by Heba MorayefMiddle East Research and Information Project, Spring 2015

Over five tumultuous years in Egypt, the independent human rights community moved from a fairly parochial role chipping away at the Mubarak regime’s legitimacy, one torture case at a time, to media stardom in 2011, and from fielding a presidential candidate, who won over 134,000 votes, in 2012 to facing closure and the risk of prosecution two years later.

Much has been written about the role of political activists and the labor movement in the uprising that ousted Husni Mubarak, yet there has been little study of the role of the human rights community. The lack of attention is surprising, given the longevity of human rights institutions and the ubiquitous presence of human rights defenders in the media after Mubarak fell. Perhaps the human rights community made scrutiny seem superfluous with its very deliberate self-promotion aimed at enhancing perceptions of its power and influence. Yet if one looks beyond this self-aggrandizing narrative, there is much to study in the resilience of small organizations that managed to survive 30 years of authoritarian rule.

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