Bahey El-Din Hassan – Egypt

Linked with our presentations of The prisoner as message, and of Human Rights… The Sacrifice on its Feast Day!.

Linked also with the presentations of the Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Network EMHRN, and of the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies CIHRS.

He says (excerpt): “International initiatives are particularly important because Arab governments turn a deaf ear to internal calls for reforms and even suppress reformists, while they pay more attention to external initiatives.Chances of success of initiatives of the International Community initiatives are however enhanced if they meet the principles of the calls for reforms from within the Arab region”. (See

Bahey El-Din Hassan – Egypt

See Arab Reform Bulletin March 2006.

He says also: “With the growth of the human rights movement in the Arab world, there are several tasks that must be accomplished. They can be divided into three groups: First: Policy-Oriented Tasks … , Second: Institutional Tasks … , Third: Intellectual Tasks … “. (Read this all on The Human Rights Databank).

He has served as the Director of the Cairo Institute for Human Rights since 1994. He is a Founding Member of the Egyptian Organization for Human Rights and served as its Secretary General from 1988 to 1993. Prior to that, Mr. Hassan was a journalist with the Egyptian daily, al-Gomhoreya. Human Rights Watch honored Mr. Hassan with its Human Right Monitor award in 1993. He is also the recipient of the 1987 Annual Journalism Award of the Egyptian Press Syndicate, for unique coverage of the Lebanon War Camps. Mr. Hassan is a lecturer and author on human rights issues and serves on the executive and advisory committees of various international human rights organizations. (Read more on Arab Judicial Forum).

My dear friend Bahey El-Din Hassan, the director of the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies, gave me a sneak peak of the centre’s newest publication, a book called Terrorism and Human Rights After September 11. Released September 2002, the series of essays written by such luminaries as Azmi Bishara, Joe Stork, and our very own Washington correspondent Mohamed El-Sayed Said, amongst many others, certainly provides an interesting take on how the post 11 September world has turned the world of human rights right on its head. Culled from a conference on “Terrorism and Human Rights” that took place in Cairo in January 2002, the amazing thing, dearies, is that these writers all warned of the dangers that the “war on terror” poses to human rights. As Hassan says in his introduction to the book, the writers represent a “third voice that have come to realise the exorbitant risks of terrorism… [which] they strongly believe can be eradicated, but without sacrificing human and people’s rights”. In fact, “they warn against undermining or underrating the importance of those rights, which in fact would magnify the perils of terrorism.” (written September 2002 on Al-Ahram online).

He writes (exerpt): The challenge for the Arab human rights movement is to disabuse people of these notions and to accentuate the importance of rights in people’s daily lives. To do this, we must access the broad-based media and use it effectively. Yet, the governments and fundamentalist groups that spread propaganda against human rights monopolize the mosque, radio, television, and press. We only have limited leeway within the opposition press to the extent that it is tolerated in some Arab countries. But even then, opposition parties distort the human rights message to serve their political and ideological ends, not to mention the fact that half the population of many Arab countries is illiterate. To counter negative perceptions of human rights, our movement must demonstrate to the public that its grievances can be redressed through human rights advocacy. Unfortunately, once again, repressive government regimes stand in our way. Many Arab human rights organizations are not legally recognized. Judiciary branches often do not enjoy even limited independence from the executive. There is frequently no response when human rights organizations forward a citizen’s complaint to an offending government bureaucracy. This failure to deliver weakens our credibility among our constituents. (Read more of this long article on Carnegie Council).

He writes (excerpt) … the circumstances of the emergence of human rights NGOs in the Arab world constitute yet another source of challenges, most prominent of which is the danger of politicization. The fact that the greater sector of the founders of the human rights organizations belonged to political trends (Marxism and pan-Arab nationalism) restricted these organizations’ openness towards the greater society. Sometimes the action plans and the positions of some organizations were colored by the prevalent political tendency within this or that organization. Also, this constituted an inexhaustible source of internal political strife that was sometimes launched by contending political cliques belonging to the same political trend. The continuous deferment of resolving these two types of challenges (those related to the political and cultural environment, and the ways of managing human rights organizations) has led to the multiplication of crises and internal disputes, leaving deep scars in the Arab human rights NGOs. Even worse, it has perhaps already led to the dissolution of some and has allowed governments that oppose human rights to manipulate others. (Read more on this background paper).


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