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 Full text 
Thursday, 16 February 2012 - Strasbourg Revised edition

Egypt: recent developments (debate)

  Bastiaan Belder, author. (NL) Mr President, the West and Israel have always been popular targets for Arab potentates. They are by far the most popular red herring manoeuvre used to mask native leaders’ personal failings. In the Egypt of today, these kinds of conspiracy theories are seeing a spectacular comeback. It is now domestic and foreign NGOs that are being labelled as spies and troublemakers.

Allow me to give you two recent examples of that. For the Egyptian Minister for International Cooperation, Faiza Aboul Naga, it is a foregone conclusion that the United States and Israel are at the moment doing everything in their power to undo the ‘people’s’ revolution. The person speaking here seems more like a Minister for International Conspiracy’ than a Minister for International Cooperation. An equally sad example of the official witch-hunt against NGOs is the mobilisation of the media. Consider the action by the pro-government Al-Ahram magazine, which published a complete list of conspirators summoned before the court. In addition, the newspaper allowed angry readers to flood its website with their comments. These anti-Western diatribes surpass even those from the Mubarak era. The conspirators are described as dogs, traitors, who deserve nothing less than public execution.

The European institutions should take a clear stand against such misleading, pernicious conspiracy theories. This Arab continuity is increasingly threatening to reverse the hopeful Arab Spring into less pleasant political seasons: autumn and winter, at the expense of the future prospects of, in this case, Egyptian society in its entirety. It is not without reason, therefore, that, in the first paragraph of the joint resolution, the European Parliament reassures the Egyptian people of its support for respect for basic rights.

I would like to add another point to this. This week, I have repeatedly sought contact with and received responses from Cairo and outside Cairo, especially amongst the Christian minority in Egypt. That is not the only minority that is greatly concerned about political developments – the Baha’i community, for example, is, too. What exactly is the Muslim Brotherhood going to do? How much tolerance is there still? If there can be tolerance within the church community, that would be a start, but what about in society as a whole? If we look at what is currently happening under the smoke of Alexandria, namely, that the entire Christian community in a village has had to flee that village because of a show trial, once again involving a man’s word against a woman’s, then I can very much imagine their fear. I hope that the European institutions, the Council, the Commission and the European Parliament, will respect and defend the fundamental rights of all Egyptians, including those of the Christian minority, in particular.

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