Leadership Council for Human Rights

~ Feet in the mud, head in the sky ~

Thursday, June 29, 2006

A Democracy Policy in Ashes

Gameela Ismail, wife of political prisoner and former Egyptian presidential candidate, Ayman Nour, says that she will personally deliver ashes from the fire that destroyed the Nour Cultural Center to the US Embassy, according to Joshua Muravchik at the Washington Post.

The Center, located in Bab El-Shariya, was built to promote social services to Egypt’s poor and was part of Nour’s presidential campaign to promote liberalism and democracy throughout the country. On July 1st it was burned to the ground and many supporters of Nour believe the fire was most likely under the orders of the Mubarak government. Although the US has pressured Egypt into some democratic reforms in the last couple of years—the first presidential elections were held last year---the Bush administration’s lack of response to recent abuses carried out by Mubarak’s regime have left Nour’s wife and other Egyptian democrats frustrated by the US government. Ms. Ismail decision to bring the remains of the Center to the US Embassy illustrates this widespread disappointment.

According to this piece,

“Last year U.S. pressure impelled Mubarak to hold Egypt's first presidential election. U.S. pressure also led to a relaxation of constraints on freedom of speech, press and assembly that began to change the quality of public life in Egypt. Given this momentum, it was expected that Mubarak, once reelected, would allow further liberalization. Instead, 2006 has brought a wave of repression and brutality that goes beyond the jailing of Nour. The regime's goons have bloodied and arrested peaceful protesters doing nothing more than expressing solidarity with the dignified protests of Egypt's judges. Spurred by the persecution of its leaders for exposing election irregularities, the extraordinary judges' movement has sprung to the forefront of agitation for reform.

“In response to these abuses, U.S. press spokesmen have issued formulaic criticisms, and Nour's conviction on patently bogus charges led Washington to postpone trade talks. But the mild tone of U.S. protests, the low level at which most have been delivered and the admixture of warm gestures toward the regime -- such as the meetings Vice President Cheney and other top officials held with Mubarak's son and hoped-for heir, Gamal, last month -- have combined to create the impression that the Bush administration has begun to pull its punches on Middle East democracy.

“It's not only in Egypt that the administration is giving this impression. In Iraq, it has acted to shut down dozens of projects designed to nurture the seedlings of democracy: civil society, political parties, women's and human rights organizations, and the like. They had been initiated over the past few years through special allocations to the National Endowment for Democracy; the international democracy-building institutes of the Democratic and Republican parties, the AFL-CIO and chambers of commerce; and several similar organizations -- all of which constitute the core apparatus through which America works to promote democracy globally. In the supplemental appropriation bill just enacted, the administration sought to eliminate these funds until a Senate amendment partly restored them.

“The motive for this action is hard to fathom. Perhaps it was more the result of turf battles than a decision to downgrade democratization. But even this would only show how far democracy has slipped in priority.

“The muted response to Mubarak's depredations is more decipherable. Clearly, the strong electoral performances of Hamas in Palestine and the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt have sown worry about the consequences of democratization. The dilemma is that Middle Eastern liberals usually spring from the educated elite and have little resonance at the grass roots, while Islamists command substantial popular appeal.

“But this makes our actions toward Egypt all the more foolhardy, for the victims of today's repression represent a possible alternative to both the Islamists and the regime. Alone among Egypt's liberal politicians, Nour has demonstrated a populist touch. He also matched the Islamists' tactic of furnishing social services to poor constituents. That was the purpose of the center in Bab El-Shariya, now destroyed.”

To read this story in full, click here

To read more on the destruction of the Nour Cultural Center, click here

To read more on Nour’s presidential bid, click here


Post a Comment

<< Home