02/24/2021 United States (International Christian Concern) – The Biden administration has announced the sale of almost $200 million of weapons to Egypt, the first substantial arms transfer of the Biden administration. The transfer has become a test of how Biden will approach the government of Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, the former military commander who seized power in 2014 and ousted Egypt’s elected Islamist government.
The transfer has human rights advocates worried that the Biden administration is not taking increasing rights abuses in Egypt seriously. According to Todd Ruffner, the advocacy director of the Freedom Initiative Group, the “substance of the announcement has given the rights community serious pause about whether this administration is serious about making human rights a priority.” The announcement comes in the face of increased Egyptian detainment and arrests of family of rights advocates, including that of Mohamed Soltan, an American-Egyptian activist who was imprisoned in 2013 after the toppling of president Mohammad Morsi by Sisi. Soltan spent two years in prison, during which time he claimed he was tortured. Several of his relatives in Egypt were arrested last year in apparent retaliation to Soltan’s lawsuit against former Egyptian Prime Minister Hazem El-Beblawi, for his supposed hand in having him tortured while he was imprisoned in Egypt.
The Egyptian government has repeatedly targeted the families of prominent human rights activists, and anyone who expresses any disapproval of the current regime, in an effort to suppress dissent. Many fear that the sale of arms to Egypt indicates a willingness of the current administration of the United States to overlook human rights and religious freedoms abuses as long as it benefits the country financially. This has the potential to send a message to other U.S. allies with records of religious freedom violations, like Turkey, that the U.S. is willing to continue trade despite their flagrant abuses. Many suggest that such a policy provides little incentive for the violators to change their policies and behavior of oppression to dissidents and religious minorities.
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