01/27/2021 Washington, D.C. International Christian Concern (ICC) has learned that on January 25, Representative Don Beyer (D-VA) and Representative Tom Malinowski (D-NJ) announced that that they would be forming the Egypt Human Rights Caucus in the House of Representatives. The announcement comes amidst a deteriorating human rights record in Egypt, where the government has been cracking down on the free speech of minority activists and enforcing its harsh blasphemy laws.
In the announcement, Rep. Malinowski commented on the proposed effect of the Caucus on the U.S-Egypt relationship. “American interests have not been served by a policy of unconditional support for the Egyptian military, while downplaying the military-led government’s human rights abuses, corruption, and mistreatment of American citizens,” said Rep. Malinowski. “The Egypt Human Rights Caucus will reflect and help shape the growing consensus in Congress that we need to rebalance our relationship with this important country."
ICC has reported on Egypt’s jailing of human rights advocates voicing their concerns in the country. This past Fall, Egyptian authorities detained three members of the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR), an organization known for their documentation of the abuses of the Egyptian government. Although Egyptian authorities released these EIPR members, many vulnerable communities now find it more difficult and more dangerous to report the religious freedom abuses of the government.
Egypt’s Coptic Christians have especially fallen victim to the government’s abuses by way of its blasphemy laws. ICC has been tracking, Abd Adel Babawy’s case, who has been in jail for almost four years for allegedly posting a video on Facebook that insulted Islam. After such accusations, a mob attacked the homes of local Christians with impunity, and Bebawy sentenced to three years in prison. Bebawy’s release date was over a year ago, but he remains incarcerated in the Egyptian prison system, a system known for its abuse of prisoners.
The COVID-19 pandemic has disproportionately impacted Copts, who were already experiencing economic marginalization as a result of government policies. This has left many Copts without any source of income, struggling to survive with no attention from the government.
A representative from Rep. Beyer’s office assured ICC that the new Caucus would address such issues facing Coptic.“The Caucus is committed to uplifting the human rights of all Egyptians,” said Rep. Beyer’s staffer, “including religious minorities who have faced abuses.”
ICC’s Advocacy Director Matias Perttula said, “ICC commends the work of Congressman Beyer and Congressman Malinowski in initiating the creation of the Egypt Human Rights Caucus. Egypt’s detention of human rights advocates has gone too long without enough condemnation from the international community. In particular, the Egyptian government’s harsh enforcement of the unjust blasphemy laws and implicit sanctioning of communal-based violence against Christians is an especially concerning development that we hope the Caucus addresses. We will be watching the progress of the Caucus closely, and hope they pressure the Egyptian government on these issues.”