On the third week of mass demonstrations in Egypt, Mubarak threw a curve ball by initially announcing that he will continue his post as president and then resigning twenty-four hours later. This announcement is a positive move towards democracy in Egypt, but the work is not over. Transparent transition to democracy must happen in Egypt in the next few months and the U.S. can play a large role in making sure that benchmarks are defined and reached, leading to a new form of government grounded in the rule of law.
We are focused on making sure that human rights are at the center of the United States’ foreign policy. Although the United States has many interests at stake in the Middle East, it is only by prioritizing the rights of people there to free speech, assembly, and participation in their own government that we’ll achieve lasting stability in the region. And it is only by championing human rights that the United States will achieve the credibility it needs to effectively work with partners in this strategically important region.
- The Los Angeles Times featured Neil Hicks’s blog Muslim Brotherhood: True of False assessing some of the concerns about the Muslim Brotherhood. Hicks notes that “the military establishment [in Egypt] is unlikely to permit actions that would endanger its close cooperative relations with the U.S. military, and its receipt of $1.3 billion of foreign military assistance from U.S. taxpayers.”
- The Washington Post , UN Dispatch, CNN.com and The Weekly Standard cite the letters sent by The Working Group on Egypt, of which HRF is a member, to President Obama and Secretary Clinton urging them to press for transition to democracy in Egypt.
- After Mubarak indicated on Thursday that he will not step down as president, Neil Hicks states on The Los Angeles Times and The Public Record that “President Mubarak’s statement this evening has not advanced the transition towards a more democratic Egypt and has intensified the crisis. Proposals for constitutional reform supervised by regime loyalists hold no credibility. For democratic and human rights reforms to advance, power must shift decisively from President Mubarak and his military advisors, including Vice-President Omer Suleiman, to a more inclusive transitional authority.”
- Neil Hicks also noted on Politico that “the longer this situation [in Egypt] goes on with masses of people in the streets, eventually there will be some sort of spark and an outbreak of serious violence, but this speech placed the military in a position more adversarial to the protesters. … Certainly, the protesters are much more motivated to press — to demand that Mubarak should leave.”
- After Suleiman announced Mubarak’s resignation on Friday, Neil Hicks calls the announcement on Associated Press/CBS “an important step towards a democratic government in Egypt. Military authorities now in de-facto control of the government should move immediately to form an inclusive transitional authority, including credible representatives of the opposition, to oversee the period leading up to elections.”
- Finally, this is a critical moment for the U.S. government to make clear its intention to support the Egyptian people and not the next despot. Human Rights First issued an action calling on President Obama to support the demand of Egyptian peoples for real and transparent transition to democracy, sending the U.S. government a message that “Mubarakism without Mubarak” is No Solution for Egypt.
In the lead-up to Mubarak’s resignation, here’s a recap of Human Rights First’s work:
- Human Rights First’s President and CEO, Elisa Massimino, tells Politico, “The idea that Mubarak is now going to oversee reform is pretty ridiculous… That may have been acceptable four or five days ago as a way forward, but not now. …”
- Elisa Massimino discusses with NPR President Obama’s response to the crisis. She remarks that the administration’s rhetoric has not improved freedom and democracy on the ground. “And you know, the administration has consistently said that it wants to be judged not on its rhetoric but on results,” she notes.
- Neil Hicks joined with Egyptian activists and experts to discuss the crisis at an event at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Watch the clip.
- The L.A. Times cites our condemnation of attacks on journalists. “These actions mark a new low in the Mubarak regime’s futile attempts to silence the Egyptian people and hide mounting calls for reform from rest of the world,” said Hicks.
- Neil Hicks notes that, “The Obama administration must signal that it has turned the page from the old policy of toleration of oppression by its Egyptian ally in the name of stability. As well as being contrary to principles of universal human rights and democracy which the administration has pledged to uphold everywhere, recent events in Tunisia and now in Egypt have shown that repression does not bring stability.
Egypt’s decision to pull the plug on the Internet brought questions of online communication to the fore. More and more, the Internet functions as a virtual public square – the place where people exercise their rights to free expression and assembly. But this reality poses challenges to companies which haven’t necessarily thought through how to deal with the responsibility they now have to protect human rights.
- We sent letters to telecommunications companies and Internet service providers asking for details and greater transparency regarding their decisions to comply with Egyptian government demands to shut down the Internet. Although The Financial Times reported on our request, we’re still awaiting replies. Meanwhile, ongoing developments, such as the Government of Egypt sending unattributed text messages over the Vodafone network, highlight the urgent need for transparency.
- Elisa Massimino warns at CNN.com that after Egypt’s shut down of the Internet, repressive societies will look to China, not Egypt, for inspiration on censorship.
- Neil Hicks tells USA Today that activists deprived of Internet access were forced to rely on “old-fashioned word of mouth,” and he predicted to MSNBC that an Internet shut down would do real damage to the Egyptian economy. Egypt is part of the world’s financial infrastructure, he said. “That’s probably why most governments don’t do this — it hurts the state and hurts the economy.”
- Finally, at MSNBC, Neil Hicks answers the question, “Is Internet access a human right?” by noting that, “It’s freedom of expression that is a long-standing core right… Restriction from the Internet is a violation of the right of free speech.”