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.”
Americans in large numbers offered loud and important support to the Egyptian activists in their efforts to build a new political and human rights culture. But that didn’t stop the US government from approving new shipments of weapons.
The most recent shipment for the Egyptian Ministry of Interior arrived from the United States on November 26, carrying at least seven tons of ammunition smoke, which includes chemical irritants and riot control agents such as tear gas.
Since that sale, the Egyptian military has continued to assault peaceful demonstrators. In December, female and opposition activists protesting military violence were attacked, leaving 17 activists dead, most of them reportedly from gunfire.
While US political and diplomatic officials have expressed concern about these actions, the Egyptian military express no regret or concern that they will face any consequences. One high-ranking military official even said that military forces were entitled to use live fire against protesters.
Meanwhile Egyptian activists are left to face the consequences. Egyptian women activists have made public shocking images of soldiers beating and stripping female demonstrators during previous protests. In more recent protests, Egyptian security officials have been documented beating and kicking women activists.
Sales to Egypt are just part of a larger concern that the US is undermining reform hopes throughout the Middle East with arms sales to allies such as Bahrain.
It’s time for a halt. The U.S. State Department must stop authorizing the shipment of weapons, ammunition, and equipment that Egypt’s government could use to violently suppress human rights.