Police in Cairo have today raided 17 civil society organizations as the country’s military rulers seek to find out exactly who has been funding the Egyptian revolution.
As several of the pro-democracy and human rights groups were at the forefront of the revolution that swept through the country last January, Egyptian authorities have become increasingly interested in the foreign funding many of these groups receive.
At least three of the human rights groups targeted in Thursday’s operation, the National Democratic Institute (NDI), Freedom House, and the International Republican Institute (IRI), are based in the US.
"Security forces who said they were from the public prosecutor are raiding our offices as we speak. They are grabbing all the papers and laptops as well," said one person working at NDI, who gave her name as Rawda, told Reuters.
The Washington-based IRI, which has served as an election monitor in Egypt’s ongoing parliamentary elections, reacted harshly to the raids.
“IRI has been working with Egyptians since 2005; it is ironic that even during the Mubarak era IRI was not subjected to such aggressive action,” a statement by the group read, Al Arabiya reports.
The campaign has drawn immediate response from the United States. The State Department has characterized the raids as "inconsistent with the bilateral cooperation” that the two countries have had over years and urged Egyptian authorities to immediately halt their "harassment" of NGOs.
It has also made it clear that America could review its US $1.3 billion in annual military aid to Egypt. The spokeswoman for the State Department, Victoria Nuland, has indicated that these payments may not be sanctioned by the Congress if Egyptian government does not reverse the situation.
"We do have a number of new reporting and transparency requirements on funding to Egypt that we have to make to Congress," Nuland said. "The Egyptian government is well aware of that and it certainly needs to be aware of that in the context of how quickly this issue gets resolved."
Meanwhile, 28 Egyptian rights groups came up with a joint statement on Friday accusing the country's ruling military council of using “Hosni Mubarak-era repressive tools” in waging an “unprecedented campaign” against pro-democracy organizations, AP reports. The statement says the attacks herald a wider clampdown to target leaders of the uprising and are aimed at “liquidating” those behind the revolution.
As the continuing violent crackdown by security forces against the protests has left 17 dead and more than 700 injured this month alone, Egypt’s military is becoming increasingly fearful of foreign interference in the country’s internal affairs.
In October, Egypt’s justice minister commissioned two judges to investigate allegations of foreign funding. The minister said that any organization found guilty of the practice would be charged with “betraying Egypt by deliberately promoting political strife,” Al Arabiya cites him as saying.
Their fears might not be entirely unfounded.
A few weeks after the regime of Hosni Mubarak was toppled, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) is said to have set aside some US $65 million for “democratic development” programs in Egypt.
In response, former-prime minister Essas Sharaf established a fact-finding committee in July to identify and then blacklist any non-governmental organizations which had actively solicited funds from USAID.
But while it remains to be seen if Thursday’s raids are connected to the committee’s findings, the Egyptian army might be attempting to determine just who they will be handing power over to when they finally step aside next year.
Author David Swanson believes the US-backed NGOs are not doing anything to help the situation in Egypt.
“We’re talking here about many many NGOs with different agendas, some from the United States with a record of ties to the CIA and a record of attempts to influence the outcomes of elections in other countries,” he told RT.
“These are not the groups through which foreigners with good intentions can attempt to assist the people of Egypt. It is the people of Egypt who are going to build an estimable society in their own country,” he concluded.
However foreign policy analyst Dr Adil Shamoo told RT that the recent raid on NGOs was part of the ruling military’s way of making sure that the revolution is “molded into the type of government they want and subdued into a submissive role to the military.”
Dr Shamoo believes that such actions will backfire on the military. “Human rights organizations are the guardians of nascent freedom,” he said, quoting presidential candidate and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Mohamed ElBaradei.
“The military has to step aside and let the civilian government come to power once the elections are held,” he stated.
“The Egyptian people and the Arabs in general have lost their fear of corrupt government and have restored their dignity, and they will not tolerate another military dictatorship in their country.”