In my previous editorial, I wrote about attempts to hijack and politicise the climate summit (COP27) that was held at Egypt’s Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh from 6 to 20 November 2022. I mentioned efforts by some to hack the summit’s agenda by propelling forward the issue of human rights in Egypt, through conspiring to mobilise large demonstrations against President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi and the Egyptian regime, to protest the so-called political imprisonment of prisoners of conscience. The demonstrations were scheduled for 11/11, a date which coincided with the arrival of US President Joe Biden to attend the climate summit. The aim was that world leaders would pick the thread and twist the arm of the Egyptian regime—as the whole world watched—into releasing prisoners who had been tried before Egyptian courts, found guilty and sentenced. The call to protest found no response among the Egyptian public who took to social media to express their opinions; they were largely not at all persuaded of the need to demonstrate. And one day before the protests were scheduled to take place, Egyptian authorities exposed evidence of them to be a US conspiracy against Egypt. The end result is that 11/11 passed as a peaceful day, albeit with heightened security.
There had been attempts to attribute the demonstrations planned for 11/11 to the Muslim Brotherhood (MB), but it was revealed that the MB inside or outside Egypt were but the cat’s paw; they were deplorably used as a false façade for the American conspiracy.
I expressed my great respect at the wisdom and astuteness of the Egyptian regime in dealing with the conspiracy. Egypt exercised self-restraint, refraining from expressing outrage at the US. President Biden was respectfully received in Sharm el-Sheikh when he arrived on 11 November. He retracted on the planned conspiracy and made no condemnation of Egypt’s human rights record; instead, he applauded Egypt’s role and weight in the region and the world.
As we talk about human rights, I proudly recall the words of President Sisi on the topic during the Model UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) that was held earlier this year during the fourth edition of the World Youth Forum in Sharm el-Sheikh from 11 to 13 January. President Sisi’s talk represents a slap on the face of those who make it their business to undermine Egypt’s reputation through the human rights card. President Sisi revealed the hypocrisy of such allegations, given that the accusers are themselves enmeshed in human rights infringements and double standards.
In his talk to the Model UNHRC, President Sisi addressed world countries which complain of having to host some 20,000 refugees: “You refused to host them and instead sent them back to their countries, abandoning them to their fate. Whereas Egypt, a country that is not rich, hosted more than 6 million persons from all corners of the world, and never closed the door to anyone who sought refuge on her soil. We did not put them in camps, we even refused to call them “refugees”. We allowed them to live with us in our community, to work, eat, drink, and get education and medical treatment. They mingled with our people and acquired all the rights of Egyptians, be that healthcare, education, work, or housing. We never complained; we never denied them access to our country, nor have we left them to meet their fate and drown in the Mediterranean on their way to you in Europe. We did this very humbly and without bragging. Don’t the millions of refugees who have been for the past 10 years thrown in refugee camps on the borders of some countries have a right to live? Don’t they have human rights? And have you noticed the repercussions of their life in refugee camps for 10 years? Children who were only 7 or 8 years old, have by now become youth; what will become of them, and where are their human rights? In the West, your countries are stable, and your populations have not grown for the past 50 years. You have your political system in which you believe and with which you are happy. The problem is that you wish to impose it on us and on the world, unaware of the particularity of every country, and oblivious of the fact that not all societies are like yours. Diversity and dissimilarity are universal facts, and we cannot impose on the whole world to speak the same language or have the same mindset… I am not saying this to promote or advocate anything; this is a universal reality. And human rights are not restricted to only one side of life.
“There’s a name for such behaviour: it’s called “patronisation”; you are patronising the world by attempting to impose a life style and governing model. Yet even so, your system is not foolproof. When the coronavirus pandemic hit, you discovered shortcomings in your healthcare system which failed to adequately contain the pandemic.”
The President also talked about human rights in the broader sense, saying that peoples have rights, and that these rights have been breached by world powers who interfered in the affairs of these peoples. “Havoc has been wreaked on our region,” he said, “through outside interference. The only country that was able to emerge intact out of the disaster was Egypt. Look at the other countries in the region, and you’ll understand what ruin Egypt escaped.
“Who conspired against these countries, destroying States that were once stable homes for their peoples? Who violated human rights in these countries and communities? Then you hold us accountable for human rights? What rights are you speaking of, and which humans are you defending? Are human rights limited to the right of free expression and the right to democracy? Look at the leaders around the world who are fighting for power. Has anyone considered the right of their peoples in a safe stable life, removed from conflict and power hunger?”
Before I turn the page on this issue, I would like to refer to President Sisi’s declarations to a press conference when he participated in the 45th G7 summit in Germany last July. The President said: “I am keen to clarify that our concern with this issue [human rights] does not stem from the fact that you are asking about it. It is very important that you know that. We are concerned because we respect our people and love them, and this is not mere talk. We respect our people just as you respect yours. This is our ethical, historical and human responsibility towards our people.”
25 November 2022