Excerpts from the Middle East and North Africa section:
Egypt’s constitutional drafting process reflected the overall turbulence in the country. The first drafting committee was disbanded by an administrative court, and the second committee lost a large number of its members when they walked out in protest over the theocratic direction the draft was taking. The final version passed a referendum with 63.8% of voters in support, although a large number of secular and democracy activists, including many Copts, boycotted the vote. Only 32.9% of the full electorate participated. From the perspective of guaranteeing religious-minority rights, the new constitution is so flawed that it is probably beyond practical remedy. As the governing document of the region’s historically most important country, it sets a worrisome standard:
On Thursday, March 28th, the American Islamic Congress (AIC) held an event titled “Two Years after Tahrir.” The panel featured Eric Trager of The Washington Institute for Near East Policy, Dwight Bashir of the U.S. Commission for International Religious Freedom, and Safei-Eldin Hamed of the Alliance of Egyptian Americans. John Pinna of AIC moderated the event.
The purpose of this report is to help U.S. policymakers and Middle East watchers better understand voting patterns in Egypt since the 2011 revolution. While much has been written on the electoral strength of Islamists, most analysis has dealt with Egypt at the national level, ignoring regional divides within the country. In contrast, this report identifies the areas within Egypt where Islamist parties run strongest and the areas where non-Islamists are most competitive.
Rep. Frank Wolf made a series of policy recommendations – including his continued push for the creation of a Special Envoy for Religious Minorities in the Middle East and South Central Asia – following a recent trip to Lebanon and Egypt, where he met with high-ranking government officials, religious leaders, humanitarian aid organizations and refugees who have fled Syria.
The recommendations are included in a 14-page report detailing the trip. Titled “First the Saturday People, Then the Sunday People: The Exodus of Jews and Christians from the Middle East,” the report is set against the backdrop of historic and tumultuous change in the broader Middle East. The primary focus of Wolf’s trip was to talk to the Syrian Christian community as well as other religious minorities in the region. He wanted to hear firsthand about their concerns and what the future might hold. He also wanted to put this issue in the larger context of an imperiled Christian community in the broader Middle East, specifically in Egypt and Iraq. Wolf came away deeply troubled by what he heard and alarmed at what amounted to the changing face of the Middle East.
Morsi’s government must withdraw bill to nationalize civil society from Shura Council and reject FJP bill to stifle human rights organizations
The undersigned rights organizations strongly condemn the authoritarian tendencies of President Mohamed Morsi’s party (the Freedom and Justice Party) and his government, illustrated by their lack of respect for international human rights standards and particular disregard for the freedom of association. The government is repressing the right of civil society organizations to freely carry out their activities through arbitrary limitations on their financial resources and security interference in their work, as seen in the statement directed at “local entities” by the prime minister warning them against participating in any activities with what he called “foreign bodies” without obtaining permission to do so from the security apparatus – despite the fact that there is no legal basis for this. The president’s party and his government are working to issue a new law designed to nationalize civil society and deal a mortal blow to human rights organizations. There are currently two similar bills under consideration, differing in their details but evincing the same authoritarian philosophy. Either bill, if passed, will serve to insulate the old machine of repression and torture from criticism and oversight, facilitate the suppression of freedom of expression and the press, and eliminate the relative protection that rights groups currently provide to victims of human rights abuses.
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