Turkey Should Not Deport Naguib to Egypt, Where She Faces Risk of Torture and Persecution
Updated: Activist Ghada Naguib was released on November 3, a month after being detained by Turkish authorities.
(Washington, D.C., October 3, 2023): On October 2, 2023, Turkish security agents in civilian clothes arrested Egyptian activist Ghada Naguib in Istanbul for unclear reasons, said Democracy for the Arab World Now (DAWN).
Turkish authorities should immediately charge or release her, but under no circumstances should they deport her to Egypt, where she faces a risk of torture and persecution because of her political views. The Egyptian government has repeatedly demanded that Turkish authorities silence her social media activism.
"On the fifth anniversary of Jamal Khashoggi's murder, Ghada Naguib's arrest by the Turkish authorities deals yet another blow to peaceful democratic activism in exile," said Sarah Leah Whitson, DAWN's Executive Director. "The least that democracies and countries respecting the rule of law can do is to protect all people residing in their territories from the reach of tyrants like Sisi."
Turkish security agents in civilian clothes arrested Naguib from her residence in Istanbul, according to witnesses interviewed by DAWN. They said that the authorities forced her to remove her hijab and pulled her by her hair into a security forces vehicle. A female security officer was heard shouting at her in Turkish. They then took her to the Basakshehir detention center before moving her to the Silivri prison, both in Istanbul, then to a much farther detention center in Malatya. Sources close to Naguib reported to DAWN that Turkish authorities might have detained her in retaliation for refusing to delete a tweet critical of the Egyptian government.
Ghada Naguib left Egypt for Turkey with her husband, renowned actor Hisham Abdullah, and four children on December 16, 2015, where they obtained legal residency. Egyptian authorities subjected her and her husband to a grossly unfair trial in absentia, and on January 31, 2019, the Giza Criminal and Supreme State Security Emergency Court-14th Circuit Giza sentenced them to five years in prison for "spreading false news to incite people against the regime and to undermine national security."
In December 2020, Egyptian authorities stripped Naguib of her Egyptian nationality and made her stateless, on the grounds that she was "endangering national security from abroad."
According to sources close to Naguib, Egyptian security agents subjected Naguib and her husband to threats and intimidation while in exile. On November 18, 2020, a member of a political group aligned with Egyptian security forces sent text and voice messages to Naguib threatening her, her youngest child and friend detained in Egypt with dire consequences unless she ceased publicly criticizing a senior military intelligence officer. Naguib was also subjected to a smear campaign, claiming that she and her husband were "Islamists and terrorists," or that she ran a prostitution business and was engaged in "immoral" behavior.
In 2018, Egyptian security forces raided the houses of Naguib's brothers and her brother-in-law in three different parts of Egypt and arrested all three of them. The authorities held the three incommunicado for four or five days before allowing them to be seen by a prosecutor. One of Naguib's brothers was released three months later, while the other brother and her brother-in-law were taken to Tora and Wadi al-Natron prisons. The Egyptian authorities have banned Naguib's older sister from leaving Egypt since 2018.
"Whatever charges Turkish authorities may have against Naguib, in no circumstances should they deport her to Egypt, where she will undoubtedly face imprisonment and torture," said Whitson. "Turkey has a legal obligation never to deport anyone to a country where they will face torture and persecution."
Torture is widespread and systematic in Egyptian prisons, police stations, and security forces facilities, amounting to a crime against humanity according to human rights organizations who have investigated the matter. Egyptian prosecutors routinely fail to order investigations into complaints of torture and other ill-treatment by the authorities. Since coming to power in a 2013 military coup, the Sisi government has detained and arrested tens of thousands of Egyptians through systemic repression and a brutal crackdown on civil and political rights. Human rights organizations estimate that there are at many thousands of political prisoners in Egypt, the vast majority of whom have not received a fair trial or even been tried, as their charges are simply recycled into different cases through the government's abusive use of pretrial detention. These oppressive practices and diminished political space have all but eliminated any belief in the Sisi government's genuine desire to allow meaningful political reform.
Thousands of Egyptians who fled Egypt for Turkey after the military coup in 2013 live in fear of deportation to Egypt, as the two countries continue to normalize relations that they had severed after the coup. The Egyptian authorities have stripped of citizenship or denied official papers to their citizens in Turkey, thereby making it impossible for them to travel or find employment. With the exception of the case of Mohamed Abdelhafiz Ahmed Hussein in January 2019, Turkey has so far resisted the Egyptian government's request for extradition of Egyptians in Turkey.
"Ghada and her family fled Egypt seeking sanctuary in Turkey, escaping an oppressive regime that not only unjustly sentenced her and her husband in absentia but also stripped her of her nationality," said Raed Jarrar, DAWN's advocacy director. "Now, Turkey must not be an accomplice in Egypt's unjust assault on freedom of speech and human rights."
If Turkey deports Naguib to Egypt, she faces the risk of torture and further persecution, a direct violation of Turkey's international obligations against refoulement. Turkey is bound by the international legal principle of non-refoulement that prohibits states from returning anyone to a territory where they are at risk of persecution and other serious human rights violations. DAWN calls on the Turkish authorities to either charge Naguib with internationally recognized crime or immediately release her.