Canada should protect its citizens against threats from Egyptian regime
(Original title: Egypt's Crackdown Domestically and Abroad: All According to Plan)
By Mohamed S. Kamel; Contributor
Wed., Aug. 14, 2019
While the political troubles of Egypt might seem far away, their impact on Canadians has been consistent and continues to escalate with time.
On the anniversary of the worst massacre of civilians by their own military in Egyptian history, it’s crucial that we do not look away from violence of the past and that which Egypt has promised Canadians in the future. It’s even more important that we hear a commitment from our government to protect its citizens from the Egyptian regime’s violence — something which is not new to Canadians.
Toronto man Amr Kassem was murdered in Alexandria in 2013 during those very massacres when the Egyptian military began cracking down on people protesting for democracy. Before that, Mississauga native Sarah Attia underwent a two-year ordeal when her husband Khaled Al-Qazzaz was forcibly disappeared by the Egyptian government and then held in inhumane conditions in solitary confinement.
In a highly public case, Canadian journalist Mohamed Fahmy suffered over 400 days under the same conditions. Canadian filmmaker John Greyson and Dr. Tarek Loubani were famously detained and tortured in Tora Prison for seven weeks. Even now, several Canadian citizens are languishing unlawfully in Egyptian custody under horrific conditions with no indication of release any time soon.
It should be noted that this is all calculated and premeditated by the state. On Aug. 12, 2014, one year after that bloody Rabaa massacre, the largest killings of demonstrators in a single day in recent history, Human Rights Watch (HRW) issued its report on the atrocity that took place under the command of Abdel-Fattah El-Sissi, who later became Egypt’s de facto president.
HRW intentionally named the report “All According to Plan” because of the Rabaa massacre’s premeditated nature. It documented at least 817 peaceful protesters who were killed, but the total number is estimated to be around 1,000.
Fast-forward to 2019 here in Canada, as we approach the sixth anniversary of the Rabaa massacre, I and many others were appalled to hear an Egyptian official, Minister of Immigration and Expatriates’ Affairs Nabila Makram, proclaiming in front of an audience of supporters in Mississauga, Ont., that “anyone speaking against Egypt abroad will be sliced” as she made a throat-slitting motion with her hand.
In a bizarre but wholly expected series of apologetics, some supporters of the Egyptian regime tried to defend or contextualize Makram’s comment as some type of joke. Killing dissidents may qualify as humour elsewhere, but not in Canada, where freedom of speech and media is a constitutionally protected right and tradition.
Furthermore, given the Egyptian regime’s well-documented penchant for acts like torture, arbitrary imprisonment, forced disappearances and murder, the minister’s conduct can only be understood as a direct threat to Canadians.
Makram’s words must also be couched in the fact that el-Sissi’s government, according to HRW estimates, has detained roughly 60,000 political prisoners, including 100 journalists, since he seized power in a bloody military coup in 2013. This is not even to mention that Canadian citizen Yasser Elbaz was removed from his line at the airport on a business trip to Cairo and has been arbitrarily detained in horrific conditions without charges since March
The issue is urgent because actual lives continue to hang in the balance. Most recently, the only democratically elected president in Egypt’s history, Mohamed Morsi, died suspiciously in Egyptian custody after six years in solitary confinement and medical neglect.
Considering these facts, Makram’s message in Canada was clear: the government that openly performed the Rabaa massacre for the world to see intends to target dissidents abroad. The Canadian government’s silence on violence being incited on Canadian soil is not acceptable.
Moreover, the silence of the Ontario premier and the Legislative Assembly of Ontario is not acceptable in the face of visitation privileges being used to threaten Canadians at home. Especially when Ontario MPP Sheref Sabawy, instead of distancing himself from the remarks, decided to defend them.
Aug. 14, the anniversary of the Rabaa massacre, should be a sobering reminder to everyone that we cannot afford to be silent in the face of such blatant assaults on our humanity or any threat emanating from officials of a country tied to such acts. I call on our government and all Canadian people to declare resoundingly: let us never be silent nor complicit.
* Mohamed S. Kamel is a human rights activist and founding board member of the Egyptian Canadian Coalition for Democracy. He is also a freelance writer and editor of For a Free Egypt.