Egypt

By Salma Khamis

Egyptian President Abdelfattah El Sisi and his French counterpart François Hollande at the Opening Ceremony of the Suez Canal's Expansion, July 2015. Source: BFM TV

For anyone who has been following Egyptian affairs, this past month’s headlines have provided for a curious case of seemingly implausible coincidences. Coming from a country that sometimes seems to be purposely trying to embarrass itself on the international stage (see: the army-financed AIDS-curing laser machine), I must say that PR mishaps are no stranger to the Egyptian government. Unfortunately, the events of this month only serve to reinforce this fact.

The first case in point: the tragic September 13th accidental killing of 8 Mexican tourists by an army airstrike in the Egyptian White Desert.  In every sense of the word, this event was a domestic and diplomatic catastrophe, and it should have been treated as such. Rather, internally, Egyptian media outlets chose to focus on whether or not the tourists should have been where they were without the army’s authorization. Externally, President Abdelfattah El Sisi, the presumed highly skilled arbiter of diplomacy, chose to congratulate Mexico on the occasion of the Mexican Independence Day, whilst in mid-condolence-speech regarding eight of their nationals who perished on Egyptian soil for absolutely no reason other than institutional incompetence.

Fast-forward to September 23 and France’s announcement that it has decided to reroute its previously Russia-bound Mistral helicopters to Egypt. As any freshman IR student could tell you, this is a decision with profound geopolitical motivations and consequences. On the one hand, increased Russian military intervention in Syria undoubtedly played a role in determining whether or not the weapons made it to Putin. On the other hand, there could not possibly be a more pronounced endorsement of Sisi and the path upon which he is leading his country than an internationally advertised arms deal such as this.

Despite limited French criticism of the Egyptian government’s human rights abuses, it was only during the opening ceremony for the expansion of the Suez Canal (itself a vestige of French influence in the country) that the speculation regarding warming Franco-Egyptian relations was confirmed. Sitting side by side with El-Sisi, French President François Hollande seemed every bit as impressed as Egyptian liberals were infuriated. The visual of a P5 country president sitting shoulder-to-shoulder with Sisi served as a loud and clear confirmation, not only of the economic soundness of the canal expansion (a notion widely contested by academics); but of all that Sisi has become notorious for in barely over a year of being in office: forced disappearances, mass death sentences, dwindling academic freedom, and a whole host of other “democratizing” pursuits.

Adding yet another ‘coincidental’ insult to injury, on the same day the French government announced the Egyptian arms deal, the Egyptian government announced that Sisi had decided to presidentially pardon 100 political prisoners. Out of these 100 prisoners, the names of two in particular caught the world’s attention: Mohamed Fahmy and Baher Mohamed who, up until their arrest in 2013 on terrorism allegations, worked in Al-Jazeera’s Cairo bureau. Despite being a Canadian national, Fahmy could not secure his release through diplomatic efforts in what had become an international controversy as the Egyptian government continued to defy foreign pressure to release the Al-Jazeera journalist. Predictably, Sisi was hailed domestically for his act of historically unprecedented benevolence.

I am fully aware of the dangers of having hypothesized a correlation between a set of variables, only to make it seem like there are no two ways about it. This sequence of events could very well be purely coincidental and, as a cynical Egyptian observing events from afar, I could be making an unfair correlation between a number of factors that bear little relevance to one another. It is not like Sisi was subsequently making a trip to the United States the very next day after pardoning these prisoners, attempting to put the final nail in the coffin of Egypt’s bad press.

The fact of the matter is, foreign and domestic analysts alike should not be commending President Sisi for the decision to pardon 100 political prisoners who should not even have been arrested in the first place. To commend his efforts is to be complicit in justifying the need for their initial arrest and subsequent detainment under blanket “anti-terrorism” laws that serve only to terrorize an entire population into silence. The decision to pardon these prisoners comes not from Sisi’s newly found conviction in the sanctity of human rights, but from a need to save face after a month of spectacularly unfavorable press. Even if the prospects of being elected for a second term have already been deemed an inevitability in domestic discourse, Sisi still has to salvage his image abroad.

Rather than commending Sisi for pardoning 100 unjustly detained political prisoners, we should question the premise upon which the pardon was issued. Bartering the livelihood of 100 individuals for the acquisition of weaponry or redemption of diplomatic stature is not only irresponsible, but provides room for the future manipulation of domestic affairs to save face on the international stage.

When push comes to shove, what commentators do not want to admit in their analysis of Egyptian affairs is that all of these coincidences, or mishaps, or temporary setbacks, or whatever it is we want to call them; they are but symptoms of an overarching and undeniable institutional failure that needs to be addressed before it morphs itself into yet another global embarrassment… or twenty.

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By Salma Khamis

Photo link: Source: http://breakawaybackpacker.com/2013/06/cairo-street-art/

If asked about the outcome of the Egyptian revolution, most Western academics and local democracy activists alike would probably locate their response somewhere within a narrative of failure and disillusionment. That isn’t to say their responses wouldn’t be entirely true. Rather, a brief survey of the political, economic, and social indicators underpinning the analysis of any country’s post-revolutionary progress would indicate a clear degradation in today’s Egypt. However, succumbing solely to this one-dimensional narrative, at the expense of a plethora of nuances, is all too easy. Alternatively, considering one of the often-ignored byproducts of the Egyptian revolution can contribute towards the formation of a different, and starkly more optimistic, legacy of this popular uprising.

http://english.al-akhbar.com/node/2945
“You will not kill our revolution” by Hosni, 2011. Source: Al-Akhbar Weekly.

Walking through downtown Cairo five years ago would have provided for a very different journey than pursuing the same path today. Four years after Tahrir Square erupted in protest the walls of Cairo’s epicenter are lined not only with the blood of countless slain martyrs, but also with the spray paint commemorating their legacies. Large-scale murals, iconic stencils, and freehand graffiti slogans overlap one another on any wall large enough to house them. Especially today, in an Egypt characterized primarily by the increasingly militarized and authoritative regime of army strongman Abdelfattah el-Sisi, the advent of this extremely accessible and explicitly defiant art form represents the slow reclamation of the urban public space by artists and spectators alike. A public space that was once available to all during the eighteen days of uprising in January has since been seized (arguably more strongly than ever) by local authorities, both literally and figuratively. The emergence of this locally produced (and often improvised) powerful graffiti, as well as its persistence despite the increasingly oppressive political and social climate, is a testament to one of the Egyptian revolution’s few, and thus infinitely valuable, successes.

The Power of the Stencil:

From January 2011 to this day, every new wave of protests in Egypt has brought with it a series of different, albeit sometimes overlapping, rhetorical themes – depending on that which is being protested. As such, the street art accompanying each respective movement has also been characterized by a different set of themes and grievances, the evolutionary trends of which are interesting to track. Despite local authorities’ attempts at, literally, whitewashing martyrs’ legacies that had been documented by street artists on walls all over the capital, this only provided new planes upon which to display more relevant material.

https://suzeeinthecity.wordpress.com/2012/09/20/for-the-love-of-graffiti-cairos-walls-trace-history-of-colourful-revolution/
A stencil of Khaled Said’s face, 2011. The accompanying text reads: “The Interior Ministry are all thugs.” Source: Suzee In The City

Triggered by the brutal murder of Khaled Said in 2010, the initial uprising of 2011 saw the emergence of classic revolutionary rhetoric, highlighting the uprising’s main goals in a simple visual, and thus accessible, form. A stencil of Said’s headshot was plastered all over Egypt, the remnants of which today stand as a painful reminder of the initially pacifistic calls of an uprising that, four years on, has become increasingly violent.

After President Hosni Mubarak stepped down in February, the interim military government too faced powerful opposition on behalf of the liberal and progressive factions that had led the calls for change characterizing the January 2011 uprising. When a video of a female protestor being unclothed and beaten up by security forces emerged in December 2011, the infamous image of her blue bra virtually characterized anti-SCAF (Supreme Council of Armed Forces) dissent. As rhetorical coming-of-age, if you will, the graffiti that had previously been dominated by vague demands of equality and democracy now began to reflect newly articulated and more defined demands: gender justice and anti-police brutality.

The stencil of the infamous blue bra. The text above sarcastically reads, "No to unclothing the population." The footprint below contains text which reads, "Long live the revolution." 2011. Source: designandviolence.moma.org.
The stencil of the infamous blue bra. The text above sarcastically reads, “No to unclothing the population.” The footprint below contains text which reads, “Long live the revolution.” 2011. Source: designandviolence.moma.org.

The image of the Ancient Egyptian Queen Nefertiti wearing a gas mask (shown at the top of this article) is equally profound. While the blue bra piece highlights the importance of female participation in the unfolding anti-SCAF protests, the second piece criticizes the army’s disproportionate use of force against protestors. One cannot deny the lasting impact of both pieces. Most prominently, the previously inaccessible messages triumphed by progressive artists, who previously could not effectively relay their ideas to the greater public, were finally freed from the ivory tower that they were previously confined.

Transcending Allegiances:

What is particularly interesting to note about the development of graffiti in Egypt is how it transcends the ideological differences that make up the myriad political factions on Egypt’s spectrum. Despite the fact that urban street art was perceived to be a luxury reserved for privileged westernized progressives, the walls of this misconception quickly crumbled in 2011 as protest, in all its forms, became mainstream. From the conventionally Eurocentric perceptions of democracy and equality portrayed in the art that defied Mubarak’s rule in 2011, to Islamist opposition to the 2013 military coup – people’s virtually uniform access to the public space meant that anyone with anything to say could take to an empty wall and say it, colorfully and beautifully. Thus, irrespective of who’s in power, revolutionary Egyptian graffiti is able to both represent a rejection of the status quo and provide dissenters with the medium upon which to express their discontent with whatever rhetoric they see fit.

The text reads, "Say no to drugs: hashish, prescription drugs, and Egyptian television," criticizing the biased nature of Egyptian state TV. Hosni, 2011. Source: Jadaliyya.
The text reads, “Say no to drugs: hashish, prescription drugs, and Egyptian television,” criticizing the biased nature of Egyptian state TV. Hosni, 2011. Source: Jadaliyya.

Furthermore, one needs only to consider the frequency with which Egyptian authorities are quick to pin public discontent on “foreign conspiracies” to note the suspicion traditionally attributed to the transportation of foreign phenomena into Egypt. Distinctly, however, the Egyptian graffiti scene has dodged this counterproductive cultural barrier and reaped the fruits of this western tradition of visual protest, while simultaneously maintaining a distinct national identity. Not only is the majority of the work decorating Egyptian walls today in Arabic, but the combination of Arabic calligraphy with the techniques of traditional urban western graffiti has also allowed artists and activists alike the opportunity to express their protest with a degree of authenticity previously alien to Egyptian political and cultural discourse.

Post-Coup Transformation:

Amidst rumors of strengthened anti-graffiti laws and the magnitude of unjustified arrests of both political activists and graffiti artists, followers of Egypt’s graffiti scene fear its disintegration. As the government relentlessly tries to promote its own legitimacy both in the domestic and international spheres, there seems to be no room for the counterculture in Sisi’s Egypt. The voices of those who favor the return of Muslim Brotherhood President Mohamed Morsi in particular have been eradicated from both the mainstream media and socially acceptable public discourse. Why should their corresponding graffiti scene be any different?

Anti-military graffiti reads, "No military coup," "CC [referencing President Sisi] is a traitor," and "The military are murderers." 2013. Source: Mada Masr /Jano Charbel
Anti-military graffiti reads, “No military coup,” “CC [referencing President Sisi] is a traitor,” and “The military are murderers.” 2013. Source: Mada Masr/Jano Charbel
However, the desperation of the pro-Brotherhood cause, coupled with the current regime’s propagation of ultra-nationalist, militarized rhetoric hasn’t meant the complete disappearance of political graffiti, only its transformation. As noted by Jano Charbel, those producing pro-Morsi graffiti today “appear to be more interested in publicly posting their messages than in the aesthetic value of their graffiti. In Cairo, they have produced no murals and very few stencils, forms which become prevalent over the past three years.” This could explain their increased use of the English language: to maximize the accessibility of their message and testify to their increasing despair. Having been the prime target of government and public persecution since the coup of July 2013, pro-Morsi activists have been using what’s left of their dwindling resources to voice their opposition through whatever simplistic (and arguably thus less effective) forms they can manage – albeit to an audience that is, at best, largely ignoring them. Today, everything from public trashcans, to the walls encompassing the world-renowned al-Azhar University, is covered in these freehand expressions of discontent. It is clear that Muslim Brotherhood sympathizers are trying to make the most of the limited access they have to the public space after over eighteen months of intense persecution.

To clarify, this article has been but a brief introduction the fascinating pursuit of analyzing the different rhetorical trends governing the Egyptian graffiti scene since January 2011. It would not have been possible to capture the entirety of this dynamic and inspiring movement with the accuracy and justice it so rightly deserves in such a short piece. I hope, however, to have brought to light an optimistic result of the 2011 uprising on Egyptian society: the flourishing of a vibrant and expressive urban graffiti scene that has garnered mainstream popularity. I believe that analyzing the prominent themes and stylistic techniques employed by the local pioneers in this burgeoning field can help arm future activists with the knowledge of what does and doesn’t work in garnering a response from mainstream Egyptian society. As has already been proven time and time again since the initial uprisings of 2011, it is only by demystifying commonly perceived “corrupt” ideals and practices that fly in the face of the status quo, and presenting them to the greater public in an accessible and interactive form, that domestic political discourse can truly be productively transformed.

 


Author’s Note:

This particular topic has garnered much international attention and I urge anyone wanting to find out more to explore Don Karl and Basma Hamdy’s newly released book on the topic titled, “Walls of Freedom.” In the words of the writers themselves, not only does the book document the explosion of revolutionary street art in Egypt, but also seeks to track “the transformation of citizens into artists and artists into activists [and] shed light on the larger framework of the revolution.”

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By Salma Khamis

Woman voting in the 2012 Election. Source: VOA News.

In the seventh election since 2011’s popular uprising, over 54 million registered Egyptian voters are scheduled to head to the polls between March and April of this year to vote for their legislative body. On first glance, it may appear that Egypt’s upcoming parliamentary elections represent the next logical step on the country’s precarious road towards democracy. However, several observers of the developments unfolding on the Egyptian political stage since President Abdelfattah al-Sisi’s inauguration in June 2014 are much more skeptical of the country’s presumed democratization. With news surfacing about the advent of pro-Mubarak, counterrevolutionary, candidate participation in the upcoming elections, coupled with the boycott or banning of several leftist, revolutionary, and Islamist parties, it is becoming increasingly difficult to legitimize this electoral process.

A new electoral law ratified by President Sisi in June 2014, with little to no public participation or consultation, designates 420 of the 567 seats in parliament to independent candidates and 120 to party lists. The President personally appoints 27 deputies to fill the remaining seats. Under the pre-existing electoral law, which governed the 2012 parliamentary elections, there was to be 332 seats dedicated to party lists and 166 reserved for individual candidates. It seems likely that we will witness this subversion of the ratio between party lists and individual candidates translate into the election of several Mubarak-era deputies who, otherwise, would not have been able to harness the political support needed to form a successful party list.

The new law does, however, provide particular quotas for traditionally marginalized members of Egyptian society: 56 women, 24 Coptic Christians, 16 youth, and 8 members with disabilities. Nevertheless, it has been disheartening to note that, four years after the 2011 uprising, little has been done to enshrine sexual and religious equality within Egypt’s legislative body. Sisi’s electoral law guarantees less than 10% of parliament to female deputies and a shocking 4% to Coptic Christians, both of whom make up a significantly larger portion of society.

The announced boycott of several revolutionary and leftist parties further calls this election’s legitimacy into question. Founded by Nobel peace prize laureate Mohamed el-Baradei, the liberal al-Dostor party recently announced its intention to boycott the elections, citing an oppressive and unfavorable political climate. Similar justifications were provided by the Popular Current and Strong Egypt parties, both of whom played prominent roles in the 2011 uprising. On the leftist front, the recent brutal murder of unarmed socialist activist Shaima al-Sabbagh by police forces in January has prompted both the Socialist Popular Alliance and the Revolutionary Socialists to also declare their intentions to boycott. With the ban imposed on the Muslim Brotherhood since 2013, and any political party formed on religious premises, the range of parties across the Egyptian political spectrum who are allowed, willing, and able to partake in this electoral process has dwindled, to say the least.

So, who is actually running? Mubarak-era prime minister Kamal al-Ganzouri’s national list is expected to win the largest number of seats. The list includes a number of civilian parties and public figures that are united in little else but their commitment to maintain the status quo currently governing Egyptian politics. Unsurprisingly, the list is spearheaded by former members of Mubarak’s National Democratic Party (NDP) but also includes a host of post-revolutionary liberal parties such as Naguib Sawiris’ Free Egyptians Party. A phenomenon similarly observed in Egyptian media and throughout public political discourse, it seems that the fermentation of Sisi’s expansive cult of personality, perfectly complemented by the strengthening of his oppressive security apparatus, has succeeded in forcing factions of the opposition to pursue apathetic or, worse, actively counterrevolutionary tactics.

Adding insult to injury, the European Union announced that it would not be sending a full mission to monitor the upcoming election, as it has done in the past. This was followed by a scathing statement, criticizing the Egyptian authorities for their recent human rights infractions. The statement mentioned in particular the recent issuing of several mass death sentences for members of the Muslim Brotherhood, as well as the criminalization of LGBT people, amongst other developments that have strayed the country away from its post-revolutionary democratic path. This comes after the Carter Center, led by former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, announced ceasing all of its activity in Egypt as well as having no intention to monitor the upcoming elections. As such, not only do we see a lack of legitimacy stemming from the candidates running in this election, but also from the procedural process itself, the validity of which can no longer be guaranteed in a country fraught with a legacy of electoral corruption.

It is important to note the pertinence of these upcoming elections within the current overriding global geopolitical landscape. As signs of Sisi’s shifting allegiance to Russia became increasingly apparent with Putin’s recent visit to Egypt and the initiation of an Egyptian military campaign against ISIS in Libya without American consultation, this new parliament is going to be instrumental in defining Egypt’s new position within the regional and global balance of power. Unfortunately, however, it seems that the incoming deputies will do little else but commend the steps taken by Sisi thus far and advocate for their continuation.

Does all of this mean the end of the prospect of Egyptian democracy? Not in the slightest. As has already occurred with the judicial and security institutions, the declining legitimacy afforded to the legislative institution in Egypt only signalizes one more facet of Egyptian politics that can no longer be utilized by revolutionary activists in their attempts at instilling more democratic values throughout Egyptian society.

If for nothing else, the 2011 uprising was successful in finally germinating the beginnings of an effective, mobilized, civil society. Members of the non-governmental organizations, parties, and human rights monitors that make up this civil society now have to face an increasingly oppressive political climate star-studded with a growing number of corrupt institutions. Having already overcome a number of obstacles presented in the past four years simply by continuing to exist and voicing their opinions, despite the heightened risks that now poses, one can only but take solace in the hope that, somehow, they will manage to tap into sufficient public discontent to mobilize a coordinated and effective expression of their rejection of the current state of affairs in Egypt. This tentative optimism stems not from any observable signs of hopeful change in Egypt, but rather in the conviction that the prevailing status quo (definitively worse than that which existed pre-2011) can not continue to exist for much longer.

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By Vikram Shah

EAF F-16C block 40 flies over Egypt with a USN F/A-18 and a USAF F-15. Source: USAF.

On the dawn of February 16th, the Egyptian Air Force launched an airstrike on the eastern Libyan city of Derna, a stronghold of a local Islamist group affiliated with the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). The airstrike targeted 10 targets within the city that were used as training sites and weapons storage. Additionally, reports from Egyptian and Libyan news sources suggest that Egyptian Special Forces carried out a ground assault in Derna and captured over 50 ISIS militants and killed many more. Both attacks were carried out in response to a video the group posted on the 15th of February showing the decapitation of more than a dozen Egyptian Christians. While there are significant ramifications of this bold and decisive strike on Egypt’s foreign policy and security stance vis-à-vis the other Arab states involved in the countering ISIS’s rise, the domestic impact of this strike is also worth considering.

President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, former chief of the Egyptian Armed Forces, came to power in 2013 by leading a coup d’état against the democratically-elected Egyptian president Mohammad Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood. The Muslim Brotherhood faced many problems in their first year in office; chief among them, arguably, was an inability to co-opt Egypt’s Coptic Christian minority into supporting the Brotherhood’s policies. The Egyptian Copts make up close to 9% of Egypt’s population and suffered persecution during the Brotherhood’s rule over Egypt. They were one of the leading voices for regime change in 2013 and the leader of the Coptic community, Pope Tawadros II, issued an open statement of support for Sisi’s newfound leadership role. Ever since becoming President, Sisi has worked to ensure that the Coptic minority is acknowledged and protected in a dual effort to separate himself from the failed policies of the Morsi government and to maintain the support of a significant portion of Egyptian society.

Egypt’s intervention in Libya represents a significant escalation of its role in the civil war raging on its western border. Until now, Egypt has worked with the United Arab Emirates in covertly backing General Khalifa Haftar’s campaign to drive out the numerous Islamic extremist organizations and assert secular, albeit authoritarian, rule over Libya. So far, Egypt has remained relatively removed from the battle with ISIS and has focused on combating domestic terror threats originating from the Sinai Peninsula and homegrown extremism. However, the execution of 21 Coptic Christians presented Sisi with the perfect opportunity to not only strengthen his domestic support base but to also help support General Haftar’s efforts in Libya and contribute to the US-led effort against ISIS. President Sisi declared a week of mourning for the slain Egyptian Christians and has vowed to seek retribution for their deaths. Additionally, it is unlikely that Egypt will suffer international consequences for its intervention in Libya because it did so under the banner of combating extremism, even though furthering the goals of its Libyan ally.

Also important to note is the impact that Egypt’s intervention has had on its relationship with the United States. While the White House has vehemently denied backing Egypt’s actions, it has stopped its rhetoric short of blatant condemnation because it realizes that even though Egypt violated Libya’s sovereignty the country is in a state of anarchy and has been a breeding-ground for Islamic extremism for months. Additionally, Egypt has openly joined the US-led coalition against ISIS, which no doubt has improved icy US-Egypt relationships post-2012 coup. Altogether, President Sisi has been able to capitalize on a tragic event and use it to promote Egypt’s interests at home and abroad.

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By Olivia Daniels

Source: Al-Arabiya News

Last month, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi appointed Faiza Abou el-Naga as his national security advisor. This is the same Faiza Abou el-Naga who, as Egypt’s Minister for Planning and International Cooperation, insisted that Egypt reject a $3.2 billion loan package from the International Monetary Fund in June of 2011, and, later that year, requested an investigation into the foreign financing of various pro-democracy non-profit organizations. The investigation led to criminal charges under which the nonprofits were accused of using the foreign funds to aid protests against Egypt’s military regime. Abou el-Naga claimed that the International Republic Institute in Egypt serves the “right wing” agenda, and Freedom House as a front for the “Jewish lobby” in the United States. This movement caused one of the biggest rifts between Washington and Cairo since the beginning of their alliance in 1989.

Despite the government changing hands multiple times in recent years, Abou el- Naga has remained active in the political scene from the time President Hosni Mubarak appointed her as Egypt’s foreign minister in 2001 up until President Mohamed Morsi formed a new cabinet. From her position as foreign minister, she moved on to become the Minister for Planning and International Cooperation, and was one of few officials to remain in her post after Mubarak was ousted. In this role, she led the investigation against and the International Republican Institute, Freedom House, and other nonprofits, which included the prosecution of 43 human rights advocates, 19 of which were American. Abou el-Naga stated that “the United States and Israel could not directly create and sustain a state of chaos, so they used direct funding, especially American, to reach those goals.” In 2012, David D. Kirkpatrick from the New York Times wrote that “with $1.5 billion in annual American aid hanging in the balance, Egypt’s top military officer and de facto chief of staff executive is asking Ms. Abul Naga to moderate her tone.” Abou el-Naga seemed to have ignored those warnings, as she even threatened to use the “Iran card” against the United States, warning that alienating Egypt would only move the country closer to Iran. This may have worked, as aid flow from the U.S. to Egypt remained stable. Abou el-Naga then saw Morsi’s election in 2012 as her cue to step down – although clearly not indefinitely.

While the choice to appoint Abou el-Naga as his national security advisor may be Sisi’s way of sending a message to the United States, it says even more about what is happening in Egypt. Journalist Abdel Latif el-Menaway approves of Sisi’s decision. He remembers Abou el-Naga’s political history in a positive light, claiming that “those who expect Naga’s presence to be bad for civil society groups are also wrong because what governs the relationship between of the organizations is the law and as long as they respect the laws of the state there will be no problem.” But how can these organizations respect laws when the laws themselves are so difficult to comply with? The individuals affiliated with these groups were charged with operating without a license, receiving unauthorized foreign funds, and engaging in political activity. In compliance with Egypt’s laws, the National Democratic Institute and the International Republican Institute both applied for registration with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in 2005. The groups were told their registration would be approved, but even after multiple follow-ups they never were approved, without any explanation as to why. Abou el-Naga’s assistant, Ambassador Marawan Badr, was quoted saying, “they know they are working illegally and without license,” and Abou el-Naga claimed that the activity of these groups was a product of “political funding” which is not allowed under Egyptian law. In 2012, Stephen McInerney wrote an article for Foreign Affairs that explained how groups with more “innocuous goals” had a much easier time obtaining their licenses. McInerney said that “it is disingenuous for the Egyptian government to refuse to grant U.S. NGOs registration on political grounds and then claim that the investigation against them is an apolitical matter.”

Abou el-Naga not only has a history of targeting groups that raise questions about the state of human rights in Egypt, but also is willing to risk Egypt’s relationship with the United States to maintain that position. In her new role as national security advisor, there is hope that she have bigger concerns than organizations that are working to promote human rights. Yet assuming anything with Abou el-Naga would be naïve.

Economically, it is important to keep in mind that Abou el-Naga believes Egypt should reject IMF and World Bank conditional capital. Egypt is in no position to pass up economic aid. In addition, Abou el-Naga was willing to put the $1.5 billion that the United States gives to Egypt annually on the line. Abou el-Naga is well educated, having received a Masters in Political Science from the University of Geneva, and politically keen. While she may know how far she could push President Obama without devastating Egypt’s economy, that’s not to say she won’t add the straw that breaks the camel’s, or eagle’s, back.

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