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April 20, 2006

The Betrayal of Ayman Nour
Posted by Shadi Hamid

The language was eloquent, colored with the requisite hues of Wilsonian radicalism: “All who live in tyranny and hopelessness can know: the United States will not ignore your oppression, or excuse your oppressors. When you stand for your liberty, we will stand with you.” Today, 14 months later, Ayman Nour, a courageous liberal, dissident, and leader of the al-Ghad Party, is suffering – some say dying – in prison. The Egyptian regime is destroying him, his family, and the movement he helped give birth to last year. This, we should note, is the same Egyptian regime which receives $2 billion in economic and military aid from the US each year. Where is the Bush administration’s outrage now ? Where has its celebrated love of freedom gone ? There is, instead, silence. 

Last week, an email from Gameela Ismail, Nour’s wife, was forwarded to me, alerting supporters to the unfolding events. The following is from an article in the opposition weekly al-Dustour, which describes Nour’s treatment and his deteriorating health:

“[Nour] suffered from a kidney attack and had to inject himself despite not being qualified or trained. He was obliged to use medicine and medical equipment that his family buys. Such practices resulted in sores and wounds in his arms and the veins of his hands, and left black spots all over his body. Moreover, the diabetes symptoms worsened resulting in swollen feet and face, in addition to general exhaustion believed by those close to him to be an attempt on part of the regime to kill him indirectly, unlike the case with others who were killed directly.”

It has been four months since Nour was sentenced to 5 years in prison on blatantly bogus charges. The White House released a statement on December 24th saying it was  “deeply troubled” by Nour’s incarceration. During a roundtable with Arab journalists just before her February Middle East tour, Rice insisted that this was not the time to “turn our backs” on Arab democracy. As part of her trip, Rice spent a day in Cairo meeting with President Mubarak and other Egyptian officials. Mubarak later remarked with characteristic smugness that Rice "was convinced by the way Egypt is pursuing political reform and implementing democracy...she didn’t bring up difficult issues or ask to change anything or to intervene in political reform as some people claim.” Not only that, "she was very polite."

The cause of Arab democracy has been betrayed by those who profess to be its greatest defenders. This is nothing new – democracy in the Middle East has rather consistently been sacrificed by US policymakers at the altar of purportedly greater interests and concerns. We could have expected as much from the Scrowcroftian automatons who profess, at no end, their undying love for “stability.” This administration said it was different and, for a short while, actually acted like it. The democracy backlash continues.


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I agree that democracy in the Middle East and elsewhere is constantly frustrated by U.S. politicians. For instance, what ever happened to the UN Millenium Development Goals? Didn't the US and 190 other countries sign on to eradicate poverty and provide adequate health care for all nations? The plan could be achieved so easily but is almost non-existant to the average American. Most people think we give around 25% of our GDP to foreign aid. In reality, we give less than 1%. This sends a strong message to the rest of the world that we don't care about global issues. The Borgen Project website has a lot of good info on these issues.

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