For several months, Egypt has struggled with civil unrest, deteriorating security, and claims of abuse by security officials. The Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East discussed these important developments on March 18 during an event featuring Heba Morayef, Egypt director of Human Rights Watch, and well-known blogger and Egyptian political activist, Mahmoud Salem, with Hariri Center’s Associate Director Tarek Radwan and incoming Senior Fellow Amy Hawthorne as moderator.

A recent statement from a consortium of twenty-one Egyptian human rights groups suggested that “the current human rights situation appears even [more dire] than it did prior to the revolution and the ouster of the former president.” The speakers largely supported this bleak conclusion with their own sobering assessments. Morayef noted the Morsi government’s unwillingness to undertake much needed police reforms, and suggested that the obstruction of non-governmental organizations’ activity in the country, and the crackdown on freedom of the press have removed any expectation of meaningful political and/or social reform under the current leadership. Salem echoed these sentiments, arguing that Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood’s attempts to consolidate power have undermined the three means available to Egyptian people to try and effect political change—elections, the judiciary, and protests.

Looking ahead, the speakers acknowledged that there is no clear solution to reverse Egypt’s current backslide, but expressed the importance of the international community’s role in bringing about some limited progress in the future. Radwan pointed to the European Union’s threat to withhold $5 billion in aid unless Egypt takes tangible steps to improve human rights and democratic freedoms, as a positive example of how financial leverage could be used to pressure the Egyptian government to undertake reforms. Both Salem and Morayef stressed that international opinion of Egypt plays an important role, and that it is critical that the United States and other nations not set a precedent of remaining quiet in the face of human rights abuses or antidemocratic legislation.

Event Details

Monday, March 18, 2013

12:00 p.m. – 1:30 p.m.

Atlantic Council
1101 15th Street, NW, 11th Floor
Washington, DC 20005

A discussion with

Heba Morayef
Egypt Director
Human Rights Watch

Mahmoud Salem
Blogger and Political Activist
Formerly Free Egyptians Party

Moderated by

Amy Hawthorne
Incoming Senior Fellow, Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East
Atlantic Council

Related Experts: Tarek Radwan