Since the Rabaa Massacre

A Decade of U.S. Failure on Egyptian Human Rights

Local activists say the United States government has failed human rights defenders (HRDs) in Egypt for the last ten years.

After Abdel Fattah El-Sisi took power in Egypt in a violent coup in July 2013, his security forces massacred over 1,000 people on the streets of Cairo the following month when clearing protests in the neighborhoods of Rabaa and Nahda. Egyptian human rights activists see the lack of a U.S. response to that massacre – which took place a decade ago next week – as part of a broader and continuing failure to protect human rights in Egypt.

This report offers a brief analysis of U.S. human rights policy towards Egypt over the last decade, including the performance of the U.S. embassy in Cairo, as assessed by some leading local human rights activists who spoke with Human Rights First. The Biden administration’s promises to tackle authoritarianism and support human rights are deemed to be false by activists struggling to stay out of prison. The HRDs say President Biden’s continued military and political support for President Sisi undermines White House and State Department rhetoric on human rights, and that little has changed in Biden’s approach compared to previous U.S. administrations.

One of the activists who spoke with Human Rights First for this report is Aya Hijazi, an Egyptian-American HRD. After the 2013 coup, police in Cairo raided her NGO Belady, arresting her and her team. She was imprisoned on fabricated charges for three years and released after an intervention by President Donald Trump following international attention on her case. She told Human Rights First:

“I don’t feel the U.S. has in any way done enough to support human rights in Egypt since the Rabaa massacre; none of the U.S. institutions – the executive, the legislature, even the media – have done enough… Rabaa was the worst massacre in modern Egyptian history and in no way has it got the attention it deserved. I read somewhere the numbers are equivalent to the [1989] Tiananmen Square massacre and yet within American common knowledge almost everyone knows about Tiananmen Square and almost no one knows about Rabaa.”

This report also presents recommendations from leading Egyptian HRDs on what the U.S. government should do. These include imposing meaningful conditions on security assistance to Egypt, sanctioning corrupt and human rights-abusing officials, bringing accountability for the Rabaa massacre, supporting HRDs who have been jailed in Egypt, and activating the U.S. embassy to push for human rights.



  • Brian Dooley

Published on August 10, 2023


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