Egypt forcibly disappears two women amid coronavirus crackdown: Rights group

Marwa Arafa, 27, and Kholoud Said, 35, disappeared last week at the hands of Egyptian security services, Human Rights Watch said.

al-monitor An Egyptian police vehicle patrols Tahrir Square after a late night anti-government demonstration in Cairo, Sept. 21, 2019.  Photo by REUTERS/Amr Abdallah Dalsh.

Apr 29, 2020

Egyptian security forces arbitrarily arrested and forcibly disappeared two women, according to Human Rights Watch, which called for their immediate release.  

The New York-based group urged authorities today to disclose the whereabouts of two professional translators who disappeared last week, 27-year-old Marwa Arafa and 35-year-old Kholoud Said. 

According to Human Rights Watch, Egyptian security forces arrested Arafa and Said at their homes, and charged Said with joining a terrorist group and spreading fake news. A friend said prosecutors focused their interrogation on Said’s recent Facebook posts, which contained links to articles criticizing the Egyptian government.  

“No warrants, no explanations — this is the behavior of a security establishment run amok,” said Amr Magdi, a Middle East and North Africa researcher at Human Rights Watch.

Egypt's security forces under President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi have made hundreds disappear in an effort to suppress dissent and punish perceived supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood, international rights groups say. 

An undisclosed number of political activists, including Noha Kamal and Aya Kamal Hussein, as well as human rights lawyer Mohsen Bahnasy, have been arrested for criticizing the government’s handling of the coronavirus, Human Rights Watch said. 

The Egyptian Health Ministry has confirmed a death toll of 380 and 5,268 infections. Last month, authorities released some political prisoners amid concerns from civil society associations and rights groups that COVID-19 could easily spread through Egypt’s overcrowded prison systems. 

On Monday, Egypt extended its state of emergency by three months to help authorities deal with both the threat of the coronavirus and insurgent activity in the Sinai region. Renewed every three months, the state of emergency grants Egyptian security forces the power to make sweeping arrests and search homes without a warrant. 

Arafa’s husband, Tamer Mowafy, said he felt “helpless” without information on her whereabouts. 

“This is the 9th day of Marwa’s forcible disappearance. The 9th day of asking with no answer, of waiting for her to turn out in front of the prosecutors, with no avail. The 9th day of helpless furious worrying and pain,” he wrote Tuesday on Twitter

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