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Thursday, February 10, 2011

Wikileaks: Egypt opposition's frustration with US

A quite timely Wikileaks cable from January 2010:

Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights Executive Director Hossam Bahgat urged the U.S. to "practice what it preaches" on human rights by closing the Guantanamo Bay prison. ... Bahgat asserted that many Egyptians believe the GOE has interpreted the current administration's relative "silence" on human rights and political issues as a signal of support.

Director-General of the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies Bahey Al-Din Hassan said he was unsure of what current U.S. human rights policy is. He expressed concern over lack of U.S.
public criticism of Syria for human rights violations, and U.S. support for Yemeni President Saleh while he represses his people. Hassan expected increasing GOE repression leading up to the 2010 parliamentary and 2011 presidential elections. Hassan said he was initially optimistic when the Forum for the Future was launched that it would strengthen partnerships between Arab governments and civil society. Instead, Hassan asserted, government-controlled NGOs have dominated the Forum. Hassan noted that because of this phenomenon, he has not participated in the Forum since 2005.

...Human rights lawyer Tarek Khattar asserted that U.S. support for the GOE encourages it to repress the Egyptian people. He contended that President's Obama June 4 Cairo speech has not
produced "any positive results" in Egypt. Women's rights activist Mozn Hassan criticized the President's speech for "equating women throughout the region with each other," instead of recognizing their differences. Human rights lawyer Atef Hafez complained that the U.S. denied him entry to the Guantanamo Bay prison to visit a prisoner he was trying to represent. Hafez also complained that the Guantanamo prison is still open despite President Obama's commitment to close it. Activist Mohammed Zarea called for the U.S. to urge the GOE to make significant changes to open up political life.

Noting widespread dissatisfaction with political leaders on all sides, "April 6" leader Ahmed Salah said the 2010 and 2011 elections represented the only opportunity for change, and pressed for more immediate action. He called for greater internal and external pressure on the GOE to increase freedom of assembly and expression, lift the State of Emergency, improve election procedures with electronic voting, and allow registration with national identification cards.

Regarding U.S. democracy promotion, the group called for continued support to civil society and "principled" pressure on the GOE. However, Sadat noted sensitivities over "outside interference" in both the regime and opposition camps. Al-Ghad Party Vice-President Wael Nawara suggested that external criticism should be matched with primarily economic "incentives" to encourage the government to commit to concrete democratic reforms.

In a separate meeting, Al-Ghad party founder Ayman Nour said Egyptians were ready for change and seeking leadership. "I'm banned from participating in the coming elections, but I will be part of the political fight," Nour asserted. Nour opined that the GOE's prevention of a liberal alternative to Gamal Mubarak strengthened the Muslim Brotherhood. He underlined the impact of the security services' interference with opposition political activity, and advocated increased U.S. pressure to highlight GOE restrictions. Nour urged A/S Posner to press the GOE to restore his own personal rights by allowing him to resume his work as an attorney or journalist, travel abroad and sell his assets. Nour thanked A/S Posner for the Department's November 6, 2009 public statement expressing disappointment at the GOE's decision to prevent him from travelling to the U.S.
The US had plenty of time to read the signals and work to reform Egypt in a safe way.