Leadership Council for Human Rights

~ Feet in the mud, head in the sky ~

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Human rights seem to be forgotten in U.S.-Egypt relationship

Last month, the only Egyptian winner of an award from the National Endowment for Democracy met with President Bush in Washington. Hisham Kassem, an Egyptian human rights advocate, said after his meeting that Bush had spoken effusively about promoting democracy to the other recipients, but he did not address the topic when it came to Egypt, The New York Times reported.

According to the article, Kassem and other democracy campaigners in Egypt said that when Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice meets with Egyptian officials this week as part of her preparation for a Middle East peace summit meeting, they expect from her a similar approach to Egyptian human rights and democracy and even if she does raise the issues, Egyptian analysts say, it will have little impact.

Last June, Bush singled out a handful of political dissidents as “unjustly imprisoned.” The group included Ayman Nour, the opposition political leader and onetime presidential candidate. He also greeted democracy advocates, including Saad Eddin Ibrahim.

However, today Nour remains in prison; one year into his five-year sentence. Ibrahim, meanwhile has been living in self-imposed exile, fearful that a return to his homeland will result in more time in prison.

The article says: “With Mr. Nour in prison and Mr. Ibrahim on the run, with a human rights organization recently shut down, with journalists being imprisoned, with arrests of those out of step with the government, there is little evidence that Egypt – or any other nation in the region – is under any real American pressure for democratic reforms and human rights.”

“I like to compare the U.S. to the European settlers of the past century,” said Sateh Noureddine, a columnist at As-Safir, a pro-Syrian newspaper in Lebanon. “The European settler said, ‘I am coming to liberate, to develop, to modernize.’ But after a while he stumbled upon realities and facts that he did not know before and that could not be ignored. This is what is happening to the U.S. today, hence the change in its policies, from an ideological agenda to a pragmatic one. They are looking to protect themselves and their interests.”

Congress has recently debated what the U.S is getting in return for the $1.7 billion in aid that they are providing Egypt with each year. “The increased aid has not translated into increased influence on the domestic political process. It has become purely a matter of foreign policy,” the article says.

For the full article, click here.



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