Leadership Council for Human Rights

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Monday, June 26, 2006

Jeffrey Azarva: U.S. silence in Egypt, sadly, speaks volumes

Despite Bush’s rhetoric urging Egypt “to show the way toward democracy,” Jeffrey Azarva wrote in an op-ed piece for the Baltimore Sun that he believes the US is currently ignoring all that the Mubarak regime is doing to hinder democratic efforts. On the 30th of April, the Egyptian government announced that emergency laws would stay intact for another two years; these supposedly temporary laws give the government the power to censor media, prohibit public demonstrations and imprison political opponents indefinitely. Ayman Nour, a former Egyptian presidential candidate and leading democracy supporter, is serving five years in jail on fraud charges which many believe to be fabricated. Additionally, on May 25th, Muhammad al-Sharqawi was arrested, beaten and sodomized by Egyptian authorities all because he publicly held up a sign with the message “I want my rights.”

Azarva writes,

“Mubarak's strategy is clear: Deprive Egypt's fledgling liberal opposition of any political space, all the while telling Washington that he is the only bulwark against militant Islam and a terrorist resurgence. The White House bought the gambit. But the administration need not sacrifice democracy for the war on terrorism. Mubarak's survival depends on continuing the fight against terror.

“Each year, the Egyptian government pockets $1.8 billion in U.S. aid. Mubarak treats such funds as entitlement. Yet the State Department is afraid to play hardball. C. David Welch, assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern affairs, testified to the House Appropriations Committee that cutting aid 'would be damaging to our national interests.'

“Yet Bush's 2002 decision to hold up $134 million in aid until Mubarak released democracy activist Saad Eddin Ibrahim did not damage U.S. national interests; it augmented them. Not only did the White House win Ibrahim's release, but it also bolstered U.S. prestige.

“Today, U.S. prestige is in free fall.

“When Bush, in his 2005 State of the Union address, implored Egypt ‘to show the way toward democracy,’ brave individuals across the region took the President at his word. Arab liberals who heeded Bush's call feel betrayal. Dictators are emboldened. Democratic allies are already in short supply; alienating them with shortsighted policies will only diminish their ranks.

“Now, when U.S. assistance is needed most, our silence is deafening.”

To read this op-ed piece in full, click here


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