On Wednesday, the United States suspended a large part of the $1.3 billion in aid that it gives to Egypt, months after political turmoil following the July ouster of President Mohammed Morsi by the army. The delivery of Apache helicopters, Harpoon missiles and tank parts has been halted as has a $260 million cash transfer and a $300 million loan guarantee.
Many members of the Muslim Brotherhood who have clashed with authorities have been arrested, injured or died in demonstrations.
In response, the Egyptian foreign ministry criticized the United State’s decision and say that the country is “continuing on its path towards democracy.” Israel has also expressed concern about the United States cutting off aid, which is seen as necessary for maintaining stability in the region. The United States is insisting that its withdrawal of aid is temporary and, as U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry states, not by any means a “withdrawal from our relationship.” Restoration of the aid is tied to “credible progress toward an inclusive, democratically elected civilian government through free and fair elections,” as state department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said.
The New York-based organization Human Rights First says that the United States must clarify the conditions under which it will restore aid to Egypt. “Security and stability” will only be restored. if, says Human Rights First‘s Neil Hicks, there is “respect for the rule of law and protection for the basic rights and freedoms of all Egyptians, especially for vulnerable religious minority groups, who have increasingly come under attack [as] the political conflict has intensified.”
The following are only some instances of human rights abuses that have recently occurred in Egypt.
1. Detainment of Canadian Citizens For Seven Weeks
Two Canadian citizens, Dr. Tarek Loubani and filmmaker John Greyson, were arrested in Cairo while en route to the Gaza Strip, where Dr. Loubani was to provide medical training for Palestinian doctors; Greyson was planning to make a documentary about their journey. After being arrested on August 16, they were beaten and held in Cairo’s Tora prison and their detainment extended a number of times.
Last weekend, after going on a hunger strike and writing a letter detailing their situation, Dr. Loubani and Greyson were released from the prison; many thanks to Care2 members who signed the petition calling for their release. They remained “under suspicion” according to the Egyptian Foreign Ministry and in “bureaucratic limbo” until late this week. As of Friday night, they have been able to return to Canada.
Bessma Momani of the University of Waterloo politics department tells the Toronto Star that Loubani and Greyson are now in a “typically Egyptian nightmare” that is “what most Egyptians have to face on a daily basis. Things never move smoothly, and there’s no real due process.”
2. Attacks on Churches and Christian Institutions
In the past few months, mass attacks on churches and Christian property that have left at least four dead have occurred across Egypt. The Egyptian government needs to investigate why security forces have appeared to be absent during these attacks, in which mobs have looted and set fire to churches and other Christian insitutions, according to Human Rights Watch.
3. Attacks On and Arrests of Journalists
Since the military came into power, journalists have been “paying a considerable toll,” writes Sherif Mansour of the Committee to Protect Journalists. At least five have been killed, 30 have been assaulted, 11 news outlets have been raided and 44 have been detained; at least five journalists are still imprisoned. Many worked for independent organizations, outlets that criticized the ouster of Morsi or foreign outlets such as Al-Jazeera or Turkish channels.
4. Detainment of Palestinian Refugees From Syria
Egyptian authorities have detained dozens of Palestinian refugees from Syria who had thought that fleeing there would be safe. A media campaign that is said to be “demonizing” Syrians and accuses them of working with the Muslim Brotherhood has been in operation since June 30. Palestinians who lived in the Gaza Strip have also been forced to depart from Egypt.
More than 100 refugees are currently being held in police stations in cities including Alexandria before they are deported. Conditions in Egypt’s detention centers are said to be “very bad.” Many of the refugees detained in Alexandria’s Montaza II police station are children, Laura Dean writes in the London Review of Books:
In the Montaza police station, the children can hear suspects being tortured on the floors below. Food is usually provided once a day by Caritas, but sometimes doesn’t come at all. Refugees are often not allowed to use the bathroom. … Several people report one of the policemen saying to them: “You are trash, so we have to treat you like you’re trash.”
While the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees provides assistance, including free healthcare to Syrians who have fled the civil war, Egyptian authorities are not allowing the agency to assist Palestinian refugees.
The United States is continuing to provide health and education assistance, as well as funds to assist Egypt in “counterterrorism efforts” in the Sinai peninsula where the Egyptian military has, in recent weeks, undertaken a major offensive against Islamist militants; attacks on security forces (four were killed in a suicide attack on October 10th) have increased since Morsi’s ouster.
Should the United States go further in cutting aid and, at the very least, lay out specific conditions that Egypt must meet be restoring aid?
Photo via pds209/Flickr