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Tuesday, December 7, 2010     GET REAL

Hamas shuts down Western-funded youth NGO

GAZA CITY — The Hamas regime continues to crack down on non-governmental organizations in the Gaza Strip.


On Nov. 30, Hamas security forces raided the offices of the Sharek Youth Forum in Gaza City and expelled the staff.

"None of Sharek's staff or members has ever appeared before any legal or judicial process to justify such an action," Sharek said in a statement.

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The Western-supported NGO, a critic of the Islamic regime, was assigned to promote democracy and political dialogue. The group has helped in training youngsters and preparing them for the job market.

Attorney General Mohammed Abed ordered the closure of Sharek, with offices in Gaza City, Khan Yunis and Rafah, Middle East Newsline reported. The Hamas order came after a year of raids and other official harassment of the NGO, directed by Mohib Shaath.

"Without giving any legal justifications, the police forced the staff to abandon the offices across Gaza and hand over the keys," Sharek said.

Palestinian sources said the closure of Sharek marked the latest step in the Hamas campaign against NGOs. Sharek escaped closure in the first round of the Hamas crackdown on NGOs in 2007 and 2008.

But over the last year, Hamas security forces have repeatedly raided Sharek facilities, operated in partnership with Gaza municipalities. Hamas officers have frequently seized computers from the organization and summoned its director and board for interrogation.

"If Sharek Youth Forum is closed based on its lack of willingness to waver, what will happen in Gaza in a year, five years, 10 years?" the group asked.

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