By William J. Furney
It’s a peculiarity that Donald Trump’s government has recently announced it’s cutting almost all United States aid funding to Pakistan and a United Nations relief agency working in the Palestinian territories and across the wider Middle East and yet continues to shore up the military might of the dictator of Cairo, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, who is said to have slaughtered more than 800 people in an uprising in 2013 and for which 79 people have now been confirmed as sentenced to death by a court in the Egyptian capital.
But the North African country has long been viewed by Washington as a strategic ally in a highly volatile region where destabilising unrest could erupt at any time and has conveniently brushed human rights and other abuses under the carpet as it strives to maintain peace while doling out billions of dollars in donations to the Egyptian military. According to The Times of Israel, the US has forked out close to $80 billion in military and economic aid to Egypt over the last three decades.
At least under Hosni Mubarak there was some semblance of order, even if chaos lurked well beneath. Since the longtime dictator was toppled, tried, released and is now living out his advanced-aged years — he’s 90 — in a Red Sea resort area (Sharm el Sheikh), the dictator who has taken his place, and who was re-elected earlier this year in a landslide victory that gave him an absurd 97% of the vote, has propelled Egypt into total bedlam.
The sentencing to death of 79 key members and associates of the now-banned Muslim Brotherhood of Mubarak successor and current convict Mohamed Morsi whom el-Sisi booted out of office in the 2013 coup d’état and subsequently assumed control of the country of almost 96 million people is a shocking act by the sheer numbers alone of those condemned to die, but also part of a bigger, mass trial of 739 people who took part in a protest against the removal of Morsi.
Egypt, until not too long ago adored around the world for its ancient culture and a worldwide tourism magnet, has descended into incredibly dark times. Even a press photographer, Mahmoud Abu Zeid, was sentenced in the Cairo court, to five years, for having the audacity to take pictures of people in the protest camp (he is likely to now be released, however, due to five years spent behind bars awaiting trial).
And as Egypt intends to kill 79 people for protesting at the forced removal of a democratically elected president who was subsequently imprisoned, the world needs to keep in mind that, according to an estimate by Human Rights Watch, around 817 people were killed when Egyptian security forces opened fire on protesters at Rabaa al-Adawiya square in Cairo in August 2013 in what is very likely a crime against humanity.
“Five years on from the Rabaa massacre, the only response from authorities has been to try to insulate those responsible for these crimes from justice,” said Sarah Leah Whitson of the global rights watchdog. “The response from Egypt’s allies to the crimes at Rabaa and to the lack of justice for the victims has been complete silence,” she said.
And so it’s one law for one segment of society — those responsible for bullying the current Egyptian dictator into power — and another one entirely for the defenceless masses. Human Rights Watch said the 2013 murders “not only constituted serious violations of international human rights law, but likely amounted to crimes against humanity, given both their widespread and systematic nature, and the evidence suggesting the killings were part of a policy.”
Will President Trump and his unparalleled power to decide billions in overseas aid to various troubled parts of the world now reconsider propping up the murderous authorities of Egypt? It’s not likely to ever happen, because the bumbling, careening, out-of-control American leader has branded his Egyptian counterpart a “fantastic guy”.