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The New Arab

Egyptian authorities shut privately founded libraries for disadvantaged children

The al-Karama libraries were built with funds from an international humanitarian award [AFP]

Date of publication: 2 December, 2016

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The two libraries, located in the city of Zagazig, were founded by the head of a human rights organisation.

Egyptian authorities have shut down two publically accessible libraries founded by a human rights organisation.

Gamal Eid, founder of the al-Karama libraries and head of the Arab Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI), said that the forced closures took place on Thursday morning in two libraries located in the Tora and Dar al-Salam neighbourhoods of Zagazig, a city in lower Egypt situated in the eastern part of the Nile delta.

According to Mada Masr, Eid spoke to the head of the Dar al-Salam municipality who said that he had not been the authority responsible for the closure.

Eid founded the al-Karama libraries with funds received from winning the Roland Berger Human Dignity Award – a German humanitarian prize – in 2011 for his work with ANHRI promoting freedom of expression and freedom of the press in Egypt.

Al-Karama libraries intend to provide economically disadvantaged children with access to books. There are four libraries located in Zagazig, and six in total.

“We ensured that the library would be disconnected from politics, religion or any political party, a stance that won the trust of the people,” said Eid, speaking to Mada Masr.

“We were told that we can open the libraries as long as we were not engaged in any commercial activities. Only in Zigazag were we asked to secure a permit for the library banner at the front entrance, which we did.”

“Clearly there was a suggestion from a higher authority to shut it down,” said Eid, questioning in a post on Twitter why authorities had shut down educational facilities for poor children.

In March, Eid’s assets were frozen by Egyptian authorities after a Cairo Criminal Court reopened a 2011 case against the heads of several NGOs accusing the defendants of receiving a total of $1.5 million in “illegal funds from foreign entities.”

Eid has openly stated that he received 333,000 Euros in 2011 through the Roland Berger award and that the money has been used to fund al-Karama libraries.

Translation: Video of the moment of closure of the Dar al-Salam library after children were forced to leave

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