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Problems on hold..The Carter Center report Confiscating the will of Egyptians

Youssef Sidhom

02 Nov 2014 1:01 am

It looks like some foreign organisations that claim to be close to events in Egypt are miles away from the overarching sentiments of mainstream Egyptians. These organisations insist on being blind to the hope and optimism Egyptians have basked in since 30 June 2013 when some 33 million took to the streets demanding the downfall of the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) regime. The military responded to the people’s will and on 3 July, following an ultimatum arrogantly rejected by the Islamist President Muhammad Mursi to heed the people’s grievances, the MB regime was overthrown. It is obvious, however, that the foreign organisations I speak of understood nothing of the challenge we undertook to rid Egypt of Islamists, nor our elation when this was successfully achieved. Nor do they appear to see our ongoing battle against the Islamist terrorism that targets our people, police and army. They seem so non-bothered that they preach to us day in day out about reconciling with the terrorists, merging them in political life and granting them full rights.

Not only that, but when Egypt took the necessary legal measures to monitor the funding and operations of civil society organisations so that they would be sufficiently transparent, these organisations overlooked all the violations already committed by a number of them, and vocally wept over the ‘loss of freedoms and strangling of civil work’. They branded the regime as repressive and brutal. Never mind that Egyptians saw the new law as essential to protect the local front from those who conspired to pull the nation back into the Islamist fold.
Some two months ago, Human Rights Watch (HRW) issued a report, which I described as dubious, on the dispersal by the Egyptian authorities of the MB five-week sit-ins in Cairo on 14 August 2013. At the time, I wrote refuting the allegations of the HRW report and exposing the glaring falsifications. Two weeks ago, the Carter Center followed suit, issuing a report that announced it was closing its field office in Egypt and lamented the so-called regression of freedom and oppression of NGOs. I was staggered at the move, given that the centre holds the name of its founder, former US President Jimmy Carter, who had worked in Egypt and closely monitored referenda and elections and issued reports on them. I expected the centre would exercise sufficient objectivity and credibility to give a true account of what takes place in Egypt. I gave the report a thorough read, only to find it a replica of the HRW’s. The Carter Center appears to have given Egypt its back, relaying to the world an account that shuns the reality on the ground and preaches academic measures not applicable in any nation forced to fight terrorism and corruption.

The Carter Center appears to be betting that its report would resound the world over and bring on antagonistic moves against Egypt to punish her for going her own way since 30 June 2013. Is the centre oblivious to the fact that Egyptians—and non-Egyptians who live and work in Egypt—will read the report and be appalled at the falsifications and lack of objectivity? It makes me seriously question the intentions behind the report. Does the Carter Center, like other NGOs, fulfil the interests of those who fund it? Do some people still believe that Egypt’s steady effort towards achieving modernism and democracy can be hampered? Let me say again that this would be futile. Our new Egypt pleads with no one for consent to fulfil the will of her people; we do not look for a green light to apply policies that work in our national interest.

A quick read of the main features of the Carter Center lamentation over Egypt yields the following:
• “Carter Center Closes Egypt Office; Calls for Stronger Protections for Democratic Rights and Freedoms.
• “The Carter Center announced today that it has closed its field office in Egypt after nearly three years and that it will not deploy an observation mission to assess Egypt’s parliamentary elections anticipated later this year. This decision reflects The Carter Center’s assessment that the political environment is deeply polarized and that political space has narrowed for Egyptian political parties, civil society, and the media. As a result, the upcoming elections are unlikely to advance a genuine democratic transition in Egypt. Both Egyptian civil society and international organizations face an increasingly restrictive environment that hinders their ability to conduct credible election observation.

• “Former US president Jimmy Carter says: ‘The current environment in Egypt is not conducive to genuine democratic elections and civic participation. I hope that Egyptian authorities will reverse recent steps that limit the rights of association and assembly and restrict operations of Egyptian civil society groups.’
• “The current political environment in Egypt is marked by a severe narrowing of political space and deep polarization. There has been a crackdown on dissidents, opposition groups, and critical journalists, together with heightened restrictions on core freedoms of expression, assembly, and association. Particularly troubling are the mass arrests of Muslim Brotherhood supporters; the passage in late 2013 of the so-called protest law, which places broad restrictions on the freedoms of assembly and expression. Taken together, the restrictions on democratic freedoms mean that citizens and political parties face extreme limitations on debate and participation and that political campaigning could be extremely difficult—and possibly dangerous—for critics of the regime.
• “The existing law gives a wide range of powers to the Egyptian government’s Ministry of Social Solidarity to regulate the establishment and internal affairs of civil society organizations…Recent announcements by the Ministry of Social Solidarity, which establish a narrow window in which all domestic and international civil society organizations must register, indicate that this critical loophole is being closed. As a result, many respected NGOs working on human rights and legal reform now face closure and possible criminal prosecution of their staff, unless approved for registration.”
Obviously, the Carter Center’s grievances with Egypt fail to spot the will of the Egyptian people and their successes along the way towards a democratic future. It overlooks the savage Islamist terrorism and its toll on Egyptians. It promotes reconciliation with and empowerment of the enemies of the people. The Carter Center boldly speaks of the NGO law not as an enforcement of order but as a throttlehold. Altogether, I find in the Carter Center report a new form of terrorism inflicted on Egypt. But as I said before, we will no longer allow such terrorism to deter us in our quest for the future we have chosen for ourselves.

Watani International
2 November 2014


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