Visit to Egypt by a delegation of the Canada-Africa Parliamentary Association - January 2017
ECCD Response to the Delegation's Report
We, members of Egyptian Canadian Coalition for Democracy (ECCD), read with interest the report about the visit to Egypt, in January 2017, undertaken by MP Robert Oliphant, Head of the delegation; MP Joyce Murray, MP David Christopherson, and Senator Jim Munson affiliated with the Africa-Canada Parliamentary Association, in addition to two staff personnel.
We originally had serious reservations about this initiative but since it was to take place, we hoped it will bring to light the dire economic situation, the absence of civil liberties and the well documented cases of abuses of the Egyptian people under the regime of Marshall Abdel Fattah El-Sisi.
Also, we wished that Canada will regain its leadership as a country promoting democracy, protection of Human rights, as well as show its seriousness and honour its adherence to international treaties. Sadly, our hopes were dashed.
In what follows we point out briefly some glaring flaws of the report:
- Democracy: Omitting facts documenting how General El-Sisi orchestrated a Military Coup on July 3, 2013, overthrew the first duly elected president, Mohamed Morsi, and ushered a most repressive regime. In particular, there isn't a word about the army daily assault against civilian, the over 60 thousand imprisoned because of their opposition to the regime, no mention of the onslaught that took place at Rab'a and AlNahda squares, August 14, 2013 to silence the protests against the coup d'état. More than 1000 victims lost their lives in less than 24 hours. This was described by HRW "one of the world's largest killings of demonstrators in a single day in recent history" (https://www.hrw.org/report/2014/08/12/all-according-plan/raba-massacre-and-mass-killings-protesters-egypt).
If the fact that El Sisi 'received 96% of the vote in an election controlled by the security forces didn't raise a red flag, what would?
- Political participation & Civil Rights: Ignoring serious human and civil rights abuses, documented by Human Rights Watch and Amnesty Internal and turning a blind eye to an alarming situation on the ground. The delegation acknowledges the courage of the unique activist who agreed to meet with them under the condition of anonymity. What he (or she) said doesn't appear in the report and there is no inference why all human rights organizations have declined. The reality is easily exposed by a search of Amnesty International website https://www.amnesty.org/en/search/?q=Egypt for 'Egypt' which returns more than 1250 entries or a look at the HRW report about abuses in Scorpion Prison https://www.hrw.org/report/2016/09/27/we-are-tombs/abuses-egypts-scorpion-prison
The report is insulting to both Egyptian and Canadian intelligence alike, by accepting the idea that Egyptians have to be 'educated' before they are granted civil rights.
- Protection of Copts (Egyptian Christians): Praising what El-Sisi ascertains to be creating unity among all Egyptians (read Muslims and Copts) by allowing repairs to churches that were damaged in attacks by ISIS shows a total ignorance of the realities of the Egyptian society. In fact, the regime is trying to silence the Christian community by a cosmetic act. This makes Christians identified as allies El-Sisi and hence become more of a target for ISIS. As to systemic discrimination against Christians on a daily basis, El-Sisi has done nothing.
- Advancement in the condition of women: Accepting that the status of women benefited from El-Sisi's regime because he appointed some women, as cheerleaders, when those appointed have no real power, is misleading. No thought or effort has been devoted to address serious issues of reproductive policies and women's high illiteracy rates, (about 60%, compared to 40 to 45% for men). It is worthy recalling that Dr. Mohamed Morsi had appointed Khalid Al-Qazzaz (a Canadian resident) to work towards promoting the rights of. No word is to be found in the report regarding the violence purposely directed at female activists contrary to all ethics.
- The Financial Crisis: The report ignored how the military is concentrating the economic activity in its clutches and is choking any independent business, small or big. Addressing the endemic problem of unprecedented corruption and inflation by raising salaries by a meager percentage (well below inflation rates) is laughable. Talk to any person on the street, with no matter how little formal education and you will get a pretty good idea of what is going on.
In section B of the report, about the Economic and Social Development, figures are stated without any reference to the human hardship they entail. The fact that the $1US presently buys more than 18 L.E. (only 8 L.E. up to November 2016) practically means that consumer prices have more than doubled.
Statements in the report such as 'The economy collapsed during the Morsi presidency' is factually wrong.
- Media coverage of the visit: Ignoring how the Egyptian media covered the Canadian Parliamentarian Association visit claiming that the delegation supports El-Sisi in his fight against terrorism and using it in El-Sisi's credit, is irresponsible. There has been no denial of this in the report. Since the Egyptian authorities assimilate all opposition to terrorism this assertion is potentially damaging to the reputation of Canada. The excuse that the media is unprofessional rather than totally controlled is another aberration that the report falls into.
In general, the report reproduces many governmental claims without indicating how the situation has deteriorated on every level since El-Sisi came to power. In addition, there is no clear indication on what bleak future awaits Egyptians if no remedies are undertaken immediately. Egyptian officials often excuse themselves by saying 'but there are countries with worse records'! Regretfully, it seems the Canadian delegation has adopted a similar perspective albeit adding that still some work needs to be done.
The report congratulates Egypt 'for its initial democratization efforts' despite the country scoring 6 for political rights and 5 for civil liberties out of 7 (1 being the best) by Freedom House in 2016. To say that in Egypt there currently is a democratic process that is developing and ignoring that all opposition was wiped out (killed, jailed or fled the country) and that the few decenters who are left are silenced by one method or the other, and that all polls after the 2013 coup were orchestrated, is unacceptable. This is an insult to Canada's democracy and the values we are proud of, and hold dear.
Incidentally, we find that a very accurate picture of the situation in Egypt was delivered during the hearing of the US Appropriations Senate (April 2017) https://www.appropriations.senate.gov/hearings/hearing-to-review-united-states-assistance-for-egypt in addition to the United States governmental report on Egypt in 2016 that asserted the violation of basic Human Rights and the absence of any road to democracy https://www.state.gov/j/drl/rls/hrrpt/humanrightsreport/
In closing, the delegation refused to meet with any member of ECCD, before or after their trip to Egypt, despite repeated requests.
To substantiate our response to the delegation's report and to present a true picture of the situation in Egypt, we will continue to try to meet with MPs involved in Global Affairs and members of the subcommittee on Human Rights, and demand that this response be annexed to the report issued by the delegation.
Ahmed Abdelkader El Pannann
Egyptian Canadian Coalition for Democracy
Chairman of the Board
Phone: (514) 928-8887