Thu March 29, 2012
Blogger: U.S. Shouldn't Trust Egypt's Government
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The revolution in Egypt is still a work in progress, but one thing that has not changed is the partnership between the U.S. and Egypt's powerful military. In fact, just last week, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced she would let $1.3 billion in aid flow to Egypt's military, as usual, this year. Clinton said the country has made significant progress toward democracy.
But activists in Egypt who challenge the military, say the U.S. should push for more. Here's NPR's Michele Kelemen with the story of a one young blogger.
MICHELE KELEMEN, BYLINE: Maikel Nabil Sanad has a hard time understanding Secretary Clinton's decision to waive conditions on U.S. aid to the Egyptian military.
MAIKEL NABIL SANAD: Egypt is going in the wrong direction and giving the military in Egypt the moral support and the political support like what the United States is doing, I think it is destroying the relations between the two peoples and between the two nations on the long run.
KELEMEN: Sanad is a blogger in Cairo, who was detained and tortured, he says, on his way to protests in February of last year. A few weeks later he was re-arrested and convicted in a military court for blogging about his ordeal and for accusing military personnel of human rights abuses, including forced virginity tests for female protesters.
SANAD: So the military didn't arrest the army officers who made these violations, but arrested me because of publishing about their human rights violations.
KELEMEN: The tall, lanky 26-year-old spent 10 months in various prisons and even went on a hunger strike before being pardoned in January of this year.
SANAD: They put me with criminals in the same cell and these criminals used to beat me or insult me. And they imprisoned me in very dirty places, knowing that these places will lead me to having some skin diseases. And I suffered for long months from these diseases.
KELEMEN: Sanad, a Coptic Christian, has been telling his story to congressional staffers and State Department officials here in Washington. He says Egypt's temporary military rulers have whipped up anti American and anti Israeli sentiment and should not be treated as trusted partners, even when it comes to maintaining peace with Israel.
SANAD: The military is playing a double game. In front of the world, they are saying they are supporting the peace treaty. But inside the country, they are targeting and fighting every peace activist in Egypt. Even when they jailed me, the military in Egypt started a propaganda saying I'm a spy to Israel, I'm working with Israel. And they even didn't allow me to defend myself, to explain to everybody that there is a difference between being a traitor and supporting peace.
KELEMEN: The U.S.-Egyptian relations and the U.S. aid program will have to be revised, says Tamara Wittes of the Brookings Institution and a former State Department official who worked on this issue. But these things take time, she says.
TAMARA WITTES: Military has been in a position, over the past year, of shepherding the country through a transitional period that included parliamentary elections and will include presidential elections. There are a lot of things, I think, that one could criticize about the way they have shepherded that transition. But that role is coming to an end. It will be coming to an end in a matter of weeks.
KELEMEN: Wittes says she understands that, to many Egyptians, the flow of military aid looks like business as usual. But she says the U.S. has been speaking out when it sees backtracking and did raise concerns about Maikel Sanad's case when he was jailed for what he wrote in his blog.
Michele Kelemen, NPR News, Washington. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright National Public Radio.