Once again this year, the Obama Administration’s State Department has recommended waiving a penalty that was meant to be applied to foreign aid to Egypt. 15% of Egypt’s aid was to be withheld if they did not meet certain human rights benchmarks in many areas, including free and fair elections, freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, and greater protection for minority religions. This regulation was the bone that was tossed to human rights activists by Congress a few years ago, mostly so the government could say it was doing SOMETHING in the way of encouraging improvement in the human rights situation in the Middle East. The now-established tradition of waiving the penalty was started under the guidance of-no surprise here- Hillary Clinton when she was Secretary of State in 2012.
A State Department document justifying the waiver from May, 2015 acknowledges that Egypt has not made progress in any of the required areas of human rights. Indeed, the document cites serious issues in the areas of delayed Parliamentary elections, freedoms of expression and press, freedom of association and peaceful assembly, women’s rights, protection of religious minorities, due process restrictions, accountability, and American citizens who are unjustly held in Egyptian prisons. Yet, inexplicably, our government thinks Egypt deserves their entire $1.3 BILLION dollar allotment again this year. Lame arguments like “vital partner for stability” don’t hold up well in light of the facts. Waiving the human rights penalty for the past four years has not had the desired results. The region, if anything, has gotten much LESS stable. Coptic Christians are persecuted every day for their religion. The recent 5 year jail sentence for four Coptic teens involved in a foolish cellphone video judged “blasphemous” is a perfect example of why Egypt deserves NO aid from the United States whatsoever. Go watch this video. These kids were obviously just horsing around. How would you feel if these were your children, sentenced to five years in an adult prison, for a silly video made while on a church field trip? The idea that these kids could be sentenced to probable death in jail for “blasphemy” such as this is utterly ridiculous. The United States needs to stand against human rights abuses such as this, not acknowledge them and then callously turn away! We’ve tried the carrot without success. The time is long overdue for a little stick. As I’ve said before, we can easily claim the higher moral ground in human rights issues. Why then are we so reluctant to take a stand on it?