Egypt: Ayman Nour — released!

Unexpectedly, good news from Egypt.  The government has released Ayman Nour, one of the country’s most prominent dissidents who came in second to President Mubarak in the 2005 presidential elections.

The BBC report can be found here; The Associated Press story here. The stated reason for his release was his poor health, although some speculate it is a gesture toward the new Obama administration.

Nour’s conviction and detention despite his poor health has been taken both as an example of the Egyptian government’s determination to muzzle all of civic society and the West’s inability to move the government on human rights.

Egyptian human rights activists, while supportive of Nour, wondered why the West, and the United States government in particular, seemed to focus so much attention on him while being less vocal or silent on other political dissidents.  Indeed the greater the US seemed to focus attention on Nour, the more the Egyptians seemed to dig in their heels.

Upon release, Nour said he was ready to pick up his work from three years ago.  It’s exciting to see such determination in face of so much abuse.

So today is a day of celebration, but a lesson as well. We can’t let action on a single high-profile case turn the human rights community or the American government away from pursuing a broader, more effective human rights policy in Egypt.

For today, even as we celebrate the release of a charismatic leader, the government clamps down elsewhere.  Hours ago, Amnesty reported the enforced disappearance and detention of student blogger Dia’ el Din Gad, a vocal critic of the Mubarak regime. No doubt Ayman Nour would be the first to want all of us to come to Dia’el Din Gad’s aid.

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