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Counting the Human Cost in Egypt

January 17, 2012

Photo by M. Davari

The start of a new calendar year, and the rapid approach of the anniversary of the great demonstrations that began Jan. 25, has led to a time of reflection by many groups. Several recent statements have been very pessimistic.

A group of Human Rights lawyers held a a press conference Sunday, January 15, and argued that human rights abuses have risen, not fallen, since Mubarak fell.

The year of revolution ended with elections, they pointed out, but also four-day clashes sparked by Army soldiers beating a peaceful protester at a Dec. 16 sit-in outside the cabinet building in downtown Cairo.

The final tally of that violence, according to the activists:

  • 19 people were killed
  • 750 people injured
  • 250 arrested

Of these

  • Seventy minors aged 14 to 18 were released.
  • 100 remain imprisoned.
  • Three were tried in military courts; two were released, and one, Mohanned Abdel-Meneim remains in custody.
  • Activist Nawara Negm was summoned for questioning in connection with the bizarre charges of “deluding public opinion” and inciting violence against the military, although the latter charges were later dropped.
  • Activist, Ahmed Douma was remanded in custody for 15 days on charges that he sponsored violence against security forces.
  • Politician Ayman Nour was questioned in January on charges of inciting violence against security forces.

Sarah Carr writes in Egypt Independent:

The past year saw at least one major confrontation per month between protesters and security forces — both army troops and riot police. In addition to the dead and wounded, tens and sometimes hundreds of protesters were arrested at each of these incidents, and hauled before military courts, where hefty prison sentences were summarily issued to protesters and others rounded up arbitrarily.

Meanwhile, a 46-page report by Human Rights Watch, “The Road Ahead: A Human Rights Agenda for Egypt’s New Parliament,” sets out nine areas of Egyptian law that the newly elected parliament must urgently reform if the law is to become an instrument that protects Egyptians’ rights rather than represses them. Egypt’s existing laws

,According to Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch:

Egypt’s stalled transition can be revived only if the new parliament dismantles Egypt’s repressive legal framework, the toolbox the government has relied on for decades to silence journalists, punish political opponents, and stifle civil society. Egypt’s new political parties need to live up to the promises of the Egyptian uprising by ensuring that no government can ever again trample on the rights of the Egyptian people.

But it is not only foreigners insisting on change. Al-Azhar Grand Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayeb argued Sunday, Jan. 15 that people have the right to call for the ousting of corrupt rulers.

This contradicts many conservative Islamic teachings by religious scholars who have taught that the chaos caused by revolutions is worse than the tyranny of rulers.

Ironically, this is the position held by most Salfi clerics in Egypt. Many had preached  to people not to take part in the uprisings against former President Mubarak–yet they have subsequently been one of the most obvious beneficiaries of his ouster.

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