US Congresswoman Slams Egyptian Human Rights Abuses

Rep. Ros-Lehtinen, advocate for conditioning aid to Egypt on government reforms. Photo Courtesy of the office of Rep. Ros-Lehtinen

For decades the United States has provided Egypt with millions of dollars worth of aid every year, but a growing list of human rights incidents in Egypt has an American Congresswoman calling for preconditions to be imposed on the funding. After arrest warrants were issued for five political activists and bloggers opposed to the Muslim Brotherhood, US Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) slammed the government of President Mohammed Morsi, himself a past leader in the Muslim Brotherhood.

Meanwhile, a human rights group has also assailed Egypt for its failure to protect the religious freedoms of Coptic Christians in the country.

“The Egyptian people have a right to freedom, democracy and respect for their basic human rights, and the United States must hold Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood accountable for their atrocious actions,” Rep. Ros-Lehtinen, Chairman of the US House Middle East and North Africa Subcommittee, said in a statement.

“Morsi’s regime continues its abuse of power by attempting to silence its political opponents through intimidation and abuse.”

Rep. Ros-Lehtinen said Morsi’s actions—including threats to crack down on anti-government and anti-Islamic sentiments—“ proves that he and his Muslim Brotherhood-led government are not living up to their obligations to respect the opinions of the opposition and pro-democracy advocates, but instead seek to create an Islamist state.”

In light of the human rights concerns, Rep. Ros-Lehtinen said the US can no longer continue to send millions of American dollars to Egypt unconditionally. The US legislator, who has called for a law conditioning aid to Egypt on Cairo making legal reforms and transitioning to a free-market democracy, said the Barack Obama Administration “must recognize that by continuing to provide unfettered aid to the Muslim Brotherhood it poses a security risk not only regionally, but to United States national security interests as well.”

Religious Persecution

The American Congresswoman’s statement on Wednesday came the same day Amnesty International posted an article on its website assailing the failure of the Egyptian government to adequately protect Coptic Christians.

Amnesty cited a series of recent incidents of intimidation and violence, including setting fire to a priest’s car, and a lack of police follow-up or investigation. The situation was prompted after fundamentalist Muslims in the town of Wasta accused a church of converting a “missing” Muslim woman. The church denied the claims.

While security forces did calm down one round of violence that included Muslims throwing Molotov cocktails at the church, Amnesty said that the protection of religious rights by the government has been lacking overall.

“Coptic Christians across Egypt face discrimination in law and practice and have been victims of regular sectarian attacks while authorities systematically look the other way,” Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Middle East and North Africa Deputy Director at Amnesty International, said in the report on Amnesty’s website.

The state of religious freedoms in Egypt has long been a concern, including under former-President Hosni Mubarak. Amnesty is now calling for Morsi’s government to take much needed action to end the persecution.

“Time and time again, President Morsi claimed to be President of all Egyptians. Now, he needs to take action to ensure that sectarian violence is prevented and when it occurs it is properly investigated, and those responsible face justice,” Sahraoui was quoted as saying. “By not prosecuting those responsible for sectarian violence, the Egyptian authorities are signaling Coptic Christians can be attacked with impunity.”

(By Joshua Spurlock,, March 28, 2013)