US Still Funding Repression in Egypt

by

It has been one year since the August 14, 2013 Rab’a Square massacre in Egypt, when the Egyptian police and army opened fire on demonstrators opposed to the military’s July 3 ouster of President Mohamed Morsi. Using tanks, bulldozers, ground forces, helicopters and snipers, police and army personnel mercilessly attacked the makeshift protest encampment, where demonstrators, including women and children, had been camped out for over 45 days. The result was the worst mass killing in Egypt’s modern history.

The government’s systematic effort to obscure what took place, beginning with sealing off the square the next day, has made it difficult to come up with an accurate death toll. But a just-released Human Rights Watch report, based on a meticulous year-long investigation, found that at least 817 and likely well over 1,000 people were killed in Rab’a Square on August 14.

The report contains horrific first-hand accounts. One protester recalled carrying the dead, piles of them. “We found limbs that were totally crushed. There were dead people with no arms, obviously a tank ran over them. Imagine you are carrying piles of bodies, it is something you can’t imagine. Even the bodies that you are carrying, you carry an arm of a person, alongside the leg of another person.”

A student from Cairo University recounted that the ground was a “sea of blood” and how she watched the bleeding protesters in horror, “knowing that I was not able to do anything besides watch them die.”

A doctor described the scene at the mosque in the square: “I have never seen anything like what I saw when I stepped inside. The entire floor was covered in bodies. To slow down the decomposition, people had put ice around the bodies. But the ice had melted and mixed with the blood, leaving us wading in blood and water.”

Human Rights Watch’s executive director, Kenneth Roth, and the director of its Middle East and North Africa division, Sarah Leah Whitson, had planned to be in Cairo this week to release the report, but were held at the airport and denied entry into Egypt.

The systematic and intentional killing of unarmed protesters is a crime against humanity and those responsible should be investigated and held accountable. At the top of the chain of command during the Rab’a massacre was then-Defense Minister Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, who orchestrated the military overthrow of democratically-elected Morsi. But neither Sisi nor any government officials have been prosecuted for the killings. On the contrary; Sisi has managed to usurp even more power, becoming Egypt’s president via rigged elections.

Since the massacre, Sisi has overseen a year of intense government repression that has included the arrests of tens of thousands of people, including Islamists and leftist political activists. More than 65 journalists have been detained and some, like three Al Jazeera journalists, have been sentenced to 7-10 years in prison. Egypt’s criminal justice system has become a cruel joke; sentencing 1,247 people to death in trials makes a mockery of the word “justice”. In many cases defendants were not brought to their trials and lawyers have repeatedly been barred from presenting their defense or questioning witnesses.

Amnesty International has documented the sharp deterioration in human rights in Egypt in the past year, including the surge in arbitrary arrests, torture and deaths in police custody. Amnesty says torture is routinely carried out by the military and police, with members of the banned Muslim Brotherhood particularly targeted. Among the methods of torture employed are electric shocks, rape, handcuffing detainees and suspending them from open doors.

Gen. Abdel Fattah Osman, who heads the media department at the Interior Ministry, denied the accusations of torture and rape in prisons and declared that “prisons in Egypt have become like hotels.”

I had a minor taste of this regime’s “hospitality” when I attempted to enter Cairo on March 3, 2014 as part of a women’s peace delegation. I was stopped at the airport, detained for 17 hours, and then thrown to the ground and handcuffed so violently that my shoulder popped out of its socket. Instead of allowing me to go to the hospital to have my arm reset, as the doctors insisted, I had my scarf stuffed into my mouth, was dragged through the airport and deported to Turkey. I was never given any explanation as to why I was detained, attacked, arrested and deported. To this day, months later, the pain in my arm is a daily reminder of the thugs who run Egypt today.

While the global human rights community has watched in horror as the basic rights of Egyptians have been torn asunder, some regional governments, particularly Saudi Arabia and the Emirates, have embraced Sisi and are providing billions of dollars of support. Perhaps this is not surprising, given that they are autocratic regimes that want to stave off democratic change in their own countries.moral02-4

But what about the Western nations that pride themselves on their democratic values? European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton criticized the use of force by the military-backed government, but later assured Sisi that the EU would provide 90 million euros worth of financial assistance. And in December 2013, she even took her family on a Christmas holiday to Luxor, meeting with Egypt’s minister of tourism just a few weeks after dozens of peaceful protesters were killed.

The US case is similar. According to US law, a coup is supposed to have consequences. Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont, who wrote the legislation, said, “Our law is clear: U.S. aid is cut off when a democratically elected government is deposed by military coup. This is a time to reaffirm our commitment to the principle that transfers of power should be by the ballot, not by force of arms.”

The US government refuses to even obey its own laws, which would entail cutting the $1.3 billion to the Egyptian military. Too much is at stake for powerful interests:

* The US wants Egypt to fulfill its commitment to the 1979 Camp David Accords, which ensures Egypt’s complicity in the Israeli occupation of Gaza. This complicity became clear during the latest Israeli attack, where Sisi helped squeeze the Palestinians by closing off the border between Egypt and Gaza.

* The US wants to ensure priority access for US Navy ships to the Suez Canal, as well as the flow of oil and gas through the canal.

* “Aid” to Egypt is really a subsidy for US weapons exporters. Most of the money never gets to Egypt but goes to powerful U.S. military contractors such as General Dynamics and Lockheed Martin that make the tanks and fighter jets that get sent to Egypt (whether or not the Egyptian military wants the equipment).

When Secretary of State John Kerry visited Sisi on June 22, he announced that the US would release $575 million of the $1.3 billion. He told Sisi, “I am confident that we will be able to ultimately get the full amount of aid.” And now Kerry is strengthening Sisi’s hand by making him a key player in the ceasefire talks between Israel and Gaza, despite the fact that Sisi has been an enemy of Hamas—a group he considers too closely linked with Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood.

On this terrible anniversary of the Rab’a massacre, Egyptians are still mourning the dead, nursing the injured and crying out for help from the prisons and torture chambers. But the “Western democracies”, dancing with the dictator, have turned a deaf ear to their cries. That’s why activists the world over are marking the occasion by showing solidarity and by calling on their governments to break ties with Sisi’s regime.

Medea Benjamin is the co-founder of the peace group CODEPINK and the human rights group Global Exchange. She was brutally assaulted by Egyptian security guards at the Cairo airport while trying to enter the country in March 2014.

Medea Benjamin is the co-founder of the peace group CODEPINK and the human right organization Global Exchange. Follow her on twitter at @MedeaBenjamin.

Like What You’ve Read? Support CounterPunch
August 04, 2015
Vincent J. Roscigno
University Bureaucracy as Organized Crime
Paul Street
Bernie Sanders’ Top Five Race Problems: the Whiteness of Nominal Socialism
Ramzy Baroud
The Palestinian Bubble and the Burning of Toddler, Ali Dawabsha
Herbert Dyer, Jr.
Is White Supremacy a Mental Disorder?
Pepe Escobar
Reshuffling Eurasia’s Energy Deck — Iran, China and Pipelineistan
L. Michael Hager
The Battle Over BDS
Eric Draitser
Puerto Rico: Troubled Commonwealth or Debt Colony?
Benjamin Willis
The New Cubanologos: What’s in a Word?
Matt Peppe
60 Minutes Provides Platform for US Military
Binoy Kampmark
The Turkish Mission: Reining in the Kurds
Eoin Higgins
Teaching Lessons of White Supremacy in Prime-Time: Blackrifice in the Post-Apocalyptic World of the CW’s The 100
Robert Dodge
The Nuclear World at 70
August 03, 2015
Joseph Mangano – Janette D. Sherman
The Atomic Era Turns 70, as Nuclear Hazards Endure
Nelson Valdes
An Internet Legend: the Pope, Fidel and the Black President
Robert Hunziker
The Perfectly Nasty Ocean Storm
Jack Dresser
The Case of Alison Weir: Two Palestinian Solidarity Organizations Borrow from Joe McCarthy’s Playbook
Ahmad Moussa
Incinerating Palestinian Children
Greg Felton
Greece Succumbs to Imperialist Banksterism
Binoy Kampmark
Stalling the Trans-Pacific Partnership: the Failure of the Hawai’i Talks
Ted Rall
My Letter to Nick Goldberg of the LA Times
Mark Weisbrot
New Greek Bailout Increases the Possibility of Grexit
Jose Martinez
Black/Hispanic/Women: a Leadership Crisis
Victor Grossman
German Know-Nothings Today
Patrick Walker
We’re Not Sandernistas: Reinventing the Wheels of Bernie’s Bandwagon
Norman Pollack
Moral Consequences of War: America’s Hegemonic Thirst
Ralph Nader
Republicans Support Massive Tax Evasion by Starving IRS Budget
Alexander Reid Ross
Colonial Pride and the Killing of Cecil the Lion
Suhayb Ahmed
What’s Happening in Britain: Jeremy Corbyn and the Future of the Labour Party
Weekend Edition
July 31-33, 2015
Jeffrey St. Clair
Bernie and the Sandernistas: Into the Void
John Pilger
Julian Assange: the Untold Story of an Epic Struggle for Justice
Roberto J. González – David Price
Remaking the Human Terrain: The US Military’s Continuing Quest to Commandeer Culture
Lawrence Ware
Bernie Sanders’ Race Problem
Andrew Levine
The Logic of Illlogic: Narrow Self-Interest Keeps Israel’s “Existential Threats” Alive
ANDRE VLTCHEK
Kos, Bodrum, Desperate Refugees and a Dying Child
Paul Street
“That’s Politics”: the Sandernistas on the Master’s Schedule
Ted Rall
How the LAPD Conspired to Get Me Fired from the LA Times
Mike Whitney
Power-Mad Erdogan Launches War in Attempt to Become Turkey’s Supreme Leader
Ellen Brown
The Greek Coup: Liquidity as a Weapon of Coercion
Stephen Lendman
Russia Challenges America’s Orwellian NED
Will Parrish
The Politics of California’s Water System
John Wight
The Murder of Ali Saad Dawabsha, a Palestinian Infant Burned Alive by Israeli Terrorists
Jeffrey Blankfort
Leading Bibi’s Army in the War for Washington
Mary Lou Singleton
Gender, Patriarchy, and All That Jazz
Robert Fantina
Israeli Missteps Take a Toll
Pete Dolack
Speculators Circling Puerto Rico Latest Mode of Colonialism