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State Department Threatens to Hold $130 Million from Egypt Unless Human Rights Improve

09/16/2021 Washington D.C. (International Christian Concern)International Christian Concern (ICC) has learned that the Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi has announced a new human rights strategy for the north African country. Three days later, the announcement was followed by a State Department communication to Congress that it plans to withhold $130 million in military aid to Egypt until it meets certain human rights benchmarks.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken emphasized the United States’ commitment to human rights in Egypt in his visit earlier this year and has reportedly continued to bring up the issue in high-level meetings with Egyptian officials. Although Egypt is a strategic American ally in the region, the Biden administration making human rights a specific condition for military aid is a significant move to shift American priorities in the region.

In recent years, Egypt has been notorious for its abuses of human rights, especially violations of freedom of expression, freedom of the press, and religious freedom. Human rights activists in the country have consistently accused the government of discrimination against Egypt’s Coptic Christian minority and jailing community activists who speak out against the government. For example, Coptic advocate Ramy Kamel has been detained for almost two years on several trumped-up charges for his advocacy work.  The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom has condemned Kamel’s arrest and continued detainment by Egyptian authorities.

Additionally, Egypt is one of several countries whose penal code contains a blasphemy law that is disproportionately used against Christians. In the case of Abd Adel Bebawy, Egyptian authorities arrested a 17-year-old Copt merely over a Facebook post and held him for over a year after his originally scheduled release date.

Although some viewed the new human rights agenda and U.S. threat to withhold funding with skepticism, many activists saw this move as a step in the right direction for religious freedom in Egypt.

During a press briefing, a State Department spokesperson told reporters that American leaders have agreed to continue a “constructive dialogue” on human rights with Egyptian officials and hold them to specific goals. The U.S. is set to give $300 million in foreign assistance to Egypt to be used for counterterrorism and border security, $130 million of which will be granted “if and only if Egypt takes specific actions related to human rights,” according to the spokesperson. He did not specify what those specific actions were, but said that they had been communicated to the government of Egypt in private meetings.

ICC will continue to monitor the state of Egypt’s Christians amidst this new agenda and work to hold American and Egyptian leaders to their promises regarding this new agreement.

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