Egyptian satirist and television host Bassem Youssef surrounded by his supporters upon his arrival at the public prosecutor’s office in Cairo. Egypt’s public prosecutor ordered the arrest of Youssef over alleged insults to Islam and to President Mohamed Morsi, in the latest clampdown on critical media (Photo Credit: Khaled Desouki/AFP/Getty Images).
“I am an American satirist, and Bassem Youssef is my hero,” Jon Stewart has said of his so-named Egyptian counterpart.
Bassem Youssef, whose show frequently pokes fun at Egyptian authorities and the use of religion for political purposes, found himself in the global spotlight after criminal charges were filed against him for his political satire. Jon Stewart highlighted the case on The Daily Show, TIME Magazine named Youssef one of the 100 Most Influential People of the year, and the Egyptian assault on free speech received international attention.
But Youssef himself cast attention on the many others caught up in the crackdown.
Newly appointed U.S. Secretary of State, John Kerry arrives in the UK at Stansted Airport on February 24, 2013 in Stansted, England. Kerry is embarking on his first foreign trip as Secretary of State with stops planned in the United Kingdom, Germany, France, Italy, Turkey, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Qatar before returning to Washington on March 6th. (Photo by Warrick Page/Getty Images)
While you continue your important work on Syria, however, I hope that you can spare some time for the on-going human rights violations elsewhere in the Middle East. Sadly, many of these violations are undertaken by America’s allies in the region, including Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Bahrain.
By Cilina Nasser, Amnesty International’s Syria researcher
When Siham Abou Sitte fell in love with Ghassan al-Shihabi, she was drawn by his determination to keep the memory of old Palestine alive, his passion for reading and writing and his commitment to his work.
They were both Palestinian refugees living in Syria’s Yarmouk neighbourhood in Damascus.
When he proposed, Ghassan promised to cherish Siham’s two children from a previous marriage, Carmen (then 12) and Yamen (then 15), and treat them as his own.
Six years after they got married, Siham says Ghassan never disappointed her.
Siham recalls the day her mother passed away, Carmen was upset by her grandmother’s death and ran to Ghassan who held her in his arms even though her own father was sitting there.
Amnesty International has long feared that the failure of the Morsi government to hold security forces and military accountable for their past human rights abuses ensured that those abuses would be repeated when the government called on those institutions to respond to the popular protests.
Sure enough, reporting from Egypt, Amnesty International researcher Diana Eltahawy documented evidence that points to the use of excessive force by Egyptian security officials.
At the local level, Americans are demonstrating a strong commitment to advancing human rights. In recent elections, voters legalized marriage equality in nine states and passed the DREAM Act to expand educational opportunities for undocumented residents in Maryland. In addition, legislators in four states abolished the death penalty. The message to the nation’s leaders seems to be this: human rights still matter, and the task of “perfecting our union” remains incomplete.
As President Obama prepares to give his second inaugural address, he should embrace an ambitious rights agenda: enhancing our security without trampling on human rights; implementing a foreign policy that hold friends and foes alike accountable for human rights violations; and ensuring human rights for all in the United States without discrimination.
Measured against international norms and his own aspirations, President Obama’s first term record on human rights merits an “incomplete.” While he made the bold move of issuing an executive order to close Guantánamo on his second day in office, he has yet to fulfill that promise. The U.S. government’s reliance on lethal drone strikes is growing steadily, but the administration has provided no clear legal justification for the program. Congress has abrogated its responsibility to exercise meaningful oversight of this most ubiquitous element of the “global war on terror,” a paradigm which is in and of itself problematic. Although President Obama has on occasion stood up for human rights defenders abroad — in China, Iran, Russia and Libya — his administration has often muted criticism when it comes to U.S. allies, in the Middle East, Africa and Europe.
Egyptian women demonstrate in Cairo MOHAMMED HOSSAM/AFP/Getty Images
When Egyptian politics get hot, it’s women who most often feel the flames. So when a group of Egyptian women took to Tahrir Square this past Friday to denounce the frequent assaults on women activists, it wasn’t surprising that they themselves came under attack.
These women stood up to demand an end to sexual harassment. What they got was intimidation and sexual assault.
Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa, Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui
At a critical time for Egypt’s future, the attacks underscore how women’s rights to full political participation are central to the spirit of the 2011 uprisings and the hope that Egypt can develop a new political culture based on respect for all human rights. The attack on the women activists goes straight to the heart of the ruling regime’s efforts to maintain its old practices.
This was the second report this month of women protesters being assaulted in Egypt. Nihal Saad Zaghloul told Amnesty International that she and three friends were attacked by a large group of men on June 2 in Tahrir Square as they joined a protest after the verdict in Hosni Mubarak’s trial. She was pushed and groped and her headscarf pulled off before some men in the square came to her aid. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST
Egyptian protesters help man suffering from tear gas during clashes with riot police in Cairo on November 23, 2011 (Photo MAHMUD HAMS/AFP/Getty Images)
There’s something wrong when on one hand Americans continue to stand up in support for Egyptians’ aspirations for human rights and on the other the US government supplies weapons to the very military regime that is attacking protesters.
And yet, as we approach the first anniversary of the Egyptian Jan. 25 uprising, activists are still facing attacks by military and security forces, and some of the tools the military are using bear the stamp, “Made in the USA.”