Egyptian Arts Non-Profit Shut Down By State Censorship Authority

Officials gave no reason for the raid, and had no warrants.

The Townhouse Gallery operates several spaces throughout Cairo. Photo: The Townhouse Gallery, Cairo via Facebook
The Townhouse Gallery is a arts non-profit in downtown Cairo. Photo: The Townhouse Gallery, Cairo via Facebook

The Townhouse Gallery, an arts non-profit in downtown Cairo, was raided on Monday. 
Photo: The Townhouse Gallery, Cairo via Facebook

The Townhouse Gallery, a non-profit art space in Cairo which also runs a residency program and an adjacent theater space, was targeted by officials from the Egyptian censorship bureau in a 20-man interagency raid on Monday.

The gallery and Rawabet Theater in the Egyptian capital’s downtown district were closed down following the surprise inspection by a team consisting of officials from the Censorship Authority, Tax Authority, National Security Agency, and the local office of the Ministry of Manpower.

The Townhouse Gallery has been active since 1998, providing “key regional symposia, meaningful community outreach, landmark exhibitions, and international residencies for artists, curators, writers, and filmmakers” in the Middle East and North Africa, as described on their website.

The raid comes amid a wider state crackdown on free speech. Photo: thesleuthjournal.com

The raid comes amid a wider state crackdown on free speech.
Photo: thesleuthjournal.com

According to Mada Masr the raid is part of a wider censorship-related government crackdown carried out in recent months.

The local progressive news site reported that around seven plainclothes officials from the Censorship Authority burst into the arts non-profit’s offices on Monday evening at around 7 p.m. and proceeded to search the premises, reviewing personal laptops, checking staff IDs, and inspecting papers, documents, licenses, archives, and artworks.

At around 7:30 p.m. lawyers from the Association of Freedom of Thought and Expression arrived at the Townhouse Gallery’s offices.

The raid reportedly extended well into the night lasting over three hours as state officials from different government agencies—including the National Security Agency and the Ministry of Manpower—came and went.

The Rawabet Theater was also targeted in the raid. Photo: The Townhouse Gallery, Cairo

The Rawabet Theater was also targeted in the raid.
Photo: The Townhouse Gallery, Cairo

Employees were held at the premises for questioning for several hours before their IDs were photocopied and they were allowed to leave.

According to an unnamed employee who was present at the raid the government officials gave no reason for the surprising inspection, nor did they present any search or arrest warrants.

Before leaving, the officials confiscated one personal computer and one office computer. Exhibition material, archives, various documents, CDs and USB drives were also seized.


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