For Immediate Release: August 14, 2013
New York City – The terrible violence in Cairo, reported to be spreading to other parts of Egypt, is an indication of the failure of U.S. policy to respond to the rapidly changing circumstances in Egypt and the broader Arab region, said Human Rights First today.
The United States has been unable to use its influence in Cairo to prevent the escalation of violence by the military-backed interim government, which appears to have resulted in the deaths of several hundred protesters, many as a result of live ammunition fired by the security forces.
“The U.S. government should condemn in the strongest terms today’s actions by the Egyptian security forces,” said Human Rights First’s Neil Hicks. “The violence will only deepen Egypt’s divisions and lay open the specter of sustained unrest and violence that will thwart the legitimate aspirations of the Egyptian people for a peaceful, democratic future for years to come.”
Supporters of deposed-President Mohamed Morsi have also used violence, and there are disturbing reports of Christian churches being targeted by Islamist militants protesting the crackdown on Morsi supporters in Cairo. All parties to Egypt’s mounting conflict should refrain from the use of violence.
The U.S. government finds itself in a position where it appears complicit in the bloody crackdown on supporters of President Morsi, most of whom were unarmed civilians. This will inevitably fuel anti-American resentment in Egypt and the region.
Perceived U.S. passivity in the face of the Egyptian government’s crackdown will make it easier for other U.S. allies, like Bahrain, to use similar tactics against their own protest movements, thereby escalating conflicts throughout the region. It also undermines U.S. credibility in its calls for President Assad and the Syrian regime to end its violent assault on civilians seen as supportive of the U.S.-backed Syrian opposition.
“Today’s tragic events show that it is past time for a root and branch reassessment of the U.S. response to change in the Middle East, beginning with a comprehensive review of the pivotal relationship with Egypt,” said Hicks. “The Obama Administration should start by immediately suspending military assistance to Egypt and making a clear protest about today’s actions by the security forces.”
The resumption of military aid should be conditioned on the implementation of a credible program of national reconciliation in Egypt, and the empowerment of an inclusive, civilian led government with control over the military and security forces. The U.S. response should be closely aligned with its allies so as to exert the strongest possible influence on events in Egypt to avert a further descent into violence.
For more information or to speak with Hicks, contact Corinne Duffy at DuffyC@humanrightsfirst.org or 202-370-3319.