Egyptian social media activist, journalist and human rights defender, Esraa Abdel Fattah, has instructed a team of international lawyers to challenge her continued mistreatment by the Egyptian State, including measures that prevent her from travelling outside of the country. Esraa has instructed Mark Stephens CBE and Elizabeth Morley, Howard Kennedy, Doughty Street barristers Caoilfhionn Gallagher, Katie O’Byrne and Mark Wassouf and expert NGO the Media Legal Defence Initiative (MLDI) to act for her.
On 13 January 2015, Esraa was about to board a flight to pursue a scholarship abroad when she first became aware that she was under a travel ban. She later established that her name had been added to a travel ban list that contained the names of political leaders, bloggers and civil society activists suspected of having received “foreign funding”. She is still prevented from travelling abroad, and has been unable to fully determine the reasons behind the ban.
Prior to her travel ban, Esraa had come to be known as the “Facebook Girl” due to her prominent use of social media to organise and support public protests in Egypt. In 2008, Esraa set up a Facebook group calling for a textile workers’ strike in an industrial town, and was subsequently detained for her involvement in supporting the movement. She later went on to help organise the 2011 Arab Spring protests, which brought about the end of President Mubarak’s 30-year rule. She also acted as a vital source on the ground for the international media during the protests. Her involvement in the events of 2011 resulted in her being nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. She has also been commended for her work by Glamour Magazine (she was named one of its Women of the Year for 2011), Arabian Business Magazine (who named her one of the 100 most powerful Arab women) and Freedom House (who awarded her the New Generation Democratic Activist award in 2010).
Today, with President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s increasing clampdown on protests and public demonstrations, activists like Esraa are continually under threat and are ever more vulnerable to state harassment. A legal team specialised in international human rights law are currently acting in Esraa’s case with the aim of seeking redress for the violations she has sustained, and to highlight the systemic violations experienced by civil society in Egypt more generally.
A press release, issued jointly by Howard Kennedy, Doughty Street Chambers and MLDI, is available here.