A criminal court in Cairo just sentenced 75 Egyptians to death for their involvement in violence that erupted after the deposition of democratically elected President Muhammad Morsi. The court is trying 739 people collectively in a mass trial with the prosecution not able to present one piece of evidence that incriminates all 739 defendants.
Unsurprisingly, each of the defendants supported President Morsi whereas none of the army officers face any repercussions for their involvement in a campaign of terror that has engulfed Egypt since 2013.
The trial is a blatant violation of basic human rights but the New York Times that raise concerns over the human rights situation in Turkey under Erdogan has not even reported the Cairo court’s ruling in its’ print version.
Over the last 8 months, the NYTimes ran only 4 articles concerning Egypt of which only 2 refer to serious policy changes. Andrew Miller, National Security Council’s director for Egypt at the State Department, wrote the first of the 2 articles titled ‘Actually, Egypt is a Terrible Ally’.
In his piece, Andrew Miller argues rather poorly that Egyptian and American interests in the Middle East have diverged. His reservations concerning Egypt are all about Egypt’s warming ties with Russia and its’ lack of support for US stance on the Israel-Palestine issue. According to Miller, because the United States gives Egypt $1.3 Billion in economic and military aid, Egypt should completely submit itself to America’s demands.
A quote from Miller’s Op-Ed:
“The importance of American access to Egyptian airspace has declined; and American privileges at the Suez Canal are drastically exaggerated. Contrary to prevailing wisdom, the U.S. Navy does not receive head-of-the-line privileges, whereby our ships can jump ahead of other vessels.”
Miller demands that Egypt should let American jets into Egyptian airspace and US Navy Ships should be allowed to ‘jump ahead of other vessels’. He does not argue for mutual Egyptian-American interests but rather using Egypt as a colony and a foothold from where to engineer political and military dynamics of the Middle East.
He mentions Egypt’s human rights violations just once and that too only in the light of fueling radicalization. He makes no allusions to Trump’s pledge in the Riyadh summit not to rebuke any nation on human rights violations as long as they fight terrorism, which Miller acknowledges Egypt would continue to do even if Trump administration cut aid.
It merits reemphasizing that Andrew Miller’s NYTimes Op-Ed suggested cutting aid to Egypt for its’ unwillingness to grant privileged access to US military, not for its’ blatant human rights violations.
The second NYTimes article was published on July 27th, 2018 and deals with human rights issues in Egypt titled; Despite Egypt’s Dismal Human Rights Record, U.S. Restores Military Aid.
Although the title of the article does not differentiate between the victims, the body of the text makes no reference to the imprisonment of thousands of Muhammad Morsi’s supporters by the Sisi administration. The refusal to condemn this campaign of terror against the supporters of Egypt’s last democratic President follows well NYTimes’ silence on the death sentence of 75 Egyptians.
Even as the article details and references cases of individuals that the Sisi government unfairly imprisoned, it makes no reference to mass trials against Morsi’s supporters or their systematic killings.
The rights of Morsi supporters are worth no more or less than any other group or individual but by refusing to mention them explicitly like it mentioned victims belonging to other groups, Times’ depiction alienates a huge swathe of political victims. As an endorser of Sisi’s ascendance to power, the United States bears moral responsibility for Egypt’s human rights violations.
Weeks before Sisi would overthrow a democratically elected government, President Obama called for fresh elections and when referring to Egypt even said; democracy is not just about elections. Whether Obama’s public undermining of Morsi’s legitimacy was a coincidence or the United States plotted with the Egyptian military to overthrow an elected government remains a mystery.
When Sisi took power, President Obama did not call his ascendance a coup, as it would have barred the United States from providing military aid to Egypt—a fundamental aspect of quid pro quo to maintain friendly ties with Israel. Days after the coup, President Obama said he ‘expected’ that the military government would protect the rights of all Egyptians.
Even as human rights situation in Egypt worsened, President Obama cut economic aid to Egypt from $250 Million in 2012 to $150 Million in 2015 while he increased military education and training budget almost 4 folds and at the same time increased military aid by $76 Million to a total of $1.3 Billion each year.
Instead of weakening the Egyptian military amid human rights abuses, he further strengthened it. So while NYTimes criticized President Trump for his public support for Sisi, he was guilty of only being blunter than his predecessor.
Keeping in line with the state policy, NYTimes has refused to cover systematic victimization of Morsi supporters even as it (rightly) provided a voice to political prisoners in Turkey. The role of the free press is to raise awareness about injustices indiscriminately instead of choosing to cover only those instances that help the government’s narrative.