The True Story Behind Egypt NGO Deal

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, General Martin Dempsey, left, walks next to Egypt Lieutenant General Sami Anan. Dempsey was in Egypt to meet Field Marshal Tantawi, behind to the right.

“The ultimate goal of the raids on Egypt’s NGOs and the blocking of its operations and workers on the ground is to set the stage for rigging the looming presidential elections”


by  Dr. Ashraf Ezzat

An official at Cairo airport has revealed last Thursday that the US military plane which arrived in Cairo to take the Fifteen NGO workers, including eight Americans, out of the country was “secured” by a “supreme Egyptian authority.”

The source said the charges had not been dropped against any of those 43 NGO staffers who were detained for trial, amongst them 16 US citizens and the rest are from Egypt, Jordan, Palestine, Serbia, Norway and Germany.

It is unclear exactly what this means or what this authority is, but it is likely to be one of the generals of the supreme council of armed forces (SCAF) currently in control of the transitional period in post-Mubarak Egypt.

The departure, or the escape actually, of foreign NGO workers came after days of behind-the-scenes negotiations between Washington and Cairo. The sudden and ambiguous lift of the travel ban on the foreign workers drew fierce criticism from Egyptian politicians, endless debates on TV talk shows and raised questions over the integrity and independence of the Egyptian judiciary.

Egyptian politicians and pundits accused the judiciary of bowing to the military. On the other hand, and in a stormy session, Egypt parliament accused the generals of bowing to American pressure.

American pressure! The Americans have practically pleaded to any general, who was listening, to lift this insensible travel ban and bring this whole issue back to reason.

But how could we be talking about reason when the prosecutor in the case claimed the raids of the organizations were launched because the groups had ties with the CIA.

Now, that is a deadly serious affair. Personally, I’m a deep believer in the theory of probability, but I also believe we don’t have a case against CIA until we can prove it in court, otherwise we should view this groundless accusation as yet another propaganda aimed for local consumption or clandestine deals- which really what this whole thing is all about. (Note that a private U.S. military plane had landed in Cairo’s airport- on Wednesday night – and hours before the travel ban had been lifted)

Scarily funny investigations

The initial investigations upon which the prosecution was indicated in the NGO case revealed that the pro-democracy organizations operated in Egypt since 2005!

Most of the four NGOs in question – the International Republican Institute (IRI), the National Democratic Institute (NDI), Freedom House and the Konrad-Adenauer Foundation – have been officially engaged in extensive and regular training programs for Egyptian political parties, including Mubarak’s former NDP party, on the fields of (governance assistance, public opinion research and women & minorities’ political participation).

Pretty scary charges indeed! Only the prosecutor was not informed that those were the routine tasks of almost any pro-democracy NGO organization worldwide. Moreover, how come the proper/legal authorization of those foreign organizations never troubled the authorities during those long years?

And if the American central intelligence was deeply implicated in this case, why then, the Egyptian prosecutor excluded the involvement of the intelligence of Norway, Germany and Serbia as well? Or were they all recruited by the CIA?

This whole thing started when the state security apparatus thought they had a solid case of illegal foreign funding against “April 6 youth movement”, one of the coalition of the youths of the revolution, when a group of its leadership cadre enrolled in a training course on “nonviolent resistance/revolution” in Serbia back in 2008.

While the Egyptian investigators couldn’t find a shred of evidence to substantiate the illegal funding allegations against April 6 movement the state police, with Gestapo tactics, decided to look somewhere else.  And hence began the current foreign NGO travesty.

[youtube VhUfFyS1FkM Training of April 6 movement in Serbia]

Raiding the NGOs offices, while providing no warrant, the state security (thugs) found maps of Egypt, outlined to show the locations of the parliamentary elections’ polling stations (which the NGO workers monitored its 3 stages). The next day, and before any official investigations, the rumor was sweeping across the country & also surfing the web that the foreign NGO had plans for Egypt’s partition.

I’m not saying that it’s a remote possibility, after all this is, and will always be, Egypt’s historical point of weakness. But any CIA agent tasked with this top secret mission is hardly to be sitting cozily in his downtown Cairo office drinking coffee while hanging the manuscript of his classified mission on his wall.

The smell of CIA is all over Tahrir square

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, General Martin Dempsey, left, walks next to Egypt Lieutenant General Sami Anan. Dempsey was in Egypt to meet Field Marshal Tantawi, behind to the right.

We usually begin to sit back, scratch our heads in bewilderment, and throw in our explanatory theories when things get too complicated for us to grasp.

And at that precise moment of ambiguity the unfolding difficulty before us, that challenged our perception, could be one of two possibilities. Either the whole thing is too clever for us to pick up or too damn stupid.

This NGOs problem was probably the most stupid episodes in the affairs of the Egyptian foreign policy.But on the other hand, it turned out to be, as we will see later, one of the most brilliant plots the Egyptian state security apparatus has ever come up with.

Operating without a license!  Was that the foreign NGOs’ crime, or was it their trap?

We all have seen it before so many times in Egypt. Foreign investors/institutions apply for operating in the country, they submit the necessary papers and pay the required fees, but they only get a temporary permit in return.

They’re usually told to go ahead and start operating while the final authorization is pending. This is an old state security trick; they let you move around hanging by a thread.

As long as you’re a good boy, according to the state police’ standards, you are left alone, if not, the thread gets easily cut- like the infamous case of Aljazeera-Live Arabic Channel. And before you know it, you suddenly find yourself behind bars facing readymade charges of illegal funding and working without a damn license. It is a dirty trick but used to work … until this time.

After one year of protests and deadly clashes, which has gone way out of control and lasted for too long, the state police apparatus is commissioned with the task of eradicating the die-hard group of activists who, throughout the last year, somehow managed to mobilize the masses and repeatedly go back to occupy Tahrir square. All the pro-democracy organizations, foreign and local, are also included on the state police’s hunt list.

400 Egyptian civil society organizations are currently being investigated (intimidated) for irregularities and illegal funding. It is strange nobody thought to investigate the sources and legality of the obscene funding of Islamist parties and civil organizations. The Salafist groups alone received almost $50 million from Qatar & Saudis last year.

As for the few foreign NGOs, the American in particular, pretty convenient charges awaited them- illegal funding, operating without license, fomenting unrest … and yes, why not, espionage.

Many conspiracy theories were ready to be unleashed to tarnish the image of Egyptian activists and help frame those NGOs workers as well.

The April 6 youth movement were trained by the Serbians so they must be funded by and serving some foreign agenda, protesters were run over by the American embassy cars, shots were heard coming out the American university in Tahrir square and many of its professors and students were leading the anti-SCAF campaign … oh yes, the smell of CIA is all over Tahrir square.

The deal and the real goal behind the NGO case

What was really strange is how tension escalated politically over a situation both the white house and SCAF knew very well was irrelevant to the case presented before the Egyptian courts of law.

Somehow, the unprecedented and quite unjustified standoff between the white house and the Egyptian government meant one thing. SCAF and the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) were trying to strike a deal behind closed doors with the white house.

Sheihk, Omar Abdel Rahman

So it comes as no surprise actually that shortly after the release of the American NGO workers The U.S. declared it backs International Monetary Fund efforts to aid Egypt.  Nor will it be a strange thing to read sometime soon about the release of the Islamist cleric, Omar Abdel-Rahamn, the Muslim Brotherhood & the Salafists’ revered sheikh who has been detained in US over charges of seditious conspiracy related to the World Trade Center 1993 bombings. A group of Senators headed by John McCain applauded the role MB had played to lift the travel ban on the NGO workers.

Omar Afifi

And also expected, as rumor has it, is the repatriation of, Omar Afifi, a renegade Egyptian police officer and an immigrant to US.  Afifi has been inciting rebellion against SCAF& state security apparatus via weekly videos uploaded on YouTube since Mubarak was deposed.

Worth mentioning is the hilarious fact that most of those who really enrolled in last year’s program of training and seminars covering the area of (Elections, political parties, debates, democratic governance and citizen participation) at both the  international republic institute (IRI) & National Democratic Institute (NDI) were Muslim Brothers & Salafists. Around 700 members of the new Islamist political parties and not the secular/liberal youths who wore out the military & police forces throughout a long year of sit-ins and occupy movements attended the NGO training courses.

But the ultimate goal of this travesty of politics and justice is to set the stage for rigging the presidential election that is looming near. The raid on pro-democracy NGOs followed by blocking its operations on the ground and the expulsion of its staffers meant one thing and one thing only; SCAF will get to pick the next president for Egypt one way or another. If Putin got away with it in Russia, there is no reason why SCAF can’t pull the same unmonitored scam in Egypt, with the blessing of the US and the support of IMF, that is.

Prominent Egyptian political activists, from the left ( Mona Seif, Hossam El-Hamalawy, Gigi Ibraheim, Tarek Shalaby and Mahmoud Salem)

None of the Islamist groups really worries SCAF. After all, they have reached a common understanding with the military to share the post-Mubarak cake . And it seems that Washington has subscribed to that deal as well, as all the top US officials who visited Egypt following the uprising met only with MB & SCAF. The real danger comes actually from the secular activists who led the Jan. 25 uprising and managed to see into this secret deal and who also pledged to unseat the military as they did Mubarak.

If you care to find out whom the Egyptian generals are really after, and whom the Egyptian state security are hunting down. If you really want to know what this NGO fiasco was all about, I urge you to watch the following video (Tweets FromTahrirwhere you will get the chance to meet the real political activists of the Egyptian uprising and who are going to be the only honest party, in the absence of foreign NGOs, to monitor and report the irregularities of the upcoming presidential elections in Egypt.

[youtube nzIjHHTAo08 Prominent Egyptian political activists tweeting the revolution]

For more posts by Dr. Ashraf Ezzat visit his website.


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Ashraf Ezzat is an Egyptian born in Cairo and based in Alexandria. He graduated from the faculty of Medicine at Alexandria University. Keen not to be entirely consumed by the medical profession, Dr. Ezzat invests a lot of his time in research and writing. History of the ancient Near East and of Ancient Egypt has long been an area of special interest to him. In his writings, he approaches ancient history not as some tales from the remote times but as a causative factor in our existing life; and to him, it's as relevant and vibrant as the current moment. In his research and writings, Dr. Ezzat is always on a quest trying to find out why the ancient wisdom had been obstructed and ancient spirituality diminished whereas the Judeo-Christian teachings and faith took hold and prospered. Dr. Ezzat has written extensively in Arabic tackling many issues and topics in the field of Egyptology and comparative religion. He is the author of Egypt knew no Pharaohs nor Israelites. He writes regularly at many well-known online websites such as Dissident Voice and What Really Happened. Dr. Ezzat is also an independent filmmaker. His debut film was back in 2011 The Annals of Egypt Revolution and in 2012 he made Tale of Osiris a short animation for children. In 2013 his short The Pyramids: story of creation was screened at many international film festivals in Europe. And he is working now on his first documentary "Egypt knew no Pharaohs nor Israelites".