Ahead of Egypt Trip, Pence Urged to Press on Terrorism, Persecution of Christians and LGBT Community
Washington, D.C.—Human Rights First calls on Vice President Mike Pence to urge Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi to adopt effective, comprehensive strategies to combat the threat of terrorism, to end discriminatory practices against Christian and other religious minorities, and to condemn attacks on the country’s LGBT community. The call comes in a letter from Human Rights First President and CEO Elisa Massimino ahead of the vice president’s arrival in Egypt Saturday.
“Without a fundamental change in the Sisi government’s policies, there will be no sustainable security. Religious minorities and other vulnerable groups will continue to suffer violence and injustice,” wrote Massimino. “In such circumstances, Egypt cannot be an effective partner for the United States in the global struggle against terrorism. Repression is not strength. It is vital that all the leaders the administration has engaged in its counterterrorism agenda understand that the exhortation to fight terrorism is not an invitation to double down on repression.”
Human Rights First welcomed the Trump Administration’s decision in August to deny and withhold hundreds of millions of dollars in military assistance partly in an effort to persuade the Egyptian government to end its crackdown on independent civil society organizations.
On September 22 in Cairo a small group of audience members raised a rainbow flag at a concert by the Lebanese band Mashrou’ Leila. Since then, Egyptian authorities have detained people accused of waving the flag, apparently identifying them from photographs on social media, and escalated a crackdown against members of the LGBT community, primarily gay men. Dozens have been charged with offenses like “spreading debauchery” or “promoting sexual deviancy.” In October members of parliament introduced a new law designed to criminalize same-sex relations and public support of the rights of LGBT people. Concurrently, the State Department said in a statement that it is concerned about the crackdown, and broadly commented that the United States advocates for nations “to uphold and respect their international human rights obligations and commitments.”
The letter urges Vice President Pence “to communicate to the Egyptian government that the persecution of the LGBT community is only heightening U.S. government concerns about the suppression of basic freedoms for all Egyptians.”
In August Human Rights First released a report detailing the severe crackdown on peaceful dissent and nongovernmental organizations in Egypt under the Sisi government. “How to Protect Civil Society and Promote Stability in Egypt.” The report offers specific recommendations for the Trump Administration and Congress to protect civil society and religious freedom in Egypt, and to fight extremism.