarak's election was put to a popular 
referendum in October in which he received more than 96 percent 
of the votes cast.  The President appoints the Cabinet, which 
is responsible to him.  The National Democratic Party (NDP) has 
been in power since its establishment in 1978.  It commands 
large majorities in the popularly elected People's Assembly and 
the Shura (consultative) Council.  One opposition party is 
represented in the People's Assembly; others boycotted the 
previous People's Assembly election in 1990 and are not 

There are two security services under the Ministry of 
Interior:  the General Directorate for State Security 
Investigations (GDSSI), which conducts investigations and 
interrogates detainees, and the Central Security Force (CSF), 
which enforces curfews and bans on public demonstrations and 
conducts paramilitary operations against alleged terrorists.  
Both the GDSSI and CSF have been implicated in many reports of 
torture and other abuses of prisoners and detainees.
Egypt has a mixed economy dominated by an inefficient public 
sector.  Under an ongoing economic structural adjustment 
program, Egypt has reduced or eliminated subsidies on consumer 
goods, agricultural inputs, energy, and services and has 
liberalized the currency and capital markets.  The Government 
is moving slowly to restructure or privatize many state-owned 
companies.  Low economic growth rates and a growing population 
have contributed to a decline in real per capita income in each 
year since 1988.

The Constitution provides for various human rights, including a 
multiparty political system, regular elections, the rule of 
law, an independent judiciary, freedom of opinion, and the 
right to peaceable assembly; a number of them are limited in 
practice, and there are many other serious abuses.  The human 
rights situation continued to deteriorate in 1993 as a result 
of actions by terrorist groups, the Government, and nonviolent 
Islamic activists.  Egypt's security services and terrorist 
groups continued to be locked in a cycle of violence.  
Terrorist groups attacked government officials, security 
forces, Egyptian Christians, and foreign tourists.  Many 
innocent bystanders died in terrorist attacks.  The Government 
also perpetrated many abuses, including the arbitrary arrest 
and torture of hundreds of detainees, the use of military 
courts to try accused terrorists, the failure to punish 
officials responsible for torture, infractions committed under 
the Emergency Law, the harassment of journalists, and the 
Government's attempt to gain greater control over civil 
society.  Although most of the arbitrary arrests, detentions 
without trial, and torture were perpetrated on suspected 
members of terrorist groups, the police also victimized 
nonviolent Islamic activists and ordinary citizens.  In 1993 
actions by nonviolent Islamic activists posed a danger to the 
freedom of expression.  The NDP dominates the political scene 
to such an extent that, as a practical matter, Egyptians do not 
have a meaningful ability to change their government.  Women 
and Egyptian Christians face discrimination based on tradition 
and some aspects of the law.


Section 1  Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including 
           Freedom from:

     a.  Political and Other Extrajudicial Killing

In 1993 at least 12 persons died from injuries allegedly 
sustained while in police custody.  It was also learned in 1993 
that another person, Ahmed Hamido Al-Sawi, reportedly died 
under torture in December 1992.  The Government has not 
adequately investigated or publicly explained these deaths.  
According to the Egyptian Organization for Human Rights (EOHR), 
medical reports released on deceased detainees in 1993 fail to 
note the origins, and even the existence, of scars in alleged 
torture cases.  Seven of the deceased were reportedly suspected 
Islamists:  Mohamed Gomaa and Abdul Satar Abdullah who died in 
August; Ahmed Farouk Ali, Bahaa Abdel Raouf, Eissa Taher 
El-Bishari, and Ahmed Abdel Rahman who died in September; and 
El-Mohammadi Mohamed Morsi who died in October.  Delegations 
from the United States raised this and other human rights 
issues in a continuing dialog with top Egyptian officials.

According to the Islamist newspaper Al-Shaab, Mohamed Gomaa 
died under torture at Tora prison.  According to Ministry of 
Interior officials, Ahmed Farouk Ali, 27, died of a heart 
attack at the State Security headquarters in Cairo on September 
2 after 1 day in police custody.  Ahmed was arrested for his 
alleged role in the failed assassination attempt on Interior 
Minister Al-Alfi in August.  A preliminary report issued by the 
Ministry of Interior's Directorate of Health Affairs stated 
that Ali's body had "several bruises on the face and death 
occurred as a result of failure in heart and respiratory 
functions."  However, the final report issued in November 
stated that death was not due to physical abuse, but "occurred 
due to normal reasons."

The five other persons who died are not believed to have any 
connections to Islamist groups.  They are:  Mahmoud Hussein 
Mohamed who died in May from injuries sustained during 
interrogation by security forces (see Section 1.c.); Abdel 
Gayed Sayed Abdel Gayed who also died in May; Emad Saad 
El-Hawashi who died in September; and Effat Mohamed and Hosni 
Salah Sayed who died in October.

In addition to the 12 persons cited above, at least 4 other 
persons died after allegedly jumping from windows or stairwells 
to escape arrest or avoid giving information to the police.  
These include Haithem Abdel Sabour Kahlaf; Ahmed Kahlaf; Eissa 
Taher Suleiman, who allegedly jumped from a window at the Aswan 
Security Directorate headquarters in April; and Ahmed Abdel 
Halim, who allegedly jumped from the top of an apartment 
building stairwell in October while under police escort.

At least 201 people were killed in civil unrest in 1993, the 
highest recorded level since 1981.  Security forces killed at 
least 63 suspected terrorists and an undetermined number of 
bystanders.  A number of the deaths caused by security forces 
appeared to result from an excessive use of lethal force.  In 
March security forces surrounded a mosque in Aswan and opened 
fire with automatic weapons after the worshipers inside refused 
to depart.  At least nine persons inside the mosque were killed 
in what was reportedly a one-sided exchange of fire.  Also in 
March, security forces conducted several raids on the homes of 
alleged terrorists in the Cairo area, killing 9 persons, 
including the wife and child of an alleged terrorist, as well 
as a raid in Assiyut city in which they killed 10 alleged 
terrorists.  The three assaults in March occurred only a few 
days after the murder of police officers by terrorists, 
suggesting a retaliatory motive behind at least part of the 
cycle of violence.  After assuming office in April, Minister of 
Interior Hassan Al-Alfi deemphasized mass arrests and 
large-scale police raids on alleged terrorist strongholds.

A majority of the deaths resulting from civil unrest in 1993 
were caused by terrorist groups.  Terrorists killed at least 83 
members of the security forces and 54 civilians.  At least 26 
of the civilians died in terrorist bombings.  As they have in 
recent years, terrorists also continued to attack Egyptian 
Christians.  They murdered at least nine Coptic residents of 
Assiyut Governorate, including physicians, students and Ibrahim 
Hana, a village official.  They also burned churches and other 
properties owned by Copts.

Terrorist groups claimed responsibility for the attempted 
assassination of Prime Minister Atef Sedky in November; the 
attempted assassination in August of Interior Minister Hassan 
Al-Alfi; the assassination in August of Qena Governorate Deputy 
Director of Security Brigadier General Abdel Halim Ghobara, his 
driver, and bodyguard; the attempted assassination in July of 
Army General Othman Shahine in Cairo; the assassination in 
April of Assiyut Governorate Deputy Director of Security 
Brigadier General Mohamed Abdel Latif El-Shimi, his bodyguard, 
and driver; and the attempted assassination in April of the 
Information Minister Safwat Al-Sherif.

     b.  Disappearance

There were no reports of new disappearances in 1993, but three 
cases dating from 1988, 1989, and 1990 remain unsolved.

     c.  Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading 
         Treatment or Punishment

Although the Penal Code prohibits the use of torture to obtain 
a confession, there is convincing evidence that police and 
security forces systematically practice torture.  Such a 
determination was made in August when a state security court 
found that all 27 defendants tried for the October 1990 
assassination of People's Assembly Speaker Rifaat Al-Mahgoub 
were tortured while in custody.  The court acquitted 17 
defendants of all charges but sentenced 10 to prison on related 
charges.  The presiding judge found that security forces used 
"hideous methods to extract confessions."  However, no action 
was taken to punish the officials responsible for the torture.

In September a military court ordered the release from 
detention of Sami Salamah Abdel Mumin, one of 35 defendants in 
a trial of alleged terrorists.  The court decision was based on 
a complaint by Abdel Mumin that both his feet were crippled and 
his kidneys injured by physical abuse committed by security 
officers while he was in police custody.

Mahmoud Hussein, 45, died in May several days after his release 
from police custody, reportedly owing to injuries sustained 
during interrogation by security forces for his alleged 
connection with terrorist groups.  The Government stated that 
it was investigating the case, but at year's end there had been 
no public statement.

The Government generally investigates torture complaints in 
cases involving persons arrested for common crimes and has 
punished offending officers.  However, the Government does not 
adequately investigate torture complaints in cases involving 
detainees in political or religious cases.  There is no public 
record that offending officers in such cases are punished, thus 
suggesting that the Government tacitly condones the 
mistreatment of those it considers to be opponents.

Officers of the Interior Ministry's GDSSI are known to practice 
torture on both alleged terrorists and nonviolent Islamists.  
Torture, which takes place in police stations, at GDSSI 
offices, and at CSF camps, is used to extract information, 
coerce the victims to end their antigovernment activities, and 
deter others from such activities.

Torture victims are usually taken to GDSSI offices where they 
are handcuffed, blindfolded, and questioned about their 
associations, religious beliefs, and political views.  Victims 
have reported the following torture methods:  During 
interrogation, detainees are frequently stripped to their 
underwear; hung by their wrists with their feet touching the 
floor, hung upside down, or forced to stand for prolonged 
periods; doused with hot and cold water; beaten; forced to 
stand outdoors in cold weather; and subjected to electric 
shocks.  Some victims in 1993, including female detainees, 
reported that they were threatened with rape.

As many as 10 days may elapse from the date of arrest until 
detainees enter the penal system.  During that period, 
detainees are usually held at GDSSI offices where they are 
questioned and often tortured.  The security forces do not 
acknowledge any detention during that period, pointing to the 
lack of any documentary proof of arrest.  The lack of written 
records during the early days of arrest invites the abuse of 
detainees and frustrates investigations into torture 
complaints.  The Government denies that such "temporary 
disappearances" occur and maintains that all arrests are 
conducted with warrants and that written records are always 
kept on the whereabouts of detainees.

Moreover, the security forces sometimes transfer detainees from 
prisons to other facilities where they are interrogated, 
tortured, and then returned to prison.  No written records are 
kept on such transfers.

To pressure fugitives to surrender, security forces have taken 
their relatives, including minors and female family members, 
into custody.  An undetermined number of such detainees have 
been physically abused while in custody.

Persons arrested for ordinary criminal offenses are commonly 
mistreated by the local police.  Mohamed Ali Mohamed Ali, 38, 
arrested in January for car theft, was allegedly hung by his 
wrists for extended periods and beaten with a stick while in 
police custody.  An investigating officer allegedly injected a 
mixture of water and human waste into his leg, causing 
gangrene.  On October 17 Ali appeared in court on a stretcher 
and told the judge that the police had injected his leg with 
feces after he refused to confess to several car thefts.  The 
court acquitted Ali on one charge of car theft but sentenced 
him to 6 months on other charges.  At year's end, there had 
been no public record of any investigation into Ali's alleged 

     d.  Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile

Arbitrary arrest and detention are widely practiced against 
alleged terrorists and others thought to threaten national 
security.  However, in some mass arrest operations, security 
forces have subjected villages to collective punishments, so 
that many persons with no association with terrorist groups 
have been taken into custody.  Such arrests and detentions are 
conducted under the State of Emergency, which has been in 
effect since President Anwar Sadat's assassination in 1981.  
The present Emergency Law is scheduled to expire on June 30, 

Under the Emergency Law, the Interior Minister may detain a 
person without indictment for 90 days.  Detention orders are 
issued by public prosecutors who have limited powers to commit 
individuals to confinement.  Some detainees are not allowed to 
inform their relatives of their detention, and access to legal 
counsel has been delayed.  In theory, those arrested under the 
Emergency Law should be indicted or released within 90 days.  
In practice, the Government often simply writes a new detention 
order for those whose release has been ordered by a court--in 
effect continuing to detain them without due process for 
prolonged periods.  However, most detainees are released much 
sooner, after interrogation.  Under the Emergency Law, there is 
a continuous flow of new arrests and releases from detention.

Under ordinary criminal procedure, arrested persons are charged 
with violations of specific laws, have the right to a judicial 
determination of the legality of arrest, and should be formally 
charged within 48 hours of arrest or be released.  Arrests 
under this procedure occur openly and with warrants issued by a 
district prosecutor or a judge.  There is a system of bail.  
However, the regular Penal Code also gives the State wide 
detention powers.  State prosecutors may obtain court orders to 
detain persons for 45 days and to confine them for up to 6 
months to complete investigations.  Detainees are often 
released without explanation or acknowledgement that charges 
have been dropped.

The Penal Code contains several provisions to combat terrorist 
violence.  These provisions broadly define terrorism to include 
the acts of "spreading panic" and "obstructing the work of 
authorities," allow the police to hold suspects for 24 hours 
before obtaining arrest warrants, and prescribe the death 
penalty for persons found guilty of terrorism and life 
imprisonment for membership in a terrorist group.  

Egyptian human rights monitors estimate that about 140 
Palestinians were in detention during the third quarter of 
1993.  Many entered Egypt illegally from the Israeli-occupied 
territories.  Others are legally resident in Egypt and are 
under investigation for alleged political activities.  Some 
Palestinian detainees reportedly have been tortured.

There are no reliable statistics on the number of persons in 
detention.  Observers estimate that at the end of 1993, 3,000 
persons were in detention under the Emergency Law, many for 
political reasons.

     e.  Denial of Fair Public Trial

Although the judiciary in recent years has exercised 
considerable independence and has sometimes upheld defendants' 
constitutional rights against acts of abuse by executive branch 
officials, the Government has used its powers under the 
Emergency Law to use military courts to create "emergency" 
state security courts (civilian and military) to try suspected 
terrorists, thus circumventing the regular courts.  Trials in 
such state security courts do not meet international standards 
for fair trial (see below).

There are three levels of regular civilian criminal courts: 
primary courts, appeals courts, and the Court of Cassation, the 
final stage of criminal appeal.  There is also a Supreme 
Constitutional Court, but its jurisdiction is limited to 
constitutional challenges.  It does not hear criminal appeals.  
There are no juries.  Criminal cases are heard by panels of 
three judges.  Most trials are public.

There are three sets of special courts for criminal cases:  
civilian and military state security courts and the courts of 
ethics.  The state security courts have jurisdiction over 
serious offenses such as armed insurrection.  They are divided 
into upper and lower divisions.

Trials in a civilian state security court are heard by three 
judges, but two military officers may be added by presidential 
decree to the upper division.  Defendants before a civilian 
state security court may be indicted under the Penal Code or 
the Emergency Law.  When an indictment is handed down under the 
Emergency Law, the court is designated an emergency state 
security court.

A defendant has no judicial appeal from an emergency state 
security court.  However, he may file an appeal for clemency 
from the President--or the Prime Minister, acting on powers 
delegated by the President--who is empowered to amend, commute, 
or cancel decisions or order a retrial.  These powers mean that 
acquittals, as well as convictions and sentences, may be 
canceled and the defendant retried for the same offense.

In 1993 the Government subpoenaed Omar Abdel Rahman and 48 of 
his alleged followers for retrial on charges related to their 
alleged roles in a 1989 antigovernment riot.  An emergency  
state security court had acquitted the defendants of all 
charges in 1990, but the acquittals were never ratified by the 
Prime Minister, who subsequently ordered the defendants retried 
on grounds that the Court had committed several procedural 

In 1993 the Government used military state security courts to 
try civilian defendants accused of terrorist acts or of 
belonging to terrorist organizations, claiming that civilian 
trials were too lengthy and civilian judges too susceptible to 
intimidation under the current "exceptional circumstances."  
These courts are comprised of three military officers.  The 
presiding judge usually has general officer rank.  In January 
the Supreme Constitutional Court upheld the use of military 
courts to try civilian cases.  It ruled that the President of 
the Republic, acting under powers in the Emergency Law, is 
authorized to refer any crime to a military court.

According to Egyptian military sources, at least 446 civilian 
defendants accused of committing terrorist acts, or belonging 
to terrorist organizations, have been tried in military courts 
since late 1992.  Most defendants were tried in groups ranging 
in size from as few as 8 to as many as 65 persons, but many 
suspected terrorists were tried individually.  The military 
courts reportedly acquitted 205 defendants, sentenced 177 to 
less than 5-year terms, 26 to more than 5-year terms, and 38 to 

The Government maintains that the civilian defendants receive 
fair trials in the military courts.  It argues that all 
military judges have the same legal training as judges in the 
civilian courts; defense attorneys are accorded sufficient time 
to review the prosecution's files and inspect the State's 
evidence; trials are conducted under the same procedures used 
in civilian courts; defense attorneys have the right to 
cross-examine and to call any witness; military judges apply 
only the Penal Code in trying cases involving civilian 
defendants--no civilian defendant is subject to military law or 
military punishments; there are adequate safeguards against the 
admission of confessions obtained under duress; defense 
attorneys are appointed by the Bar Association at state expense 
for indigent defendants; verdicts are reviewed by two panels of 
military judges, who examine the trial procedures before the 
verdicts are forwarded to the President for ratification; and 
all defendants have a constitutional right to appeal for 
clemency from the President.

However, the military courts do not afford the defendants due 
process before an independent tribunal.  The military courts 
are less independent than the civilian judiciary, as the judges 
and prosecutors are both part of the State's executive 
authority.  The military judges do not appear to grant defense 
attorneys adequate access to case files or time to meet with 
defendants; they tend to rush complex cases with many 
defendants so that most cases are tried within 6 weeks.  
Moreover, as with the civilian emergency state security courts, 
defendants in military court trials do not have the right of 
judicial appeal.  Sentences and trial procedures are reexamined 
by military review panels, although the defendants may appeal 
to the President of the Republic.  Finally, there is no 
information that the large numbers of defendants acquitted in 
recent military trials have been released from prison.

The court of ethics hears cases falling under Law 95 of 1980 
which makes illegal such activities as "endangering the public 
safety," inciting youth "to depart from religious values and 
loyalty to the fatherland," and denying the three "heavenly 
religions."  It has an upper and lower division.  The ethics 
courts allow nonjurists to try cases.  In recent years, the 
ethics courts have been used relatively infrequently to try 
"economic crimes" such as corruption and drug trafficking.  An 
ethics court conviction denies the defendant the right to 
engage in certain occupations or activities.

A person may be tried in a state security court and an ethics 
court on similar indictments:  in the former for criminal 
offenses and in the latter for the financial gains associated 
with those offenses.

In the regular civilian court system, the President appoints 
all judges based on nominations from the Higher Judicial 
Council, a constitutional body designed to ensure the 
independence of the judiciary.  The Council is composed of 
senior judges, lawyers, and law professors, and is chaired by 
the President of the Court of Cassation.  It regulates judicial 
promotions, salaries, transfers, and disciplinary actions.  In 
practice, however, the Minister of Justice, an executive branch 
officer, has considerable influence over judicial appointments 
and transfers.  Judges may be appointed as prosecutors and vice 

In recent years, the judiciary has exercised considerable 
independence from the executive branch.  Judges on occasion 
have ordered inquests into torture cases; acquitted defendants 
in cases where confessions were extracted by torture; 
challenged the ban on workers' strikes; defended the right to 
nonviolent ideological opinion; overturned bans on prohibited 
political parties; and overturned an election law that 
discriminated against independent candidates and dissolved the 
People's Assembly elected under that law.

There are no reliable statistics on the number of convicted 
political prisoners.

     f.  Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or 

There continued to be substantial abridgment, under the 
Emergency Law, of constitutional provisions regarding the right 
to privacy.  In theory, police must obtain warrants before 
undertaking searches and wiretaps, and courts have dismissed 
cases in which warrants were issued without sufficient cause.  
Police officials who conduct searches without proper warrants 
are subject to criminal penalties, although these are seldom 
imposed.  The Emergency Law, however, empowers the state to 
search persons or places without warrants.

Intelligence agencies and security services frequently place 
political activists, suspected subversives, journalists, and 
writers under surveillance, screen their correspondence 
(especially international mail), search them and their homes, 
and confiscate personal property.

Section 2  Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

     a.  Freedom of Speech and Press

The Constitution provides for freedom of speech and the press, 
and to a large extent the Government refrains from curtailing 
political expression.  Egyptians openly express their views on 
a wide range of political and social issues, including vigorous 
criticism of the Government, without fear of retribution.  
Nevertheless, there are some limitations on the freedom of 
speech and press.  The Prime Minister and the Cabinet are often 
targets of criticism, but the press law stipulates fines or 
imprisonment for criticism of the President or a foreign head 
of state.  In recent years, however, journalists have, within 
limits, criticized the President without harassment, although 
he may not be satirized in cartoons.

Most major dailies are government owned, their editors in chief 
appointed by the President, and generally follow the government 
line.  Nevertheless, criticism of government policies is 
frequently found in the government-owned press.

The opposition newspapers are associated with political 
parties.  Most are weeklies with small circulations, except the 
centrist daily Al-Wafd and the smaller Islamist semiweekly 
Al-Shaab.  They give greater prominence to human rights abuses 
in Egypt than do state-run newspapers.  The opposition press is 
independent but is printed and distributed by a government-
owned publishing house.

The Government influences the press in several ways.  It 
controls the right to publish through its power to license 
newspapers.  The Higher Press Council, chaired by the Speaker 
of the Shura Council, has the power to approve applications for 
new publications.  Most members of the Higher Press Council are 
close to the ruling National Democratic Party and are inclined 
to follow the Government's lead.

In 1993 there was a pattern of government interference with 
freedom of expression, including the arrest or harassment of 
Egyptian journalists, the increased harassment of foreign 
journalists, and the confiscation of printed material from the 
market.  In June a prominent journalist, Mohamed Sid Ahmed, was 
called in for questioning for several hours regarding 
statements attributed to him in a U.S. newspaper on the morale 
in the Egyptian armed forces.  At the same time, a retired army 
general, employed as a military affairs analyst at a 
government-affiliated institution, was detained for 6 days for 
statements about the Egyptian armed forces attributed to him in 
the same article.  Neither was charged with any crime, however.

In October security forces arrested and detained overnight the 
Chairman and Vice Chairman of the Socialist Labor Party (SLP), 
Adel Hussein and Mohamed Helmy Murad, and two journalists for 
Al-Shaab, the SLP's newspaper, Salah Bedeiwy and Ali 
Al-Qammash.  The four were reportedly questioned by state 
prosecutors about publishing articles in Al-Shaab that 
allegedly harmed Egypt's national interests, spread extremist 
views, insulted President Mubarak, and accused the Government 
of rigging the October 4 national presidential referendum.  The 
Government did not file any charges.  In October the Government 
also proposed amending the Press Law in a way that would give 
the Government greater control over membership in the 
journalists' syndicate, thus impairing the independence of 
Egypt's journalists, who must be licensed by the syndicate.  
Many journalists objected to the proposal, and in November the 
Government quietly shelved the proposal in exchange for a 
"review of the profession" to be undertaken by the journalists' 

Foreign journalists in Egypt reported a pattern of increased 
harassment from government security forces.  Several 
journalists were summoned for questioning, reportedly because 
of government concern that their reporting on internal events 
has damaged Egypt's reputation.

State-owned television and radio are more limited in the news 
they cover than are newspapers.  Criticisms of government 
policies and reporting on human rights abuses are almost never 
broadcast on radio and television.  Political parties do not 
have access to broadcast facilities even during election 

Books and works of art may be confiscated or banned by decree 
of various ministries without a court order.  The Ministry of 
Interior regularly confiscates leaflets and other works by 
Islamic fundamentalists.  In 1993 it prevented the public sale 
of audio cassette tapes by some Islamic preachers whose 
preachings were considered to foment sectarian strife.  
Activists are frequently arrested and detained for distributing 
antigovernment pamphlets.  In 1993 military courts convicted a 
number of activists for possessing antigovernment printed 
material and sentenced them to prison terms.  In August the 
Minister of Interior barred the public sale of "Omar Abdel 
Rahman, the Earthquake That Shook the World," a book printed in 

The Ministry of Defense may ban works about sensitive security 
issues.  Plays and films must pass Ministry of Culture 
censorship tests as scripts and as final productions.  In April 
the Ministry of Culture censored several scenes containing 
amorous embraces in Albert Farag's "Divorce Wedding," a play 
produced at the American University in Cairo.  The Ministry of 
Culture also censors foreign films.  Censors ensure that 
foreign films made in Egypt portray Egypt in a favorable 
light.  Censors review scripts before filming, are present 
during filming, and have the right to review the film before it 
is sent out of Egypt.

The Ministry of Information censors television productions and 
foreign news publications.  In 1993 the Ministry impounded, or 
otherwise prevented the sale of, some issues of a number of 
foreign publications.  The Ministry does not usually inform the 
management of foreign publications of the reasons for 
impoundment.  In October state prosecutors ordered the 
confiscation of "No to Mubarak's Reelection," a book published 
by the Socialist Labor Party.

The Islamic research association at Al-Azhar University has 
legal authority to censor the publication of the Koran and 
Islamic scriptural texts.  In recent years, however, Al-Azhar 
has passed judgments on the suitability of nonreligious books 
and artistic productions.  Although these pronouncements do not 
have the force of law, the Egyptian publishing industry usually 
complies with Al-Azhar pronouncements and does not publish or 
distribute works deemed offensive by Al-Azhar authorities.  For 
years, Al-Azhar has banned the sale of "The Children of 
Gebelawi," a 1959 novel by Egypt's Nobel laureate, Nagib 
Mahfouz.  In 1993 al-Azhar banned at least three works:  the 
complete works of antifundamentalist writer Farag Foda, who was 
assassinated in 1992; "Creations of Flying Passions," a novel 
by Christian author Edward Kharrat; and a collection of poems 
by Muslim author Hasan Talab.  In January President Mubarak 
signaled his public approval of Al-Azhar's censorship role, 
stating "when Al-Azhar renders an opinion (on censorship) it is 
expressing our adherence to our faith.  Thus we cannot dictate 
to Al-Azhar what it should do."

The Government does not impinge on academic freedoms at 
universities.  However, the growth of Islamist influence in the 
education system poses a threat to civil liberties.  In April 
an Arabic language professor at Cairo University, Nasr Abu 
Zeid, was denied promotion to full professorship because a 
promotion panel found that his writings on the origin of the 
Koran were heretical.  In June a group of Islamist lawyers 
acting as private individuals petitioned a court to dissolve 
Abu Zeid's marriage to his wife Ebtehal Younes.  The 
petitioners claimed that Abu Zeid's writings are heretical and 
thus, as an apostate, he legally could not be permitted to 
remain married to a Muslim woman.  The case was still in 
progress at the end of 1993.

In June an Islamic preacher, Shaykh Mohamed Al-Ghazali, 
testified in court that any Muslim who objects to the 
imposition of Islamic law effectively rejects his faith and is 
an "apostate."  The Shaykh added that any Muslim who kills an 
apostate has carried out the legitimate punishment prescribed 
by Islamic law and should be treated with leniency.  Al-Ghazali 
was called to testify as a friendly witness for suspected 
terrorists on trial for the 1992 murder of antifundamentalist 
writer Farag Foda.  His remarks were interpreted by many 
Egyptian intellectuals to condone the murder of secularists who 
are deemed apostates.

     b.  Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

There continue to be substantial restrictions on this freedom.  
Under the Emergency Law, Interior Ministry approval is required 
for public meetings, rallies, and protest marches.  Permits are 
generally granted for indoor rallies and those restricted to 
university campuses.

The Ministry of Social Affairs has the authority to license and 
dissolve "private organizations."  Licenses may be revoked if 
such organizations engage in political or religious activities.

Since 1985 the Government has refused to license as private 
organizations the Egyptian Organization for Human Rights (EOHR) 
and the Arab Organization for Human Rights (AOHR) on grounds 
that they are political organizations.  Both continue to 
operate openly (see Section 4).  However, in August the 
Interior Ministry prevented EOHR officials from convening 
meetings with their local chapter members in several towns in 
southern Egypt.

In 1993 the People's Assembly approved a new law governing the 
activities of professional associations.  The law stipulates 
that no association may elect a governing board without a 
quorum of 50 percent of its general membership.  If the quorum 
is not met, another election is scheduled in which 33 percent 
of the membership are required to elect the board.  Failing 
that quorum, the judiciary is authorized to appoint a caretaker 
governing board until new elections can be organized.  The law 
was adopted to prevent further gains in the professional 
associations by Islamist candidates who had done well in 
elections with low voter turnouts.

     c.  Freedom of Religion

Although the Constitution provides for this freedom, there are 
important limitations.  Islam is the state religion.  Most 
Egyptians are Muslim, but approximately 10 per cent of the 
population, 5 million people, belong to the Coptic Orthodox 
Church, the largest Christian minority in the Middle East.

There are other small Christian denominations.  The small 
Jewish community practices its religion without harassment.  
Members of recognized religions maintain links with 
coreligionists abroad.  The foreign clergy pursue their 
ministries without harassment, but all non-Muslims are barred 
from proselytizing.  In 1993 four Westerners were detained for 
more than 2 months and then expelled for proselytizing Muslims.

Islam accepts Christian and other converts, but Muslims face 
legal problems if they convert to another faith.  There is no 
clear legal prohibition against conversion or proselytizing, 
but the Penal Code prohibits any person from "degrading or 
disdaining any of the holy religions or any of its religious 
sects" with "the intention of harming national unity and social 
peace."  This is interpreted as forbidding the conversion of 
Muslims.  Conviction is punishable by imprisonment.

In the past, state security forces have harassed, detained for 
prolonged periods, and sometimes tortured Egyptian Christians 
for proselytizing Muslims.  In August the state security police 
arrested Kamel Soliman Badr, 36, a lay member of a Cairo church 
for printing or photocopying booklets containing the 
testimonies of Egyptian Muslims who have converted to 
Christianity.  Badr was officially charged with the 
abovementioned Penal Code offense.

Egyptian courts have upheld the principle that Muslims may not 
change their identity papers to reflect their conversion to a 
new religion.  As a consequence, married male converts from 
Islam must register their children as Muslims, as the law 
considers them Muslims.

An 1856 Ottoman decree still in force requires non-Muslims to 
obtain what is now a presidential decree to build or repair a 
place of worship.  Coptic Christians maintain they are 
frequently unable to obtain such authorization.  As a result, 
some communities use private buildings and apartments for 
religious services.  However, in 1992 and 1993 the Government 
increased the number of building permits issued to Christian 
communities to an average of more than 20 a year, compared to 
the average of 5 permits a year issued in the 1980's.  Most 
permits appear to be for the repair of existing structures and 
not for construction of new churches.  Christian and Muslim 
reformers urge the abolition of the Ottoman decree, but Islamic 
fundamentalists defend the building restrictions.

In theory, mosques must also be licensed by the Government.  
The Penal Code prohibits using a place of worship for 
antigovernment speeches, and the Ministry of Religious Affairs 
proposes themes and monitors sermons.  In practice, the 
Government cannot control all sermons, especially at 
"unauthorized" mosques where sermons sometimes invoke 
antigovernment, anti-Christian, and anti-Western themes.  The 
Government continued its efforts to bring private mosques under 
its administrative control as a means to counter extremism.  In 
recent years, the police have closed several unlicensed 
churches and mosques, although others continue in operation.

     d.  Freedom of Movement Within the Country, Foreign 
         Travel, Emigration, and Repatriation

There is freedom to travel within Egypt except in certain 
military areas.  Egyptian males who have not completed 
compulsory military service may not travel abroad or emigrate, 
although this restriction can be circumvented.  Unmarried women 
under 21 must have permission from their fathers to obtain 
passports; married women require permission from their 
husbands.  Citizens who leave the country have the right to 
return.  In October the Government discontinued the practice of 
requiring a special travel permit, issued by the Ministry of 
Interior, for Egyptian citizens to visit Israel.

In recent years, the Government has denied permission to 
Christian converts from Islam to travel abroad.  In a recent 
case, police arrested a convert to Christianity at Cairo 
airport and prevented her from boarding a flight to Europe.  
The Government also sometimes prevents travel for political 
reasons.  In March security forces prevented Faten, the second 
wife of Omar Abdel Rahman, from departing Egypt for a 
pilgrimage to Mecca.

The deportation of Egyptian citizens and aliens granted 
political asylum is prohibited and not practiced.  Egypt is 
host to thousands of refugees, but only a few are granted the 
right to resettle in Egypt.  In the past, some Ethiopians and 
other Africans, who seek documentation as refugees by the 
United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, have been 
detained by the police and transported to areas near the Libyan 
or Sudanese borders where they are released.  Some have 
returned to their countries; others have found their way back 
to Egyptian cities.

Section 3  Respect for Political Rights:  The Right of Citizens 
           to Change Their Government

The ruling National Democratic Party (NDP) dominates the 
454-seat People's Assembly, the Shura Council, local 
governments, the mass media, labor, the large public sector, 
and the licensing of new political parties, newspapers, and 
private organizations to such an extent that, as a practical 
matter, Egyptians do not have a meaningful ability to change 
the national government.

In 1993 President Hosni Mubarak was elected unopposed to a 
third 6-year term by the People's Assembly.  In October 
Mubarak's reelection was submitted to the public in a national 
referendum in which 96 percent of the voters approved it.  The 
Government claimed that 86 percent of the electorate went to 
the polls, although the actual figure was believed to be much 
lower.  Under Egypt's electoral system, the electorate was not 
presented with a choice among competing presidential 
candidates; it was offered the opportunity only to vote for or 
against Mubarak's reelection.  Two opposition parties, the Wafd 
and the Islamist-affiliated Socialist Labor Party, urged the 
public to boycott the referendum, and two other parties, the 
leftist Tagammu and the Nasserist, urged the public to vote 
against Mubarak.  The other opposition parties endorsed 
Mubarak's candidacy.

In the 1990 People's Assembly election, NDP candidates won 383 
seats of 444 elected, independents won 55, and a leftist party 
won 6.  Seven opposition parties boycotted the election.  

Women and Copts generally do not hold positions of senior 
leadership in the Government or political parties.  The 
Constitution reserves 10 Assembly seats for presidential 
appointees, which assures some representation for Copts and 
women.  Ten women hold Assembly seats:  seven elected and three 
appointed.  Five Copts sit in the Assembly:  one elected and 
four appointed.

The Assembly debates government proposals, and members exercise 
their authority to call Cabinet ministers to explain policy, 
but the legislature does not have sufficient authority to 
challenge or restrain the executive.  Many executive branch 
initiatives and policies are carried out by ministerial decree 
without significant legislative oversight.

Presidential appointments do not require legislative approval; 
the executive initiates almost all legislation; the Assembly 
may not modify the budget except with the Government's 
approval; and there is little oversight of the Interior 
Ministry's use of Emergency Law powers.  The military budget is 
prepared by the executive and not debated publicly.  Roll-call 
votes in the Assembly are rare.  Votes are generally reported 
in aggregate terms of yea's and nay's, and thus constituents 
have no independent method of checking a member's voting record.

There are 12 recognized opposition parties.  New parties must 
be approved by the Parties Committee, a semiofficial body 
dominated by the ruling National Democratic Party.  To form a 
party without a license is a felony.  In 1993 the Committee did 
not grant registration to any new political party.  However, in 
June an administrative court ordered the Committee to issue a 
license to the Social Justice Party.  A court also reinstated 
the former leadership of the Young Egypt Party.  In January a 
court upheld the ban on the Awakening Party, claiming the 
party's program includes soliciting funds outside Egypt, an 
activity prohibited by law.

The law prohibits political parties based on religion.  
Nevertheless, Muslim Brotherhood partisans are active.  Some 
have served in the Assembly as independents or members of other 
recognized parties.

Section 4  Governmental Attitude Regarding International and 
           Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations 
           of Human Rights

There are no officially recognized local human rights 
organizations.  The Government refuses to license them as 
"private organizations" (see Section 2.b.) on the grounds that 
they are political organizations.  Nevertheless, the Egyptian 
Organization for Human Rights (EOHR) and the associated Arab 
Organization for Human Rights (AOHR) operate openly.  EOHR's 
field workers visit prisons and call on government offices.  
Both the EOHR and AOHR have challenged the ruling on their 
legal status in the courts.  In 1993 the Government did not 
interfere with EOHR's relocation to larger offices in Cairo and 
did not interfere with its receiving money from abroad.

In February an EOHR official was stopped and questioned by 
security forces while accompanying a representative from the 
U.S.-based Middle East Watch (MEW) on a fact-finding mission in 
southern Egypt.  In August the Ministry of Interior prevented 
EOHR officials from holding meetings in several southern 
Egyptian towns.

In May Amnesty International released a report on human rights 
abuses related to the Government's antiterrorist campaign.  The 
Government issued an official response asserting that terrorism 
requires the imposition of emergency laws; that cases of abuse 
occur in Egypt, but they are few and should not obscure Egypt's 
record of respect for human rights; and that the human rights 
record of any country should not be based on exceptional cases 
but on a comprehensive study of the country's social, cultural, 
political realities.

Section 5  Discrimination Based on Race, Sex, Religion, 
           Disability, Language, or Social Status


Egyptian law provides for equality of the sexes, but aspects of 
the law and many traditional practices discriminate against 
women.  Under Egyptian law, only males can transmit Egyptian 
citizenship.  In rare cases, this means that children born to 
Egyptian mothers and stateless fathers are themselves stateless.

Laws affecting marriage and personal status generally 
correspond to an individual's religion, which for most 
Egyptians is Islam.  A 1979 liberalization of the family status 
law strengthened a Muslim woman's rights to divorce and to 
child custody, but in 1985 the changes were found 
unconstitutional on grounds they conflicted with Islamic law 
and were repealed.  Under Islamic law, non-Muslim males must 
convert to Islam to marry Muslim women, but non-Muslim women 
need not convert to marry Muslim men.  Muslim female heirs 
receive half the amount of a male heir's inheritance, while 
Christian widows of Muslims have no inheritance rights.  A sole 
female heir receives half her parents' estate; the balance goes 
to designated male relatives.  A sole male heir inherits all 
his parents' property.  Male Muslim heirs have the duty to 
provide for all family members who need assistance.

Egyptian women have employment opportunities in government, 
medicine, law, academia, the arts, and, to a lesser degree, in 
business.  About 100 officers in the Egyptian diplomatic 
service are women, including 3 ambassadors.  Social pressure 
against women pursuing a career remains strong, however, and 
some Egyptian feminists say that a resurgent Islamic 
fundamentalist trend limits further gains.  Women's rights 
advocates also point to other discriminatory attitudes and 
practices such as female circumcision and the male relative's 
role in enforcing women's compliance with religiously 
prescribed codes of sexual conduct.  In 1993 Fatma Abdul Raouf 
was denied employment as a magistrate in a public prosecutor's 
office, the first step in Egypt to becoming a judge, because 
she is a woman.  She is currently suing the Ministry of Justice 
for sex discrimination.  There are no women judges in Egypt.

Family violence against women does occur, but its extent is 
unknown.  Abuse within the family is seldom discussed publicly, 
owing to the value attached to personal privacy in this 
traditional society.

There are at least two active women's rights groups, one 
affiliated with EOHR.  The other is the Communications Group 
for the Enhancement of the Status of Women, which has published 
a booklet on the legal rights of Egyptian women.


The Government is committed to the protection of children's 
welfare.  According to law, public education is compulsory 
until age 12, and the employment, or job training, of children 
under age 12 is prohibited.  For many years, the Government has 
operated a "reading for all program" which seeks to bring 
literacy to older children and adults.  The Government has also 
employed the media to promote children's education and 
welfare.  Examples include Egypt's annual international 
children's film festival and television programming aimed at 
children's education.  However, despite the Government's 
commitment to children's welfare, child labor is a widespread 
problem.  Moreover, much of the resources for children's 
welfare are provided by international aid donors, especially in 
the fields of education and child immunization programs.

Female genital mutilation (excision), which international 
health experts have condemned as damaging to both physical and 
mental health, occurs--predominantly in rural areas--but there 
are few reliable statistics on its extent.  Excision and the 
more drastic infibulation are practiced in some parts of upper 
Egypt.  Female excision is not illegal, but doctors are 
prohibited from performing it in government hospitals.

     Religious Minorities

The approximately 5 million Coptic Christians are broadly 
discriminated against by the Government and are also the 
objects of violent assaults by terrorists.

Government discriminatory practices include delays in issuing 
church building and repair permits; the detention and 
mistreatment of some Muslim converts to Christianity; laws that 
prevent Muslims from changing their identity papers to reflect 
their conversion to Christianity (see Section 2.c.); 
anti-Christian discrimination in education embodied in a 
requirement that all public school students memorize Koranic 
verses as part of their Arabic studies; a ban on the hiring of 
Christian Arabic teachers in public schools since the 
curriculum involves study of the Koran; the production of 
Islamic television programs, some with anti-Christian themes; 
job discrimination in the police, the armed forces, and 
government agencies; reported anti-Christian discrimination in 
admission to state medical schools; and underrepresentation in 
government.  There are no Coptic governors and few Copts in the 
upper ranks of the military, police, and diplomatic service.

In addition to the murders of Copts by terrorists described in 
Section 1.a., terrorists attempted to murder a Coptic novelist, 
Shehata Guirgis, in Assiyut in April.  The area of Dairut, 
Assiyut Governorate, the scene of a massacre of 13 Coptic 
residents in May 1992, is reportedly still tense as Coptic 
residents fear for their safety outside their homes.  Islamists 
have obstructed church repairs and construction and harassed 
Copt-owned businesses.  Christians have complained that the 
Government has been lax in protecting Coptic lives and 
property.  Security forces arrest terrorists who perpetrate 
violence against Copts, but the Government does not always 
prevent attacks and does little to correct nonviolent forms of 
discrimination, including its own.

Several times in 1993 Minister of Education Hassan Kamel Behei 
Eddine stated publicly that religious intolerance has become 
more pronounced in the public school system.  In March the 
Minister expelled four female secondary school students for 
playing an audio cassette tape in their classroom which 
reportedly contained anti-Christian remarks.  Although the 
students were reinstated 2 weeks later, their expulsions 
sparked antigovernment and anti-Christian demonstrations in 
their home town.  In the disturbances, at least 52 persons were 
hurt, and petroleum bombs were thrown at a local church.

     People with Disabilities

The Government makes serious efforts to address the rights of 
the disabled.  It works closely with United Nations agencies 
and other international aid donors to design job training 
programs for the disabled.  The Government also seeks to 
increase the public's awareness of the capabilities of the 
disabled in television programming, the print media, and in 
educational material in the public schools.  Although there is 
no known legislation for access to public accommodations, the 
disabled are provided with preferred seating on government-
owned mass transit buses.

Section 6  Worker Rights

     a.  The Right of Association

Egyptian workers may, but are not required to, join trade 
unions.  A union local, or worker's committee, may be formed if 
50 employees express a desire to organize.  Most union members, 
about 25 percent of the labor force, are employed by 
state-owned enterprises.  The law stipulates that "high 
administrative" officials in government and the public sector 
may not join unions.

There are 23 industrial unions, all required to belong to the 
Egyptian Trade Union Federation (ETUF), the sole legally 
recognized labor federation.  A 1993 critique by the Egyptian 
Organization for Human Rights (EOHR) noted that the labor union 
law of 1976 impinges on worker rights in the following ways:  
The law defines which trade unions may be established, the 
manner in which they are to be organized, and their aims; it 
also prohibits the establishment of more than one trade union 
federation; the Government may disapprove or revoke the charter 
of any trade union, thus rendering it an illegal organization; 
with court approval, the Minister of Labor has authority to 
dissolve the national governing board of a trade union; the law 
does not define under what circumstances the national governing 
board of a trade union may dissolve the board of an affiliated 
union local.  Moreover, only one union is allowed per 

The International Labor Organization's Committee of Experts 
(COE), which has long noted these same defects, urged the 
Government in 1993 to guarantee to all workers the right to 
establish trade union organizations outside the existing trade 
union structure, to recognize the right of workers' 
organizations to elect their representatives in full freedom 
and to administer the finances of their activities without 
interference by the public authorities, and to remove 
restrictions on the right to strike.

The Government has shown no sign that it intends to accept the 
establishment of more than one federation.  The ETUF leadership 
asserts that it actively promotes worker interests and that 
there is no need for another federation.  The ETUF is nominally 
independent of the Government, but ETUF officials have close 
relations with the ruling NDP, and some are members of the 
People's Assembly and the Shura Council.  They speak vigorously 
on behalf of worker concerns, but public confrontations between 
ETUF and the Government are rare.  Disputes are more often 
resolved by consensus behind closed doors.

Even though the right to strike is not guaranteed, strikes do 
occur.  The Government considers strikes a form of public 
disturbance and hence illegal.  Strikes occurring in 1993 were 
brief and isolated.  

Some unions within the ETUF have affiliated with international 
trade union organizations, and others are in the process of 
doing so.

     b.  The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively

Under the current law, unions may negotiate work contracts with 
public sector enterprises if the latter agree to such 
negotiations, but unions otherwise lack collective bargaining 
power in the state sector.  Under current circumstances, 
collective bargaining does not exist in any meaningful sense 
because the Government sets wages, benefits, and job 
classifications by law.  Larger firms in the private sector 
generally adhere to such government-mandated standards.

Labor law and practice are the same in the export processing 
zones as in the rest of the country.

     c.  Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

Forced or compulsory labor is illegal and not practiced.  There 
are no known instances of domestic or foreign workers forced to 
remain in situations amounting to coerced or forced labor.

     d.  Minimum Age for Employment of Children

The minimum age for employment is 12.  Education is compulsory 
until age 15.  An employee must be at least 15 to join a labor 
union.  The Labor Law of 1981 states that children 12 to 15 may 
work 6 hours a day but not after 7 p.m. and not in dangerous or 
heavy activities.  Child workers must obtain medical 
certificates and work permits before they are employed.  A 1989 
study estimated that two-thirds of working children, perhaps 
720,000 children, work on farms.

However, children also work as apprentices in repair and craft 
shops and as workers in heavier industries such as brickmaking 
and textiles.  It is difficult to verify how closely the 
Ministry of Labor enforces child labor laws, especially in 
family-owned enterprises.

     e.  Acceptable Conditions of Work

For government and public sector employees, the statutory 
monthly minimum wage is $11.40 (38 Egyptian pounds) for 
vocational school graduates and $14.40 (48 pounds) for 
university graduates (for a legally maximum workweek of 6 days, 
48 hours).  The minimum wage has not been adjusted since the 
early 1980's.  Like the base pay rates in the public sector, 
the minimum wage is supplemented by a complex system of fringe 
benefits and yearly bonuses.  These additions may triple the 
worker's take-home pay.  The minimum wage is also legally 
binding on the private sector, and larger private companies 
generally observe the requirement and pay bonuses as well.  
Smaller firms do not always pay the minimum wage or bonuses.

The Ministry of Labor sets worker health and safety standards, 
which also apply in the export processing zones, but 
enforcement and inspection are uneven.  Under the current labor 
law, workers may decline dangerous work assignments without 
jeopardy to their employment.  The law also requires employers 
to provide regular medical examinations to employees in 
hazardous occupations.


Newsletter Sign Up

 For more information send mail to  webmaster@hsje.org with questions or comments about this web site.  

Copyright � 1999-2008. Historical Society of Jews From Egypt What is Copyright Protection?

 Stanford Copyright & Fair Use - Primary Materials


Newsletter Sign Up

 For more information send mail to  webmaster@hsje.org with questions or comments about this web site.  

Copyright � 1999-2008. Historical Society of Jews From Egypt What is Copyright Protection?

 Stanford Copyright & Fair Use - Primary Materials


Newsletter Sign Up

 For more information send mail to  webmaster@hsje.org with questions or comments about this web site.  

Copyright � 1999-2008. Historical Society of Jews From Egypt What is Copyright Protection?

 Stanford Copyright & Fair Use - Primary Materials


Newsletter Sign Up

 For more information send mail to  webmaster@hsje.org with questions or comments about this web site.  

Copyright � 1999-2008. Historical Society of Jews From Egypt What is Copyright Protection?

 Stanford Copyright & Fair Use - Primary Materials