Summary Report and Conference Recommendations
Coptic Solidarity held its fourth Annual Conference in Washington, D.C. under the main theme of “To What Extent Will the U.S. and the International Community Support an Islamist Government in Egypt?”
Thursday June 20, 2013
On Thursday June 20, 2013 Coptic Solidarity hosted a special Policy Education Day in the Capitol. After opening remarks by Coptic Solidarity president, who warned that America could become on the wrong side of history by its continued support for a fascistic regime that is rejected by the Egyptian people, several prominent Members of Congress and Parliamentarians delivered remarks:
▪ Baroness Cox, of Queensbury, the U.K. House of Lords
▪ Congressman Frank Wolf (R-VA)
▪ Congressman Joseph R. Pitts (R-PA)
▪ Congressman Robert Aderholt (R-AL)
▪ Congressman Albio Sires (D-NJ)
▪ Congressman Trent Franks (R-AZ)
▪ Congressman Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA)
▪ Congressman Gus Bilirakis (R-FL)
▪ Senator Roy Blunt (R-MO) – statement read on his behalf by staffer Lauren McCormack
▪ Hon. Jim Karigaynnis, MP, Canadian House of Commons.
These policy makers voiced strong support for the Copts and other religious and political minorities in Egypt. Many stressed the importance of elevating human rights and democracy reform in Egypt as a desired focus in US foreign policy. Another frequent topic of comment was disapproval of the aid that Secretary Kerry recently released to Egypt by providing a waiver despite the increasing violence against Copts, civil society, and the obvious move towards an authoritarian state by the Morsi regime.
International Religious Freedom Ambassador-At-Large, Dr. Susan Johnson Cook, introduced her Canadian counterpart, Dr. Andrew Bennett. As Canada’s newly appointed Ambassador for Religious Freedom, Coptic Solidarity was very pleased to hear of Dr. Bennett’s concern for Coptic Christians suffering in Egypt and of Canada’s commitment to working on behalf of people of all faiths and no faith in further promoting religious freedom.
The Obama Administration was also represented by Thomas O. Melia, Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor. Mr. Melia contended that the US has been very proactive in supporting democracy and human rights in Egypt, yet the Egyptian government has not heeded all of their suggestions. Melia also explained that the Obama Administration has to provide incentives for Egypt. Yet he remains unconvinced that withholding the $1.3 billion in military aid that Secretary Kerry just released to Egypt, would have been sufficient inducement for the Morsi Administration to protect human rights and operate more democratically.
Coptic Solidarity had the great pleasure of presenting its 2013 Leadership Award to Congressman Frank Wolf for his tireless dedication and efforts on behalf of the Copts and Egyptians in general.
The Policy Day also included sessions and panels in which numerous prominent experts generously shared their insights.
• Chair: Dr. Walid Phares Co-Sec. General, Transatlantic Legislative Group
• Ambassador R. James Woolsey – Chairman, Foundation for Defense of Democracies, Former Director of Central Intelligence.
• Baroness Cox – UK House of Lords.
• Amb. Ned Walker – Former Amb. to Egypt; Distinguished Professor of Global Political Theory, Hamilton College
In this first panel, all speakers voiced concern with the erosion of human rights and civil society in Egypt and called on concerned citizens to ask the hard questions of the US government and other Western democracies such as the issues of foreign aid and unfounded optimism that their policies are effective.
Panel: What Next in Egypt?
• Dr. Osama El-Ghazaly Harb – Chairman, Democratic Front Party; Member of the Salvation Front, Egypt.
• Judge Ayman Fouad – Rapporteur of the Freedoms Committee of the Judges’ Club’ in Egypt.
Conference participants were greatly honored to hear from two leading Egyptians citizens. Dr. Osama El-Ghazaly Harb reminded attendees that all Egyptians need to be united against authoritarianism and that opposition groups must partner. Judge Fouad gave a clear picture of the increasing pressure on judges in Egypt by Morsi’s attempts to replace 3,500 judges and diminish independence of the Egyptian judiciary.
• Chair: Jay Sekulow, Chief Counsel for the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ).
• Judith Miller – Author, Journalist.
• KNS: Judge Michael Mukasey – The 81st United States Attorney General, Partner, Debevoise & Plimpton LLP.
Judge Michael Mukasey delivered the keynote address. Mukasey discussed the role of media in sanitizing the issues facing Coptic Christians, resulting in few Americans knowing what is truly happening. Coptic Solidarity is grateful that he committed himself to speaking out about their suffering in the future. Renowned journalist, Judith Miller, expressed optimism for the future of Egypt although she believes the revolution must be completed which will require more turmoil.
Panel – Liberties, between Violation and Reporting
• Dwight Bashir, Deputy Director for Policy and Research USCIRF.
• Emilie Kao, Esq., Senior International Legal Counsel, previously at the Office of International Religious Freedom, the State Department.
• Jim Karigaynnis – MP, Canadian House of Commons.
• Tina Ramirez, President, Hardwired Inc. NGO to promote religious freedom
The day’s last panel covered the diminishing state of religious and political freedom in Egypt and steps that can be taken to increase it. Bashir reiterated the need to designate Egypt as a ‘Country of Particular Concern. Karigaynnis discussed several current options for the US and other Western governments to respond to the situation in Egypt. Kao addressed the Muslim Brotherhood proposed NGO law that would severely restrict civil society. Ibrahim discussed current media paradigms, which result in Americans’ inability to understand persecution of Copts in Egypt. Ramirez provided an impassioned response to Mr. Melia’s statements and encouraged the Coptic community to be more vocal about their concerns.
Friday June 21, 2012
Day 2 of the conference was hosted at the Marriott Washington Dulles Airport Hotel, and was comprised of four lively panels:
Panel – Minorities Rights under Islamist Rule
• Chair: Raymond Ibrahim, Researcher, author, columnist.
• Caroline Doss, Esq. Coptic Solidarity Vice President.
• Dr. Mariz Tadros, Institute of Development Studies, London, UK.
• Rev. Keith Roderick, D.D., Secretary General, Coalition for the Defense of Human Rights (Remarks delivered by Dr. Helmy Guirguis, Coptic Solidarity Board Member).
• Monica Mikhail, Esq., Australian Coptic Movement Association (ACM).
Host, Raymond Ibrahim, started the panel by providing historical context regarding the 7th century Conditions of Omar. These same conditions are again being used in Egypt to subjugate Copts. Doss provided cases of suffering reported by Copts who seek asylum in U.S. Other highlights included Tadros’ presentation of her research regarding the rising number of attacks and the reasons for those attacks. Mikhail presented an encouraging picture of the very active Coptic diaspora in Australia and the many advocacy efforts in which they have engaged. Roderick suggested a plan on pursuing Egypt’s accountability.
Panel – Regional Security Issues
• Chair: Colonel Ken Allard, former dean at the War College and NBC Military expert.
• Admiral (Ret.) James Lyons, Jr., U.S. Navy Retired; President/CEO of LION Associates LLC.
• Kathleen Troia “KT” McFarland, former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense, and FOX News National Security Analyst.
Colonel Allard led this panel presenting a picture of Egyptian military capabilities and ties to the US military. Admiral Lyons Jr. regaled the audience with examples of the numerous opportunities previous administrations have had to deal with Islamism. McFarland capped the discussion with a poignant explanation of how Egypt’s future will impact the entire Middle East and presented several possible scenarios.
Special session: Message from Russia
• Alexey Komov, President World Congress of Families in Russia and CIS- Moscow
Panel – Assessing the Brotherhood Regime – Internal & International roles
• Chair: Frank Gaffney, President of the Center for Security Policy.
• Steve Emerson, Executive Director, The Investigative Project on Terrorism.
• Dr. Tawfik Hamid, Chair for the Study of Islamic Radicalism, the Potomac Institute for Policy Studies.
• Halim Meawad, Former diplomat, Secretary, Coptic Solidarity.
Panel Chair, Frank Gaffney, presented information on the Muslim Brotherhood’s infiltration of the US government and how this is impacting current US foreign policy towards Egypt. Dr. Hamid expressed concern that the Muslim Brotherhood is merely using the form of democracy to gain and solidify power before enforcing an authoritarian regime to maintain control of Egypt. Meawad highlighted the Brotherhood’s dictatorial treats. Panelists agree that the scheduled protest for June 30th in Egypt will be an important moment for opposition parties to unite and determine the future of Egyptian governance.
Panel – Current Political Crisis in Egypt
• Chair: Magdi Khalil, Writer and analyst; Coptic Solidarity Board Member.
• Judge Ayman Fouad – Rapporteur of the Freedoms Committee of the Judges’ Club’ in Egypt.
• Dr. Adel Kubeish – MD, Political activist.
• Dina Guirguis, Esq. – Egyptian American attorney.
• Dr Ehsan Kameel Georgy, Head of Forensics Department, Ministry of Justice, Cairo.
Khalil gave a list of threats that the Brotherhood regime represents. Fouad explained the attempts by the regime to curtail the judiciary. Guirguis argued that the US Administration may not be backing the Brotherhood, but simply dealing with realities on ground. Kubeish called for unity of all opposition, including in diaspora, by offering a realistic path to replace the regime. Georgy uncovered attempts by Brotherhood leaders to coerce his forensics department to obfuscate evidence.
A number of common themes emerged from the two-day conference including a variety of specific policy recommendations. The overarching consensus is that the Muslim Brotherhood-led Morsi government has used Egypt’s newfound democracy to win the first election. Yet, they are following in the authoritarian footsteps of all dictatorships to consolidate and maintain power. This can be seen through the manner in which the Constitution was pushed through, efforts to limit civil society through the proposed NGO law, efforts to undermine the independent judiciary, increasing lawlessness seen in attacks such as the unprecedented attack on St. Mark’s Cathedral,
and numerous individual kidnappings, imprisonment, and attacks on Coptic and other faith and minority individuals.
US and other Western media have largely ignored the developing crisis in Egypt as it does not fit within their secular humanist paradigm. Furthermore, there is ample documentation that the Salafists and Muslim Brotherhood members are reverting to discriminatory practices to relegate all non-Sunni Muslims to a diminished status, using age-old strategies employed in their initial conquest of Egypt and other lands throughout the Middle East.
Current US foreign policy is largely misguided. Secretary Kerry recently released $1.3 billion in military aid providing a waiver despite his inability to demonstrate any improvement in democratic reforms and human rights. The Obama administration has repeatedly issued assurances that they are exhausting all options to support democracy and human right. Yet, the Coptic and international community remain unconvinced as Secretary Kerry has just waived a $1.3 billion incentive without exacting any improvement on behalf of Egyptian citizens including most notably, Copts, women, and all other religious and political minorities.
Coptic Solidarity believes US foreign aid to Egypt should benefit the Egyptian people and not be used to prop up a corrupt and failing government against the wishes of the populace. US policy towards Egypt is increasingly seen as a waste of US taxpayer dollars and as alienating the Egyptian populace who are in large numbers dissatisfied with the Morsi regime. The Egyptian economy is quickly crumbling. By providing economic assistance and bailing out the corrupt and inept Morsi administration, the US government would undermine the Egyptian people and their pursuit of a democratically functioning nation. Declaring that the aid is necessary, based on a vague claim of national security interest, is not enough. The Egyptian and American people deserve to know how and why US tax dollars are being spent to support the Morsi Administration.
1. The Egyptian youth led the revolution against Mubarak. They must be reengaged and supported to continue their efforts on June 30th and into the future.
2. Opposition groups in Egypt must unite in efforts to defeat the Muslim Brotherhood by all peaceful and political means, and to publicize and resist all authoritarian measures. The objective must be to set the January 2011 uprising on the right track, starting with the rewriting of a constitution compatible with international standards and the fundamentals of modern state.
3. All opposition forces must resist the newly proposed NGO law before it curtails civil society any further. Without a vibrant civil society, all of the above objectives will be much harder to achieve. Egyptians need to document all current NGO efforts and should consider the use of crowd mapping.
4. The State Department neglected to designate any ‘Countries of Particular Concern’ this year. Concerned citizens need to raise this issue with their members of Congress as well as publicize the need for Egypt to be added to the ‘CPC’ list followed by measures “with teeth” such as conditioning of foreign aid.
5. Rep. Frank Wolf and Rep. Anna Eshoo have introduced a bill to create a Special Envoy for Religious Freedom in the Near East and South Central Asia. Senators Roy Blunt and Carl Levin have introduced S. 653, the senate companion bill. American citizens should ask their elected officials to cosponsor and vote for the House and Senate version of these bills.
6. The Coptic diaspora worldwide must become more vocal, politically engaged, and use their financial resources to publicize and take action on behalf of Copts. The Coptic diaspora is composed of many highly educated individuals. These individuals need to recognize that they can no longer wait on the sidelines. They must engage in the revolution with every ounce of creativity, energy, and resources to turn the tide in favor of democracy and equality for all Egyptians.
7. Foreign Aid to Egypt must be used as an incentive to promote – through benchmarking measures – positive change towards establishing a system that respects its citizens in full equality, and must benefit the people directly. Copts need to use their media connections to publicize their disapproval of Secretary Kerry’s waiver and giving aid to Egypt without requiring any specific democracy and human rights reforms. All concerned citizens need to outreach to their US. Senators and U.S. Rep. to voice outrage over this action will ultimately hurts the Egyptian people and undermines their pursuit of a democratically run nation that treats citizens with equality.
8. Media in Egypt is under severe threats. Those with media connections and journalists in nations with greater freedom need to more independently report developments in Egypt without relying on the Egyptian media or major US networks which rely heavily on Egyptian state controlled media.