Thursday, June 14, 2012

Has Egypt Had Human Rights?

Nadene Goldfoot
The 1992 report from the USA State Department for Human rights said Egypt did not grant basic human rights to their citizens.  When my friend Marilyn from our Ulpan in Haifa visited the country as a tourist in 1980, she found it an unorganized country, unable to even have decent telephone service.  All the time the world governments have been shining a spotlight on Egypt's neighbor, Israel, while it should have given attention to Egypt in looking for violations.  But then, who cares if Egypt does anything wrong.  It's not newsworthy.

People in Egypt have not had any way to change the government.  Detention without due process is widespread and arbitrary.  Christians and women are discriminated against and Jews would be too, only there are few left.  Books and art pieces may be confiscated or banned by the various ministries.

Torture is said to be illegal, but evidence is that it is still practiced by the police and security officers.  Those doing the torturing are never punished.  They have used whipping and solitary confinement, restricting food, water and medical treatments.  Rape and sexual abuse happens to men and women.  They don't discriminate here.

In 1948 75,000 Jews lived in Egypt.  Between June and November 1948 there were bombs set off in the Jewish quarter killing more than 70 and wounding nearly 200.  In 1956 Egypt used the Sinai campaign as a pretext for expelling almost 25,000 Egyptian Jews and stealing their property.  About 1,000 Jews were then sent to prisons and detention camps.  November 23, 1956 was the signing of a proclamation declaring that "all Jews are Zionists and enemies of the state," and promised they would soon be expelled.  They could only take one suitcase and a small amount of worthless Egyptian money and forced to sign declarations "donating" their property to the government.

 Members of Jewish families were taken hostage to insure that those leaving would not say anything bad about the government.  War broke out in 1967 and Egyptians treated the remaining Jews like Nazis did, who also lived in Egypt.  In fact, the head of the Polish Gestapo, Nazi Leopold Gleim, once sentenced to death, was actually controlling the Egyptian secret police.  By 1979, the little remaining Jewish community established official contact with Israel.  By 1991, less than 200 Jews remained. I taught with a young Egyptian girl in 1980 in Safed who told me that only a few older people had remained there.  She was also teaching English.

Today the word is out that Egypt has lost control of the Sinai.  The Deputy chief of Egypt's largest party, the Muslim Brotherhood, has said that they will not recognize Israel's right to exist, the treaty is non-binding, and  will be put to a referendum.  A peace treaty had been signed between Egypt and Israel March 26, 1979 by Sadat and Begin, but on 2011 with the Arab Spring that brought a very cold atmosphere, the army had taken over Egypt and said the peace was not sacred.

Voting was going to take place but the court just dissolved Egypt's new parliament.  Everything was found to be wrong.  Back to the drawing board once more with the army again in power.    The Muslim Brotherhood is highly against democracy and is the main stumbling block for Egypt's democratic government.  Egypt's population of 79,089,650 as of 2011 is going to have to wait and Morsi, Brotherhood contender, cannot pull out of the race right now even though their parliament is dissolved and a Mubarak official gets to seek presidency.

Myths and Facts:  A concise record of the Arab-Israeli conflict by Mitchell Bard and Joel HImelfarb
Oregonian Newspaper, 6/15, 2012, page A14:Egypt's move to democracy dealt huge setback by court, by David D. Kirkpatrick, NY Times News service

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