Egyptian apathy on human rights

Tim Sebastian writes: I doubt very much if Mohamed Morsi knows the name Natasha Smith — still less what happened to her in Cairo’s Tahrir Square as tens of thousands of his supporters cheered his victory last week as president.

A 21-year-old student journalist from Britain, she had gone into the square to document the celebrations. She was modestly dressed and with a male companion.

Confronted by a jeering mob, the two became separated. She was attacked, subjected to repeated sexual abuse and stripped naked in front of hundreds of people. Eventually a group of Egyptians came to her aid — but the damage had already been done.

At almost exactly the same time, across the Nile, a 42-year-old Egyptian woman left a hotel — again modestly dressed in long-sleeved shirt and trousers — and headed through the hooting, drum-thumping streets to her car. She had not gone far before a middle-aged man appeared out of the darkness and spoke to her.

“You will not be allowed to dress like that in the New Egypt,” he warned. “Times have changed.”

I mention these incidents not because abuse and harassment are rare in Egypt, but because they now — for the first time — fall under the purview of an Islamist president, committed to ruling with a moral and religious compass.

The extent, therefore, to which the Morsi administration is ready to protect the rights of individuals, will go a long way toward determining what kind of Egypt emerges under his aegis over the months and, maybe, years to come. [Continue reading…]

Sebastian’s op-ed ends with these comments from an Egyptian election observer: “I do not fear the Muslim Brotherhood,” she says softly. “I do not fear the army. I fear my own people — their mentality. They will not defend my rights.”

As much as this might present a bleak image of Egypt, I have to wonder whether or not the same concern might be expressed about any population around the world. Universally, the defense of human rights seems to be a minority concern.

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