[House Hearing, 113 Congress]
[From the U.S. Government Publishing Office]
HUMAN RIGHTS ABUSES IN EGYPT
SUBCOMMITTEE ON AFRICA, GLOBAL HEALTH,
GLOBAL HUMAN RIGHTS, AND
THE MIDDLE EAST AND NORTH AFRICA
COMMITTEE ON FOREIGN AFFAIRS
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
ONE HUNDRED THIRTEENTH CONGRESS
DECEMBER 10, 2013
Serial No. 113-147
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COMMITTEE ON FOREIGN AFFAIRS
EDWARD R. ROYCE, California, Chairman
CHRISTOPHER H. SMITH, New Jersey ELIOT L. ENGEL, New York
ILEANA ROS-LEHTINEN, Florida ENI F.H. FALEOMAVAEGA, American
DANA ROHRABACHER, California Samoa
STEVE CHABOT, Ohio BRAD SHERMAN, California
JOE WILSON, South Carolina GREGORY W. MEEKS, New York
MICHAEL T. McCAUL, Texas ALBIO SIRES, New Jersey
TED POE, Texas GERALD E. CONNOLLY, Virginia
MATT SALMON, Arizona THEODORE E. DEUTCH, Florida
TOM MARINO, Pennsylvania BRIAN HIGGINS, New York
JEFF DUNCAN, South Carolina KAREN BASS, California
ADAM KINZINGER, Illinois WILLIAM KEATING, Massachusetts
MO BROOKS, Alabama DAVID CICILLINE, Rhode Island
TOM COTTON, Arkansas ALAN GRAYSON, Florida
PAUL COOK, California JUAN VARGAS, California
GEORGE HOLDING, North Carolina BRADLEY S. SCHNEIDER, Illinois
RANDY K. WEBER SR., Texas JOSEPH P. KENNEDY III,
SCOTT PERRY, Pennsylvania Massachusetts
STEVE STOCKMAN, Texas AMI BERA, California
RON DeSANTIS, Florida ALAN S. LOWENTHAL, California
TREY RADEL, Florida GRACE MENG, New York
DOUG COLLINS, Georgia LOIS FRANKEL, Florida
MARK MEADOWS, North Carolina TULSI GABBARD, Hawaii
TED S. YOHO, Florida JOAQUIN CASTRO, Texas
LUKE MESSER, Indiana
Amy Porter, Chief of Staff Thomas Sheehy, Staff Director
Jason Steinbaum, Democratic Staff Director
Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights, and
CHRISTOPHER H. SMITH, New Jersey, Chairman
TOM MARINO, Pennsylvania KAREN BASS, California
RANDY K. WEBER SR., Texas DAVID CICILLINE, Rhode Island
STEVE STOCKMAN, Texas AMI BERA, California
MARK MEADOWS, North Carolina
Subcommittee on the Middle East and North Africa
ILEANA ROS-LEHTINEN, Florida, Chairman
STEVE CHABOT, Ohio THEODORE E. DEUTCH, Florida
JOE WILSON, South Carolina GERALD E. CONNOLLY, Virginia
ADAM KINZINGER, Illinois BRIAN HIGGINS, New York
TOM COTTON, Arkansas DAVID CICILLINE, Rhode Island
RANDY K. WEBER SR., Texas ALAN GRAYSON, Florida
RON DeSANTIS, Florida JUAN VARGAS, California
TREY RADEL, Florida BRADLEY S. SCHNEIDER, Illinois
DOUG COLLINS, Georgia JOSEPH P. KENNEDY III,
MARK MEADOWS, North Carolina Massachusetts
TED S. YOHO, Florida GRACE MENG, New York
LUKE MESSER, Indiana LOIS FRANKEL, Florida
C O N T E N T S
Zuhdi Jasser, M.D., vice chair, U.S. Commission on International
Religious Freedom.............................................. 9
His Grace Bishop Angaelos, General Bishop, Coptic Orthodox Church
in the United Kingdom.......................................... 30
Mr. Samuel Tadros, research fellow, Center for Religious Freedom,
Hudson Institute............................................... 39
Morad Abou-Sabe, Ph.D., professor emeritus, Rutgers University
(former president of Misr University for Science & Technology). 47
Mr. Tad Stahnke, director of policy and programs, Human Rights
LETTERS, STATEMENTS, ETC., SUBMITTED FOR THE HEARING
Zuhdi Jasser, M.D.: Prepared statement........................... 12
His Grace Bishop Angaelos: Prepared statement.................... 33
Mr. Samuel Tadros: Prepared statement............................ 42
Morad Abou-Sabe, Ph.D.: Prepared statement....................... 51
Mr. Tad Stahnke: Prepared statement.............................. 58
Hearing notice................................................... 78
Hearing minutes.................................................. 79
Written response from Mr. Samuel Tadros to question submitted for
the record by the Honorable Mark Meadows, a Representative in
Congress from the State of North Carolina...................... 80
Material submitted for the record by Morad Abou-Sabe, Ph.D....... 82
HUMAN RIGHTS ABUSES IN EGYPT
TUESDAY, DECEMBER 3, 2013
House of Representatives,
Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health,
Global Human Rights, and International Organizations
and Subcommittee on the Middle East and North Africa,
Committee on Foreign Affairs,
The subcommittees met, pursuant to notice, at 9:08 a.m., in
room 2172, Rayburn House Office Building, Hon. Christopher H.
Smith (chairman of the Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health,
Global Human Rights, and International Organizations)
Mr. Smith. The subcommittee will come to order.
Subcommittees, I should say. This is an important and unique
day. It is Human Rights Day. And both the Subcommittee on
Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights, and International
Organizations and my distinguished colleague, Ileana Ros-
Lehtinen and her subcommittee are combined today in chairing
this hearing and raising the issues of human rights abuse in
Egypt. Today's hearing examines the escalating human rights
abuses in Egypt. It is fitting that we are holding this hearing
today on International Human Rights Day, December 10th, because
we are witnessing grievous violence and other abuses directed
against religious and political minorities, particularly the
Copts and other Christians about which our Government and the
media has said far too little, which seems to be a pattern
I would note parenthetically that the persecution of
Christians is escalating. Witness the slaughter of Christians
in Central African Republic, CAR. I would note Bishop Nongo of
the CAR told my subcommittee just a few weeks ago in this room
that Christians were being targeted simply because of their
faith, while the United Nations, the United States, and the
rest the world looked on.
On Thursday, I will be chairing a hearing on American
Pastor Saeed Abedini, who was jailed and is suffering torture
in Iran. Pastor Abedini's wife, Naghmeh, will tell our
subcommittee on Thursday, and I quote, in part,
``While I am thankful for President Obama's willingness
to express concern about my husband and the other
imprisoned Americans in Iran during his recent phone
conversation with Iran's new President, Hassan Rouhani,
I was devastated to learn that the administration
didn't even ask for my husband's release, when directly
seated across the table from the leaders of the
government that holds him captive.''
She goes on to say,
``My husband is suffering because he is a Christian. He
is suffering because he is an American. Yet, his own
government, at least the executive and diplomatic
representatives, has abandoned him. Don't we owe to it
him as a nation to stand up for his human rights, for
Unfortunately, there seems to be a pattern.
After President Mubarak resigned in February 2011, the
world hoped for a new Egypt, a just government for all
Egyptians, which would not make and replicate President
Mubarak's mistakes, but reality has been just the opposite.
Horrific anti-Christian pogroms have taken place under each of
the post-Mubarak governments. For some of these abuses, the
governments bear the responsibility of inaction. For others,
they bear direct responsibility. In recent months,
undercurrents of abuse and contempt for human dignity long
existing in Egypt have turned into flash floods of violence.
For example, the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces
presided over the Maspero protest massacre in October 2011. At
least 25 people were killed and more than 300 injured, almost
all of them Copts, when the military drove trucks through the
crowd and used live ammunition against the unarmed protesters.
Under the now displaced Morsi government, three low-level
soldiers involved were charged with minor crimes and received
2- to 3-year sentences. No commanding officers were held
responsible for ordering or failing to prevent the deadly
While Mr. Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and
Justice Party at times voiced support for an Egypt that was
home to both Muslims and Christians, his inaction belied his
rhetoric. In April 2012, St. Mark's Cathedral, seat of the
Coptic Pope, was attacked by 30 to 40 Muslim youths. While
dozens of Copts were sheltering inside, security forces joined
the mob. Rather than dispersing the crowd they participated in
the all-night attack or stood idly by as rocks, gasoline bombs,
and gas canisters were lobbed into the iconic cathedral.
Despite this, President Morsi denied that the clash was
sectarian in nature. After Mr. Morsi was removed in July of
this year, the military ended the Muslim Brotherhood's sit-in
with violence, killing hundreds of protesters. Tragically, some
in the Muslim Brotherhood scapegoated the Copts, although the
Copts had nothing to with the military's violence response. On
August 14th, the day that will be remembered as the worst day
for Copts in some 700 years, 37 churches, five schools, and
three bible societies, four other Christian institutions, and
many homes and businesses were burned or damaged by mobs. More
than 100 deaths were documented in the initial spate of
violence and its aftermath.
Some Copts had charged the military government in Egypt
with allowing the attacks on Coptic persons, businesses,
churches, and homes to continue, often inside of police
stations and in spite of repeated and direct calls for help, in
order to solidify government power as an alternative to the
Muslim Brotherhood as well as to justify their own heavy-handed
crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood. The Muslim Brotherhood
denies any involvement in the attacks occurring across the
country and has at times condemned them. Yet the Brotherhood's
Freedom and Justice Party branch in Helwan reportedly posted a
statement holding the Coptic Pope responsible for Morsi's
removal and otherwise linked Copts to attacks on the Muslim
The Brotherhood also called for Friday prayers to be held
in an evangelical church in Minya after it was occupied and
converted into a mosque on August 15th. Whoever the attackers
are, and that is one thing we hope to learn more about today,
the bottom line is that Coptic citizens are having their most
basic human rights--freedom of religion, association, and equal
protection of the laws--denied. We can never rest while human
dignity, when it is so grossly trampled upon, nor can we ever
accept the suffering that has marked Coptic life for decades,
very much including the abduction, forced conversions, and
forced marriages of Coptic girls and women.
These abuses have continued unabated, and by some reports,
have escalated sharply following the Arab Spring, as have the
abuse of the Egyptian courts to prosecute blasphemy cases
against Christians, moderate Muslims, and secularists.
Moreover, despite the nearly $1.5 billion in foreign aid
American taxpayers gave to Egypt each year, neither the Mubarak
government nor the Morsi government, or now the military
government, has seen fit to return kidnapped American children
Noor and Ramsay Bower, who were abducted by their mother to
Egypt in 2009, in violation of valid U.S. court orders, to the
United States. They, along with some 30 other American children
in Egypt, are forced to live without the love and guidance of
an American parent who daily fights for their return, while
being stripped of half of their culture and half of their
In addition, freedom of expression continues to be under
fire. The current interim government has been arresting and
jailing journalists critical of the military government,
jamming the broadcast signals, deporting foreign reporters, and
otherwise closing the offices of news outlets that are,
In his September 23rd speech at the United Nations, the
President stated that his ``approach to Egypt reflects a larger
point: the United States will at times work with governments
that do not meet the highest international expectations, but
who will work with us on our own core interests.'' These core
interests were early defined in the speech to include the
``Camp David Accords and counterterrorism'' efforts, but I
believe mistakenly have not included human rights. Human rights
and the intrinsic dignity of every human being from womb to
tomb are important in and of themselves. But for those who fail
to grasp this, there is another important point to be made. It
is the strategic interest of the United States to encourage
governments to respect the rights of their own people because
governments have failed to do so are, in the final analysis,
unstable. This should be the abiding lesson of the Arab Spring.
The President also stated that future U.S. support to Egypt
``will depend on Egypt's progress in pursuing a democratic
path.'' Again, it is unclear what criteria this entails. What
if the democratic path does not include the protection of human
rights, such as what we saw under the Morsi government and now
the interim government. It is not democracy per se that is to
be the goal, but rather duly-elected constitutional government
that respects minorities, the separation of power, and
fundamental human rights. Tyranny of the majority is not an
What is clear is that the U.S. needs a new approach. This
administration's shortsighted approach of not clearly linking
aid to the protection of human rights in Egypt has been
unequivocally ineffective. It is my hope that our hearing today
will shed light on what went wrong and how the U.S. can be more
effective in protecting human rights going forward.
I yield to my good friend and distinguished colleague,
Chairman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen.
Ms. Ros-Lehtinen. Thank you very much, Mr. Smith. Thank you
for your leadership throughout the years on any issue related
to human rights and thank you for shedding some light on this
terrible human rights abuse that is going on in Egypt. It is an
honor to hold this hearing with you. Thank you, sir.
During the Morsi and Muslim-Brotherhood-led era, we
witnessed a steady increase in human rights abuses perpetrated
by the Islamist government as Morsi began to solidify his power
and crack down on fundamental freedoms of Egyptians. There was
a precipitous increase in the arrests of journalists, a
widespread crackdown on opposition demonstrators, wanton
disrespect for the rule of law, and an overall deteriorating
state of human rights throughout Egypt. Then this past July,
the people of Egypt grew tired of Morsi's oppressive regime and
its blatant disregard for human rights and again, took to the
streets en masse.
Since Morsi's removal from power, Muslim Brotherhood
supporters have terrorized the Egyptian people with violent
protests, and the end result has left hundreds killed and many
more injured. The Egyptian military has responded in kind, and
the interim authorities have moved to initiate restrictive
assembly laws. And though the military has taken some steps to
keep Egypt safe and secure, such as conducting operations
against al Qaeda and the lawless Sinai, the general security
situation restrictions on civil society and a lack of the rule
of law and respect for human rights demonstrate that Egypt
still has a long way to go toward creating a truly democratic
While Egypt's interim government has said that it is
protecting religious minorities, we still see attacks against
the Coptic Christian community all the time. Though the
government may not outwardly incite these attacks, it fails to
provide the adequate protections to prevent them from
happening. Christians have seen a drastic increase of attacks
against them as they have been scapegoated by Morsi supporters.
Horrifying reports of attacks against Christian communities and
of young Christian girls being abducted and forced into
marriage with radical Islamists depict the grim reality that
Christians are currently facing in Egypt. But Christians aren't
the only groups that continue to suffer. Other religious
minorities such as Jews, Bahais, Sufi Muslims, Shiites, and
others, have been targeted by extremists, and women's rights
are woefully inadequate.
While the latest draft Constitution in theory has provided
more rights, in practice, it is so left open to interpretation,
thus not necessarily affording any more rights to those groups
who need protection the most. The committee tasked with drawing
up this new Constitution was not truly representative of the
interests of all Egyptians. Of the 50 members, only five were
women, and only four were Coptic Christians. It is the duty of
the interim government to help shepherd Egypt toward a new dawn
of democracy. In order for Egypt to return to the path toward
democracy, the new Constitution must protect the rights of
women and religious and ethnic minorities, everyone's human
rights must be recognized, and the political party process must
be allowed to take root with free, fair, and transparent
I hope that the new draft Constitution will be implemented
in a way that adequately addresses these concerns and is not
just simply a document that can be thrown out at a moment's
notice. The ideals enshrined in this document must be the
bedrock foundation that can inspire a country that is in danger
of losing its way.
A successful democratic transition in Egypt can only occur
once those protections are respected, solidified and enforced.
In addition, Egyptian authorities must pardon the 43 NGO
workers, many of whom are American citizens, who were unjustly
convicted and sentenced earlier this year and allow the NGOs to
operate without fear of government reprisals as they help to
support civil society.
The path to democracy is a difficult one, but it would be a
tremendous accomplishment if the people of Egypt can implement
the democratic reforms they have called for and realize a free
and functioning civil society. Without a strong basis in
democracy, any election will fail to achieve the democratic
results we all hope and pray to see in Egypt. And I thank the
chairman again for the joint hearing.
Mr. Smith. I want to thank the distinguished chairwoman for
her very eloquent statement and for her never-ending efforts to
combat human rights worldwide. Thank you, Chairman Ros-
Mr. Weber. Thank you, Mr. Chairman, for holding this
hearing. And I want to echo my colleague to the left. I want to
associate myself with her remarks. She did a great job. You are
exactly correct, we need to address this. When we make policy,
that should be utmost and foremost on our mindset. If we don't,
then we are, as the Scripture says, a clanging gong and
tinkling cymbals. So what we want to make sure that we pay
close attention and the policy that we set holds these people
to account. We express our concern, our love, and our intent to
put an end to these human rights violations across the globe,
but especially in Egypt and that we set the policy in place to
do that. And I commend you once again for holding this hearing.
Mr. Smith. Chair recognizes Chairman Rohrabacher.
Mr. Rohrabacher. Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman. Today
we hope that we will be sending the message that the people of
the United States are standing in solidarity with those
oppressed Christians who are suffering persecution in Egypt.
That is the message of today. But the greater message is that
the people of the United States believe in religious freedom.
We believe that people, no matter what their faith, have a
right to live their lives as they choose without being
persecuted or brutalized by either their government or by the
citizens of the country in which they reside.
The United States is on the side of those people who
believe in freedom, and we are on the side of those who are
persecuted for their beliefs, whether they be Christians or
whether they be Muslims, whether they be Buddhist, or whether
they be atheists. The fact is our country was founded on those
principles. But far too often, our Government has not had the
courage to act upon those beliefs which are supposed to be the
fundamental beliefs that we have held since the beginning of
So today, Mr. Chairman, I would hope that we reaffirm not
just in words, but are willing to reaffirm in policy and in
deed that when people, especially as we focus on the Christians
in Egypt, are being brutalized, that we will not stand idly by
and not just express our words but stand with those in Egypt
who would end that oppression. And this, today, unfortunately,
there seems to be confusion in our Government as to whose side
we should be on. We are on the side of those people who want
freedom and not radicals who would repress their own fellow
So today we welcome our witnesses. I thank the chairman for
calling this hearing so that we can express these very
important sentiments of solidarity to a people who are being
persecuted. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. Smith. Thank you, Chairman Rohrabacher.
Ms. Frankel. Thank you. I am honored to be here. Thank you
for being here.
I join Mr. Rohrabacher. I think it was last month when we
went to Cairo. And we met with General al-Sisi and Acting
President Mansour, and also we met with the Coptic Pope there.
It was a very short but interesting visit. I am really just
looking forward to hearing what you have to say. When we were
there, we were assured by General al-Sisi and President Mansour
that they were redrafting a Constitution. And that this would
be the first critical step back toward democracy. So, of
course, I would be interested in hearing about that.
And of course, the Coptic Pope did talk about some of the
repression and abuses. So I would certainly be interested in
hearing about that. And again, I thank you for being here.
Mr. Smith. Thank you very much, Ms. Frankel.
Like to recognize Chairman Frank Wolf and just note
parenthetically that our first witness, Dr. Zuhdi Jasser, is
with the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom.
Mr. Wolf, in 1998, was the author of the International
Religious Freedom Act, which not only created a State
Department effort and an office, but also a parallel
organization that has spoken truth to power ever since when
State has fallen short. More importantly, it has been
absolutely robust in bringing human rights issues and religious
freedom issues to the forefront. That law was written by
Mr. Wolf. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I will be very brief. I
don't serve on the committee. But I want to thank Mr. Smith and
all the members of this committee. This is almost the last
bastion in the Congress that really holds hearings and deals
with these issues. Last week, the House of Commons did a 3-hour
debate. You couldn't get a 3-hour debate in the House or the
Senate if you paid for it. And if it were not for the members
of this committee, all of you, this issue may very well go
away. And Mr. Rohrabacher talked about our obligation.
President Reagan, who he was a speechwriter for, said that the
words in the Constitution were a covenant not only with the
people in Philadelphia in 1787, but with all the people in the
world. They are a covenant with the people of Cairo, their
covenant with the people of Alexandria, they are a covenant
with the people of the people all over the world. I believe
that we are breaking the covenant at this very moment. And a
covenant is more significant than a contract. We are breaking a
covenant. And I visited Egypt a couple months ago and met with
women's groups. They all believe that our Government was a
strong supporter of the Morsi government. We met with a Muslim
group. That they believe that our Government was the strongest
supporter of the Muslim Brotherhood. We met with the Christian
groups. They all believe that we were the strongest supporter
of the Morsi government. They believed that Anne Patterson and
the American Embassy was not a sanctuary of freedom, but it was
basically a support group for the Morsi government. And also we
met with a number in the secular community.
So again, I thank the committee. I think we could lose
Egypt. I think we are really facing a point, if this
administration doesn't deal with certain things, and they are
going to be here for the next 3 years, we could lose Egypt. And
then the stories will be about who lost Egypt. And the answer
will be, the Obama administration and the Congress lost Egypt
because they did not side with the people of Egypt who wanted
freedom and democracy against the Muslim Brotherhood. So I
would thank Mr. Smith and all the members here. If it were not
for you guys, men and women, this issue just would not be dealt
Mr. Smith. Thank you, Chairman Wolf.
Mr. Meadows. Thank you, Mr. Chairman, for holding this
important hearing. Thank you for being here. It is good to see
you. You know, obviously, the transition of power is never
easy. It is always combined with, not only cultural, but
religious differences, among protests many times and trying to
scream for power. What I am interested in hearing from you this
morning is how can we help provide a standard. I think what we
have heard today has been that there is really not a dependable
standard on what we expect. And if you go all the way back to
Cuba and some of the others we knew what those were about. I
lived in Florida at the time. And I knew the human rights
abuses that were happening there because we could feel them. We
heard the stories. And yet the story is not getting told,
whether it is in Egypt or across the Middle East. So how can we
as Members of Congress come alongside you, support this effort,
and make sure that it gets highlighted.
At your same table, we had people talking about NGOs and
how they had been convicted in absentia and how they felt like
Congress had left them out and was not bringing those issues to
the forefront. And so I look forward to hearing your testimony
on how we can, not only highlight this issue, but how we can
make a difference. For those that are persecuted, that perhaps
do not have a voice, it is critical that we have this. As
important as so many of the issues are, it is critical that we
use this not to ignore human rights abuses in favor of economic
stability, or whatever it is, but let's tie those together. And
I look forward to hearing your testimony. And I thank you, Mr.
Mr. Smith. Thank you very much, Mr. Meadows.
Mr. Bilirakis. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I appreciate it
very much. And thank you, Chairman Ros-Lehtinen, as well. This
is such a very important issue. And because of your leadership,
we continue to focus on this. And it is so very important to
me, my constituents. So I appreciate the opportunity again to
participate since the safety of Coptic Christians in Egypt is
something that I have worked on since I have been in Congress.
As an Orthodox Christian and a member of the International
Religious Freedom Caucus, I am especially alarmed at the
dwindling number of Christians in Iraq, Syria, Turkey, Egypt,
and throughout the Middle East. While this hearing today
focuses on Egypt, and it should, I want to take a moment to
reiterate that Christians are facing persecution across the
region. Christianity is not new to the Middle East, and we must
not forget that the ancient indigenous communities of Coptic,
Syrian, Assyrian, Catholic, and Greek Orthodox communities that
have lived and thrived in the Middle East for thousands of
Today in the face of ongoing unrest, these Christians have
exhibited bravery in the face of existential danger, these
attempts that we see to push Christians from their ancestral
homeland. Let us not forget that ``Coptic'' translated means
Egyptian. These attempts must be denounced by all. I thank the
chairman, of course, Ms. Ros-Lehtinen and Chairman Smith, for
holding this hearing today, and I remain committed to working
with my colleagues in the House to continue bringing light to
the situation in Egypt and across the Middle East.
I would like to thank the panelists again for being here
today. I thank them for their testimony. I have met with many
of you to discuss the topic at hand over the past year. And
while I wish I could say that things have improved over that
time, I am afraid they have not. So let's continue to work on
behalf of these wonderful people. Thank you so very much, Mr.
Mr. Smith. Thank you very much, Mr. Bilirakis.
I would now introduce our first witness, on the first
panel, who is Dr. Zuhdi Jasser, who is a member of the U.S.
Commission on International Religious Freedom. He is also the
founder and president of the American Islamic Forum for
Democracy. Dr. Jasser is a first-generation American Muslim
whose parents fled the oppressive Baath regime of Syria. He
earned his medical degree on a U.S. Navy scholarship and served
11 years in the U.S. Navy. He achieved the rank of Lieutenant
Commander. His tours of duty included medical department head
aboard the USS El Paso, chief resident at Bethesda Naval
Hospital, and staff internist for the Office of Attending
Physician for the U.S. Congress.
He is recipient of the meritorious service medal. He is a
respected physician currently in private practice, specializing
in internal medicine and nuclear cardiology. He is the past-
president of the Arizona Medical Association. He has been a
frequent speaker on behalf of human rights and religious
freedom, has been before our subcommittee before. We have
always benefited greatly from his wise counsel and insight. Dr.
STATEMENT OF ZUHDI JASSER, M.D., VICE CHAIR, U.S. COMMISSION ON
INTERNATIONAL RELIGIOUS FREEDOM
Dr. Jasser. Thank you, Chairman Smith. And I want to thank
the members of Subcommittees on Africa, Global Health, Global
Human Rights, and International Organizations and on the Middle
East and North Africa for holding this very important hearing
on human rights in Egypt and inviting the U.S. Commission on
Religious Freedom to testify.
With your approval, I would like to submit my written
testimony which also reflects what we have learned in our
delegation to Egypt in February for the record.
Mr. Smith. Without objection, so ordered.
Dr. Jasser. Today could not be a more appropriate day to
hold this hearing, given that 65 years ago, 48 nations in the
U.N. General Assembly adopted a remarkable document that is
relevant today as it was then, the Universal Declaration of
Human Rights. Yet today, too many governments including Egypt
fail to honor human rights. Among the recent convulsions in
Egypt, few have been more shocking or emblematic of the January
2011 revolution's derailment then the Egyptian security forces
killing more than 1,000 demonstrators in August and then the
horrific attacks by extremists in the Muslim Brotherhood
supporters against the country's Coptic Christian population.
Today I want to highlight the plight of the Copts and the other
religious minorities and Muslim dissidents, and briefly review
the new Constitution and conclude with recommendations on
protecting religious freedom for everyone in Egypt.
Since the transition's beginning, Egyptian human rights
activists have been concerned that radical groups have advanced
the country with detrimental effects on fostering an open civil
society and democratic reform and improving freedom of religion
or belief. During former President Morsi's year in power,
sectarian rhetoric and incitement increased significantly with
conservative clerics and extremists without consequence or
accountability, fanning the flames of hatred.
The most vilified groups included Christians, Shi'a,
Bahais, and all religious minorities. In fact, five Shi'a were
lynched to death in June as a consequence of increased
sectarian incitement to violence by jihadi and Salafi groups.
While the government has failed to bring to justice the
perpetrators of sectarian attacks, the courts have continued to
charge, convict, and imprison Egyptian citizens for blasphemy,
concept, and defamation of religions. Since Egypt's 2011
revolution, our Commission has observed a significant increase
in these cases, with disfavored Muslims being the most
targeted, however, Christians are disproportionately affected.
In September 2013, just a few months ago, a leading
Egyptian human rights organization reported a significant surge
in religious defamation cases and identified 63 cases of
individuals, 41 percent being Christian, a percentage out of
proportion to their population. The Copts are particularly
affected and victims of impunity for those who target them.
Besides directly violating religious freedom, blasphemy and
defamation of religion laws fuel Egypt's longtime impunity
problem by provoking assaults against Copts and other religious
minorities for alleged blasphemous speech.
Large-scale attacks on Christians during 2011 resulted in
the deaths of dozens and injuries to hundreds with the
perpetrators remaining unpunished to this day, inviting further
violence. Following Morsi's July ouster, violent attacks again
increased, targeting Copts and other Christians. Since mid-
August, at least seven Copts have been killed and more than 200
churches and other places where Christians congregated have
been assaulted, many of which destroyed. In October, four Copts
were killed, including two children. Besides Copts, other
vulnerable religious minorities have faced assaults on their
My written testimony briefly reviews the status of the
Bahais, the Jehovah's Witnesses, and the continued growing
anti-Semitism. Let me note here that Egypt has banned the Bahai
faith and Jehovah's Witnesses since 1960s, and then 2012
material vilifying Jews continued to appear regularly in
Egypt's state controlled and semi-official media.
Egypt's 50-member constitution committee recently completed
its work and sent the final draft to the Egyptian interim
President. The draft will be put to referendum coming this
January. An initial reviews shows the removal of some
problematic provisions from the suspended 2012 Constitution,
and other positive additions, although how the provisions are
interpreted and implemented will be crucial. For example,
Article 64 of the new draft provides freedom of belief being
absolute. Article 65 broadly guarantees freedom of thought and
opinion, and 53 prohibits discrimination on the basis of
religion, among other grounds. But like the Morsi era
Constitution, Article 64 limits the freedom to practice
religious rituals and establish practices of worship to only
three divine religious: Islam, Christianity, and Judaism,
thereby not allowing the Bahai community to exercise their own
rights and establish places of worship. And even that freedom
is limited with Christians having limitation on being able to
build new churches and other manifestations of that.
In the end, our recommendations are, number one, due to
Egypt's failure to protect the religious freedom and even the
lives of its people, USCIRF, for the third consecutive year,
recommended that the U.S. designate Egypt a Country of
Particular Concern. The U.S. must urge Egypt to repel its
contempt of religion and related laws, its Penal Code, and
discriminatory decrees against religious minorities. Given the
continued violence against Copts and other religious
minorities, the U.S. should press Egypt to prosecute
government-funded clerics, officials, and others who incite
violence, and urge Cairo to bring the violent to justice.
Finally, the U.S. should refuse to certify the disbursement
of the appropriated $1.3 billion in foreign military financing
to the Egyptian military until the Egyptian Government
demonstrates that it is using some of the FMF funds to
implement policies that protect freedom and related rights.
Once the Egyptian Government so demonstrates, it should be
urged to ensure that its police implement a comprehensive plan
to protect religious minority communities in their places of
worship. Congress should require the State Department to report
every 90 days on the Egyptian Government's progress on these
and related recommendations. The treatment of Egypt's religious
minority communities is a barometer of the country's well-
being. If the Egyptian revolution is to succeed, nothing is
more important than ensuring that Egypt's Government recognize
the full freedom of religion or belief being a fundamental
human right. For the sake of stability and security, and
because of Egypt's international human rights commitments, the
U.S. Government should urge Egypt to choose the pathway to
democracy and freedom. Thank you.
Mr. Smith. Dr. Jasser, thank you so very much for your
leadership and your extraordinary statement.
[The prepared statement of Dr. Jasser follows:]
Mr. Smith. In his testimony, Bishop Angaelos, His Grace
Bishop Angaelos, makes the point that religious minorities in
general, Copts, Jews, Shiite, Sufi, and Bahai, are suffering
attacks, in large part, because of the breakdown in law and
order. You have pointed out that although the true test will
be--there are changes being made in the Constitution--the true
test will be as to how the Egyptian Government interprets and
implements the new documents once passed by referendum.
Is the Constitution really going to make a difference in
the abuse of blasphemy laws? You also point out that there is a
surge in religious defamation cases, particularly since January
2011, including in the 2 months after Morsi was removed from
power. One hundred percent of the individuals who were accused
and tried were found guilty. Maybe you could speak to what is
causing this surge in blasphemy cases, and again, will the new
Constitution mitigate that abuse?
Dr. Jasser. Thank you, chairman.
These are really key questions, in that, you know, we can
always try to give a government a honeymoon period, if you
will, as they reboot and try to course correct their democracy.
But the bottom line is that there is a lot of evidence to show
that while there is a rush to take to trial those who are
arrested or brought to justice supposedly for blasphemy and
restrictions on freedom of speech, those who commit acts of
violence are not brought to justice.
So certain phrases in the Constitution that we see, some of
the articles I mentioned are hopeful, there are some things
that we should be concerned about, in that they have a
limitation on freedom of speech discussing incitement to hate.
It is not the standard that we agreed to even at 1618 that
talked about limitation on incitement to violence, or imminent
violence. That is not the standard they are using. So there is
a large, gaping hole there that can allow the current regime,
the current government to continue in a way that would not
respect human rights and freedom of speech. And there is an
I think as much as there was clear direction downward and
backward during the Morsi regime in which there was a loss of
human rights, the Constitution was an Islamist document that
was based in Sharia and other aspects that were not based in
freedom. Now is an opportunity. And I think what we need and
our recommendation that we are laying out--is that our policy
needs to be linked to religious freedom. What happened is that
you saw the violence happen in August against the Coptic and
Christian communities and it took until October until there was
actually a mention that we would limit funding and restrict
some of the military funds. So there was no connection there.
Sometimes it was referred to as criticism of the
Brotherhood. And meanwhile, as many of the other members have
stated, it is being interpreted by the world that we did
nothing during the Brotherhood year, and now we are doing
something once the Brotherhood have left and the people have
made a statement. So unless we do things and link them to
religious freedom, they are going to be misinterpreted. It
doesn't mean we shouldn't continue to put pressure because of
the limitations of the current Constitution and the fact that
it has just been a piece of paper, and the only way to make it
real is to hold them accountable with measurements every 90
days, as we laid out, and then linking that to cases.
The Hegazy case, the Asfour case, and other cases in which
people have been put in jail. These human beings are depictive,
as you will hear from other testimony, of the reality on the
ground, which is very different than the Constitution.
Mr. Smith. My time is just about out. But I would just note
parenthetically that in the last foreign operations
appropriations bill, Frank Wolf, Trent Franks, Kay Granger, and
I, and others, included language conditioning our aid on
religious freedom. Sadly, it was waived by Secretary Clinton.
Mr. Connolly. Welcome, Dr. Jasser.
Dr. Jasser. Thank you.
Mr. Connolly. From your testimony, how would you compare
the issues of religious freedom in Egypt between the Morsi
government and the current government?
Dr. Jasser. Well, it is hard to judge the current military
government since they have only been still getting their
organization together. But I think on the ground, we see the
Constitution shows some improvement. There have been certain
provisions from the Morsi Era Constitution that have been
removed. We have seen some aspects that have gone. There is one
article, 235, that talks about separating from government
provisions the building of religious structures, which I think
would be very important for the Coptic community, to control
the building of their own churches, that has for long been
authorized. There have been no new churches authorized. So
there are some things we are seeing that would be hopeful. On
Mr. Connolly. With respect to religious freedom.
Dr. Jasser. With respect to religious freedom----
Mr. Connolly. I am just clarifying what you are saying.
You're talking about--because I want to be very clear. There
are obviously aspects of the draft Constitution, current draft
Constitution that Americans would find abhorrent. The carve-out
for the military, the lack of civilian oversight of the Defense
Minister. Those are not democratic provisions, those are most
certainly protections for a military government that are not
democratic provisions. We would agree?
Dr. Jasser. Yes, sir. And----
Mr. Connolly. So what you are referring to is this
Constitution draft, however, is better than the one previously
promulgated with respect to religious freedom.
Dr. Jasser. Yes, sir. And it is not a binary choice in that
the voice of the people in Egypt I think could be better than
either. What the Brotherhood brought to the table with Morsi
and what currently is being brought to the table by President
Mansour and this constitutional committee. But if you look at
Morsi's Constitution, every minority abandoned the process.
This process has still engaged many of the minority communities
in the committee itself. But what it is going to produce--and I
will agree with you in that on the ground there has been little
change as far as religious freedom. The impunity for acts of
violence--nobody has been brought to justice for what happened
to all of the churches that were desecrated in August. Very
little justice has been brought with that. So these are the
things that need to be targeted. And our Commission has been
built on the fact that when religious freedom is protected, the
rest of society will be healthy. When it is not protected, it
will deteriorate and all the other things you are talking will
never be a success.
Mr. Connolly. Right. Just want to make sure that we got
that clear on your record. I thank you for your testimony. I
know we are under a time bind today. So appreciate you being
here. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. Smith. Chairman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen.
Ms. Ros-Lehtinen. Thank you so much, Mr. Chairman.
Dr. Jasser, thank you for your service on the Commission.
And for several years the Commission has argued that Egypt
should be placed on the Country of Particular Concern list when
it comes to the human rights situation there. What headway do
you see that we are making in that? What progress? And you also
recommend about the disbursement of aid that we were talking
about, that the U.S. should refuse to certify the disbursement
of our military aid to the Egyptian armed forces. We have
already seen many Gulf nations pledge sums of money that dwarf
our $1.3 billion.
Do you worry that if we cut off aid Egypt will get that
money elsewhere? We hear that a lot when we talk about
conditioning our aid and leveraging our aid, and that we would
lose whatever leverage we have left and these human rights
abuses will continue. So if you could address that one as well.
And would you favor an approach in which we transition the
foreign military assistance money that we give to economic
support funds in which that money could still go to Egypt, but
would go to building up civil society, democracy promotion
programs, and other security programs that Egypt would need in
order to maintain its stability and security? Thank you, sir.
Dr. Jasser. Thank you, Madam Chair Ros-Lehtinen, and I
appreciate the opportunity.
There is no doubt, as we designated Egypt as a CPC in 2011,
2012 and 2013, it has not only not improved, it has continued
to worsen. So not only does it deserve that designation, but
2012, especially under Morsi, demonstrated significant strides
backwards. And this is why you saw in revolution 2.0 in Egypt
10 times more demonstrations of people against that government
than you saw in the first revolution.
And as a result of the criteria by which our Commission
works in designating CPC status, Egypt fits every one of those
as far as specific targeting, egregious offenses, and religious
freedom. As far is the aid is concerned, I believe, as you
mentioned, there can be 90 days review in which that aid
doesn't become a lever that you can only pull once. In that it
is a constant measure of the success or failures that that
society is making.
If you use, and this is one of our primary criticisms of
the current approach of the State Department, is that often, as
was mentioned by Chairman Smith, because we were so late and
because then it was waived in 2011, 2012, the certification was
waived, there are specific benchmarks that was legislated by
this body that Egypt should meet, in elections and human
rights, et cetera, that it has not met. And when it was ready
to decertify that funding when we should have with the
Brotherhood, it did not happen and it was waived. And now it
appears when we are doing it in October 2013 that we are
somehow rewarding the Brotherhood. And this is why we have to
get the timing right, but that doesn't mean we shouldn't link
that to civil society, progress, and methods in which we link
it every 90 days to progress on the ground that protects
women's groups, that protects religious minorities, shows that
some of these cases that we have highlighted in my written
testimony are actually being released and we have a program in
which Members of Congress can identify individuals in jail that
they can then promote as being examples of how Egypt and other
countries can fix themselves.
Ms. Ros-Lehtinen. Thank you very much. And thank you for
Dr. Jasser. Thank you.
Mr. Smith. Ms. Frankel.
Ms. Frankel. Thank you again and welcome and thank you for
So I have a number of questions. I will try to get them out
first and you can then try to answer them.
Again, first of all, the timetable on the drafting of the
Constitution, and do you think that there is a transition back
to democracy? Although I am not really sure after the coup what
exactly democracy is in Egypt. But, as I said, when we were
there we were told there was going to be this new Constitution,
an election for a Parliament, and then an election for a
And the--you expressed, I guess, disappointment or
frustration over the fact that there has not--there has not
been a justice system handling this oppression. Is the
infrastructure there to do that?
Dr. Jasser. That is a great question, Congresswoman
Frankel. And I believe the infrastructure is there. They have
the funds, some of which we give them, that we could tie to
that and hold them accountable and show that if they have
certain cases that we could identify, whether it is the Mohamed
Hegazy case, who converted to Christianity and wants his I.D.
to be able to show that or another case of an individual who
wrote on Facebook criticism that Mohamed has been in jail for 3
years, or the case of a Shitte individual who was imprisoned
because he did a ritual that wasn't traditional, according to
So there are ways that we could tie representations in
their justice system that would show whether they genuinely are
moving toward democracy and rule of law or whether it is
continuing to be the same old system in Egypt and just shifting
around of the chairs on the deck.
Ms. Frankel. How are the prosecutors and the judges being
Dr. Jasser. You know, the traditional way--I mean, oddly,
Mansour came out of the Supreme Court system there.
Ms. Frankel. Right.
Dr. Jasser. It is very local oriented and a historical
system in Egypt that is based on a very nepotistic tribal
system. It is certainly not a balanced system. And this is one
of the things we should look at, as Congressman Connolly was
pointing out, is, do they have a balance of power? Do they have
other aspects of democracy that we would hold as standards and
should be part of their systems and have not been? But that is
really beyond our mandate at the Commission. I think if you
hold accountable standards of international religious freedom
along with it, it will expose some of these aspects that have
put into place and allowed longtime judges.
One of the things the Brotherhood and President Morsi did
do was start to put even more radicalization as far as some of
the judges. And as he started to replace some of those judges
was when you saw a rise of the people against him.
Ms. Frankel. Thank you.
Mr. Smith. Mr. Weber.
Mr. Weber. Chairman, I am going to pass this time.
Mr. Smith. Chairman Rohrabacher.
Mr. Rohrabacher. So here we are in this quandary that we
want to make sure that a standard that is an honest standard,
not just protection of Christians, but protection of the
religious rights of all people of Egypt, are protected. And we
have just gone through a phase where there was an expansion of
repression and persecution. And we know that that phase was a
result of a political move toward a certain direction.
And those who thwarted that move and thwarted that effort
are now in charge. And we, as you say, the timing, if we try to
maintain that standard, the timing would have us being tough
and perhaps withdrawing some of our support from the current
group that actually stopped a bad trend. Maybe you could help
us out on how we can get out of this quandary.
Dr. Jasser. Thank you, Congressman Rohrabacher. I think the
way to get out of it is to realize the Egyptian population is
not a victim of basically worse and the worst. And the January
2011 revolution was against an era that was repressive and
brought forth all of the things that had us designate them as a
CPC in 2011. And we should have held them accountable to
religious freedom standards at that time. And then it went even
worse when democracy was a manifestation of simply elections
and became mob-ocracy rather than principles of religious
freedom. So to move forward, I think we have to be principled
and link our funding to demonstrations on the ground, building
civil society, having benchmarks that in every 90-day period
that show that they are making progress in defending
minorities, in protecting churches, in prosecuting those who
burn down churches just as quickly as they prosecute free
speech issues, which should stop and no longer limit free
speech. So all of these things can be done.
Mr. Rohrabacher. Let me ask you, then, on this we are now
selling spare parts to the military for equipment that we
provided Egypt in the past. Just at a time when there is an
expanding insurgency or a challenge to peace in the Sinai and
Are we being, and will we be viewed as hypocrites about our
beliefs and freedom if we provide those spare parts knowing
that if this government goes down and those who succeed, and
then these insurgency movements would impose harsher
restrictions on the people, are we being hypocritical?
Dr. Jasser. Well, I don't believe so because I think that
ultimately if we let the world create the narrative of what we
are doing at every level, whether it is at spare-parts levels
or at funding, then it will appear that way. But if we allow--
if our President and our State Department constantly makes it
clear what the standards of religious freedom are and what we
link those who at every speech in the Rose Garden and every
moment the Secretary has an opportunity to mention it, then it
will be clear what our standards are. But if we let those go
and we lose opportunities and come and make a statement on
funding 3 months later after things happen, then the narrative
will be that we are hypocritical. But we should set our own
narrative on a daily basis, not on an every quarterly basis.
Mr. Rohrabacher. I would hope that we don't do anything
that we weakens, like denying spare parts to the military.
Dr. Jasser. Right.
Mr. Rohrabacher. Weakens their ability not to have even a
worse regime come into power. And I would hope we do not do
that. But I agree that the United States must really speak with
an honest voice on these standards.
Thank you very much for your testimony.
Mr. Smith. Thank you, Chairman Rohrabacher.
Mr. Meadows. Thank you for being here. Thank you for your
service to our country, not only here but in the Navy as well.
Dr. Jasser. Thank you.
Mr. Meadows. We greatly appreciate your insight. Three
things: One is the inconsistency in terms of the Egyptian
people and what they need to look to us in terms of that
standard. I am very concerned that over time, the image of us
supporting one regime over the other is very real to the
Egyptian people. And in light of us trying to address these
human rights violations now in terms of religious persecution,
the image is out there that we supported the Morsi regime, we
don't support this one, when in actuality, it is more of
supporting freedom in the respectful rule of law across the
board. So how do we address that uniquely?
I think the other one is, how do we have a respect for and
a love for the Egyptian people and for many of them of a Muslim
faith that--where it does not get viewed as we are trying to
put Christianity and make a Christian Egyptian versus just
trying to stand up for those that are being religiously
persecuted? I think it is a dangerous tightrope that we walk,
because the perception many times is that we want our democracy
and our religion to be one that is placed on the Egyptian
people. So if you could speak to those two things. And if we
have time, I will come back to a third question.
Dr. Jasser. Thank you, Congressman Meadows. This is so
important, I think the paradigm has shifted from the old era in
which diplomacy was based on the lesser of two evils. And as
Secretary Rice said in 2005 in Cairo that somehow we were
choosing trying to side with security over freedom, and we got
neither. And I think ultimately the Commission's purpose has
been to highlight the fact that religious freedom when it is
lifted up can then bring with it a more healthy society. And I
think how we get our credibility back is to continue to lift
that up repeatedly. And the problem is that is there is an
opportunity right now.
And, yes, there will be an image problem because of the
lost opportunity in 2011, 2012, and now it appears that somehow
our standards are to reinforce further authoritarianism. And
when, in fact, what we are doing is laying that out as a course
correction in democracy. And the only way we can do that is by
siding with the people and siding with principles. Because
regardless of the way the policy is manifesting from the State
Department or from the White House, the bottom line is is the
majority of Egyptians are not looking favorably at the U.S.
these days. And that is because of the lack of clarity in
principle and because we haven't sided with the majority of
Egyptians that went to the streets, that still have a problem
not only with the Brotherhood, more so but still with the
current government and are seeking the means to move forward.
And we should tie some of that military aid to a civil society
progress because it is going to take a generation, years to
improve these things. It is not going to happen overnight.
And the last point you made about the, sort of the sense
that this is just a Christian issue for America. It is not. I
think the religious freedom issues of the Copts is tied into
the Bahais, is tied into Muslims who are targeted, from Bassem
Youssef, who is the Jon Stewart of Egypt, who is targeted, to
so many of the Shitte Muslim community that are called deviants
by some of the clerics and judges when, in fact, they don't
have religious freedom to practice their own rites. And others,
Muslim dissidents that are part of the majority, the millions
that went to the street against the Brotherhood were 90 percent
Muslim that did not want the Brotherhood, and we forget that,
and our policy should articulate that.
Mr. Meadows. Thank you so much. I yield back.
Mr. Smith. Mr. Cotton.
Thank you, Mr. Meadows.
Mr. Cotton. Could you elaborate just a little bit on the
point about the majorities that have taken to the street, both
under the Morsi regime at its end and also in the last 6 months
since General al-Sisi and the military reclaimed power, and how
much, if any, of the focus of those majorities is on the issue
of religious freedom, religious liberty of minorities there?
Dr. Jasser. Well, I think if you follow Facebook traffic,
social media, a lot of them have looked at cases like the
Asfour case, the Hegazy case, and others, and see these as
individuals that are persecuted that are becoming--Bassem
Youssef became an icon because he challenged. He was arrested
because on his TV program he supposedly was insulting Islam,
which they equated to insulting the President, President Morsi.
This is a problem not only with the Islamists, but you are
finding similar limitations in speech in the Mubarak era and
maybe even in the current regime. So these things need to be
highlighted and underscored as being one of the primary
pathologies that need to be corrected. The majority of people,
if you look at their social media and what brings them to the
streets, is that they want these issues highlighted by leaders
of the free world.
Mr. Cotton. In the United States we have the First
Amendment, and it is important, it is first, after all, and it
includes freedoms of religion, speech, press, and assembly. And
a certain level of those are all linked in man's God-given
ability to reason together. Is there a sense in those
majorities in Egypt, in your opinion, that threats to the
rights of religious minorities are actually threats as well to
the political and the speech rights of the majority?
Dr. Jasser. When we went to Egypt in February, we met with
a number of different representatives from various religious
minority groups, from civil society groups. We met with a very
impressive women's rights group. And all of them said how much
they dreamed of an Egypt that would bring those principles
forward and that for too long those principles have not been
defended from their government and that they seek the means to
Now, the issue is, how does that transition, how do those
principles on the ground transition in the infrastructure and
the leadership? And I don't think, if the U.S. takes a pass on
being open about that, that that is going to happen. I think
the West needs to be involved in that transition process and
link some of our aid.
Now, if we decrease our aid, will they get it from
elsewhere? They may. But they still want Western help in doing
this, American help, because they know the principles that we
share in protecting minorities.
And the rule of law is important, and this is why some of
the cases are so important. What you articulated as our First
Amendment respect, many in Egypt still for decades have not
understood the respect of the rule of law. And that is why we
have to tie our relationship to them to cases that respect the
rule of law.
Mr. Cotton. Thank you.
Mr. Smith. Mr. Bilirakis.
Thank you, Mr. Cotton.
Mr. Bilirakis. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I appreciate it.
And again, thank you for allowing me to sit on the panel today
Dr. Jasser, thank you for all your good work. I really
appreciate it. And of course thank you for your service to our
country as well.
Could you speak to how the United States, the State
Department, prioritizes Coptic Christians in their approach to
the U.S. policy to Egypt? And do you think more can be done by
the State Department to urge Egypt to respect the rights of
Dr. Jasser. Well, certainly when we have engaged the White
House, NSC, and State Department, they certainly have expressed
similar concerns about the targeting of Coptic Christians and
in our meetings seem to respect that. Now, however, if you look
at how frequently it is mentioned publicly and brought from
statements from the President or from the Secretary of State, I
would say that it is not enough. We sent a letter to the
President in September talking about these things, and we have
not gotten a response yet from the Secretary or from the
President about these issues and our concerns of what happened
in August to the Coptic community.
So I would tell you, as an independent commission that
seeks to highlight religious freedom concerns, we have not been
as happy with the response from the administration as could be
and this opportunity to use the plight of the Coptic community
to set Egypt in the right direction for religious freedom, as
they are moving away from the Brotherhood era, away from some
of the mistakes they made after the revolution, but toward a
better future rather than back toward what they had during the
Mubarak era or some of the same problems that happened under
Mr. Bilirakis. Let me ask you a question. The Coptic
community and the Christian community in general, of course we
care about these issues affecting our brothers in Egypt. What
can my constituents do? What can they do to influence this
administration with respect to this and make it a top priority
of this administration and the State Department? What would you
Dr. Jasser. I think our constituents can do what we are
trying to do here, what all of you by being here and listening
have done, to continue to press our State Department, press our
not only elected officials, our media, our universities to
recognize what Pew and others have studied repeatedly, the
linkage of religious freedom to healthy societies, the linkage
of religious repression to sick societies. And that once we
highlight that, and certainly there are so many other issues on
America's plate, but if we ignore this issue, societies like
Egypt that are pivotal to American security, not only because
of Egypt itself, economics, but the Camp David Accords and so
many other things will fall apart in the Middle East if we
don't protect religious freedom in Egypt. And your
constituents, I think, can have a much larger voice than all of
us here by reminding their leaders, the media, and others to
pay attention to religious freedom.
Mr. Bilirakis. Thank you very much. I agree 100 percent.
Thank you so much. I yield back.
Mr. Smith. Thank you so much as well. Thank you for your
extraordinary testimony, your expertise and counsel, and we
benefit always when you testify.
I would like to now ask our second panel to make their way
to the witness table, beginning first with His Grace Bishop
Angaelos, who is the general bishop of the Coptic Orthodox
Church in the United Kingdom, the ancient church of Egypt, and
the largest Christian denomination in the Middle East. Bishop
Angaelos was born in Cairo, Egypt, and emigrated to Australia
during his childhood with his family. In 1990 he returned to
Egypt to attend monastery, where he was consecrated a monk. In
1995 he was delegated to serve a parish in the United Kingdom
with a pastoral ministry that spans almost 2 decades. The
bishop travels extensively around the world to speak at various
youth conferences and conventions and is the director of the
Coptic Church's Media and Communications Office in the United
Kingdom and for all of Europe.
We will then hear from Mr. Samuel Tadros of the Hudson
Institute, a research fellow there for religious freedom and a
professorial lecturer at the School of Advanced International
Studies at Johns Hopkins University. His current research
focuses on Egypt politics, Islamism, and the fate of religious
minorities. Before joining the Hudson Institute in 2011, Mr.
Tadros was a senior partner at the Egyptian Union of Liberal
Youth, an organization that aims to spread the idea of classic
liberalism in Egypt. In 2007 he was chosen by the State
Department for its first Leaders for Democracy Fellowship
Program in collaboration with Syracuse University's Maxwell
We will then hear from Dr. Morad Abou-Sabe, who is
currently professor emeritus and consultant at Rutgers
University. Previously he served as president and assistant
chancellor for research and business development at Misr
University for Science & Technology, a large private university
in Egypt. In his public and community work he has served on
many boards, nationally, internationally, and has served as a
senior adviser to the Commerce Secretary of the State of New
Jersey. In February 2001 he was nominated for a position in the
Office of Secretary of Commerce, and he also has served as
president of the Egyptian-American Professional Society and
numerous other civic organizations. I had the distinct honor of
meeting with the professor and a delegation several months ago,
and his insights were very, very illuminating, and I thank him
We will then hear from Mr. Ted Stahnke, who is from Human
Rights First, joined it in January 2008, and is the director of
policy and programs. Prior to joining Human Rights First he
served at the U.S. Commission on International Religious
Freedom, where he led the Commission's effort to strengthen
U.S. foreign policy to advance the right to religious freedom
and belief. Mr. Stahnke has served on official U.S. delegations
to human rights conferences and served as an expert in
international human rights law, training officials from the
U.S. Departments of State, Justice, and Homeland Security. He
has authored and coauthored numerous scholarly publications.
Your Grace, please begin.
STATEMENT OF HIS GRACE BISHOP ANGAELOS, GENERAL BISHOP, COPTIC
ORTHODOX CHURCH IN THE UNITED KINGDOM
Bishop Angaelos. Chairman Smith, first of all, thank you
very much for the opportunity, and I am thankful to all the
members who are here as well. I must thank you all for braving
the weather and coming regardless of all the impediments that
you must have braved. I am also apologizing for this cold that
I have, and I assure you it is not caused by your weather. It
is definitely a British import which I bring.
I am also very thankful for the witness that I have seen
here because far too often people who walk these corridors,
whether in this country or in other places, are accused of
being self-interested, and they are accused of following a
personal agenda. What we have heard today is a presence and a
witness for those who are in need of support and are in need of
that fraternal relationship. And I somehow feel that in light
of the last hearing, that my presence here is quite superfluous
because of everything I have heard and the insight that you
Mr. Chairman, I have also submitted testimony for the
Mr. Smith. Without objection, yours and that of all of our
witnesses will be made a part of the record, and any extraneous
materials you want to add.
Bishop Angaelos. Thank you.
Christians, as everyone knows here, have been part of
Egypt's history for 2,000 years, since the establishment by
Saint Mark. We are only a numeric minority; we do not consider
ourselves a minority group, as indigenous people of Egypt. And
as was mentioned earlier and as is absolutely right, the
presence of the Christians in the Middle East, the birthplace
of Christianity, is not only something we should encourage, but
is actually of great importance, because it is a stabilizing
factor in the culture of the Middle East and its identity.
I don't only speak here as a Christian, because that would
be very un-Christian of me. We speak as Christians for
everyone, and our view of human rights is for a human rights
perspective that covers everybody. This hearing was postponed
for various reasons, and it is only providential that it
happens today, on this day which is set aside to remember human
rights internationally. And I think that is the core of this
testimony and the core of what we will be presenting today.
The first attacks on minority groups in Egypt was not on
Christians after the uprising, it was on Sufi shrines. We have
seen Shiite Muslims killed in the streets, we have seen Baha'is
treated unfairly, and so if we are looking at equality issues,
we should be looking at equality across the board.
During the last administration, of former President Morsi,
one indication was that in April of this year the Coptic
Orthodox Cathedral was attacked for the first time in known
history, in the presence of police forces then looking, on
while a few days earlier the headquarters of the Freedom and
Justice Party was attacked and was actually quite substantially
protected by the same police force.
So it is this culture that we have seen in the past of an
impunity that leads toward a lack of equality. There is a
tendency of oversimplification as well, being either pro-
military or pro-revolution. The presence of Christians is that
we are Egyptians before anything else and that we want a
country that actually proposes a movement for all.
I issued a statement in August of this year warning that if
incitement continued in Rabaa al-Adawiyah with the Muslim
Brotherhood's presence there, there would be widespread attacks
on Christians and Christian places. I am not prophetic by any
means, but unfortunately only a week later we saw the attacks
on close to 100 churches and Christian institutions in Egypt.
That needs a new pragmatic and intentional movement toward
democracy, not just majority rule, which we saw last time, but
democracy that represents all, and the new Constitution
hopefully will take us through that. It will be presented for
What we need to address at the moment are issues of
illiteracy and poverty that make constituents vulnerable when
they vote and when they are indoctrinated, when they are
manipulated either financially or in terms of ideology, and of
course religion becomes part of that. What we also need is
foreign investment to bring people to actually be able to have
a livelihood and support their families.
I have seen a lot of stick and far too little carrot when
speaking about Egypt in that we are very clear on pointing out
shortcomings, but this is a process that countries that have
embraced democracy for centuries are still going through, and
so there are steps forward. I have respectfully heard
terminology of a military government, and the word ``coup,''
whereas this is perceived to be a civilian government; the word
coup. We have also looked at the happenings of not only January
25, 2011, as well as June of this year, as an outcry of the
Egyptian people, Christian/Muslim, secular/religious, man/
woman, young/old, everyone in the streets.
And so we are hopeful for a new Egypt as long as there is a
pragmatic and proactive, intentional move toward equality.
Cases like the Hegazy situation, where we are told there is
freedom of religion, yet people cannot really freely choose
We have a vested interest in Egypt moving ahead. We have a
vested interest in Egypt for all Egyptians. We don't just speak
as Christians because that, as I said, would be un-Christian,
but we speak as Egyptians who want a successful a nation as it
has been for millennia. I would, even as a Christian clergyman,
love to stop speaking about Christians and Muslims and start
speaking about the spirit that we had on January 25, 2011,
where there were Egyptian flags flying in Tahrir Square calling
for a new Egypt. Unfortunately, those intentions and that
dynamism were not capitalized on sufficiently. There were
personal agendas brought in, and there was manipulation of that
good spirit that then led us down a very, very dangerous path.
Egypt has a second chance now, and that chance needs to be
taken. If we see the same activities of the last Presidency
follow again, I don't know if we will have a third chance. We
speak as Christians with hope. We have faced persecution far
greater than this. We are still there as the biggest Christian
denomination in the Middle East, and as the last actual bastion
of Christian presence in the Middle East. But above all we
stand as Christians for human rights for all and for equality,
both of right, but also of accountability before a law that
respects every person and brings the best out of every person
for a nation that embraces every person.
Mr. Smith. Your Grace, Bishop Angaelos, thank you so much
for your testimony and for your leadership.
[The prepared statement of Bishop Angaelos follows:]
Mr. Smith. Mr. Tadros.
STATEMENT OF MR. SAMUEL TADROS, RESEARCH FELLOW, CENTER FOR
RELIGIOUS FREEDOM, HUDSON INSTITUTE
Mr. Tadros. Thank you, Mr. Chairman and honorable members,
for holding this hearing and inviting me to speak today.
For the past 3 years Egypt has witnessed tremendous
political change that has resulted in four different regimes
ruling the country. Unfortunately, under those four regimes no
improvement has taken place on the question of human rights. In
fact, there has been a significant deterioration in human
rights abuses in the country, especially or significantly
regarding Coptic Christians, which will be the focus of my talk
On the 28th of November, just a couple of days ago, two
attacks occurred in two separate villages in the governate of
Menya. In the first attack, a mob gathered after a rumor of a
sexual relationship between a Christian man and a Muslim woman,
which resulted in the burning of a couple of Christians' homes,
a couple of people being shot, and ransacking and looting of
Christian businesses and houses. In the second village, the
rumor was not of a sexual relationship, but the apparent crime
was a Christian attempting to build on a piece of land that he
owns that is viewed as part of the Muslim section of that
village. As a result, again, we saw this attack, horrific
attacks, pogrom-like attacks, where the mob moves from house to
house searching for the people to kill and attack.
In both cases we have seen a complete absence of the
Egyptian police from taking any action to stop those attacks
from occurring, nor is there any punishment for those that are
responsible for them. We have seen again this habit of
reconciliation sessions whereby the victims and those attacking
them are put together in a room supposedly to solve their
differences outside of the rule of law.
Under the Mubarak regime, Christians in Egypt suffered from
both official discrimination in terms of exclusion from the
public sphere, from government positions, and the police
absence to protect them, as well as violent attacks by Islamist
groups, especially in the insurgency, Islamist insurgency in
the south of the country during the 1990s. However, in the last
years of Mubarak's rule we have seen the increasing
participation of ordinary citizens in those attacks, mob-like
attacks again, that go completely unpunished and unprevented.
After the revolution, those that had hoped that the
situation would improve were shocked by the fact that things
deteriorated. We have seen a reinforcement of previous patterns
of discrimination as well as an emergence of new patterns,
especially when we talk about the new phenomena of the
blasphemy laws that were mentioned in earlier testimony, as
well as the practice of forced evacuations where the entire
Christian population of a village would be forced to leave as
punishment for any affront that a member of the community is
viewed as having done.
Under the Morsi government, while the Muslim Brotherhood
paid lip service to protecting Christians and to inclusion of
everyone in the new Egypt, we have seen a Constitution that
completely excluded Christians from the process of writing it,
a Constitution that enshrined grave limitations on religious
freedom, threats to religious freedom, as well as sectarian
rhetoric done by officials in the government, specifically
advisers to Mr. Morsi, and the Muslim Brotherhood, the ruling
party, in their official Web sites against Christians,
Christians being blamed for all problems of the country, from
train accidents to the continuous deterioration in the security
As a result, we have seen an encouragement, this culture of
impunity becoming the culture of encouragement to attacks on
Christians, leading up to this massive attack on the Coptic
Cathedral, unprecedented in Egypt's history. After Mr. Morsi's
forceful removal by the military from power, the Coptic Pope
was singled out as the one responsible for the coup. The coup
in Egypt is described by the Muslim Brotherhood as the
Christian coup, the Christians are the ones behind it, the
Christians are the ones that are being presented as leading to
it. As a result, we have seen increased incitement against
Christians, again by Muslim Brotherhood Web sites, official Web
pages, and in the Muslim Brotherhood demonstrations that have
specifically targeted churches in their attacks, leading up to
the massive attack of Christians on the 14th of August, which
is the largest attack happening against churches in Egypt since
the 13th or 14th century.
The new regime's attempt to give the Egyptian police a
complete free reign in controlling the Islamist violence, in
dealing with the Islamist question, has meant that the Egyptian
police has returned to its practices and ability to deal with
the Christian portfolio as they like, meaning a return to
practices under President Mubarak.
I wish to sum up by giving a couple of very clear points
about what the situation is as we attempt to deal with it. Who
is attacking the Christians? Unfortunately, it is ordinary
people. It is no longer just Islamist organized groups that are
attacking Christians, but it is now possible, it is now very
likely that ordinary citizens are participating in those
Why are they attacking the Christians? The reasons vary.
Sometimes it is the sexual rumor of a relationship between a
man and a woman, sometimes it is the rumor that the Christians
are attempting to build a church, sometimes it is an affront,
insult perceived by a Christian member to Islam, sometimes it
is just a land dispute. But whatever the reason, we get the
situation of the mob gathering, attacking the Christians, going
home to home, looting, burning, searching for people to kill.
Now, with a deteriorating security situation, there is an
increased resortation to or availability of guns leading to
higher deaths in those situations.
The government action, there has been no prevention attempt
of stopping those attacks. Once the troops arrive, when they
arrive late, there are inadequate troops to deal with the
situation. They lack any established security protocol to deal
with such pogroms or such attacks. They resort to random
arrests of both Christians and Muslims, whereby they attempt to
pressure both communities into those reconciliation sessions
and attempt to remove the immediate trigger by, for example,
stopping the Christians from building the church or removing
the family that is viewed as insulting Islam from the village.
The National Government has no political will at all to
address the root causes of this violence in Egypt or to deal
with the larger question. As an example to cite, on the 4th and
5th of July, 2013, a mob gathered in the village of Nagaa
Hassan, Luxor, to start this attack on Christians. They went
from house to house searching for the Christians, finally found
them hidden in one house. They attempted to attack; the police
arrived. The police, instead of saving those Christians from
death, then negotiated with the mob and reached an agreement
whereby the women and children would be saved and the men would
be left to die. The women begged the police officers, they fell
on the police officer's legs, begging him to save their
husbands. He said no, he had given his word to the mob. As the
police was leaving the room, the men were butchered. Four men
were killed in that house that day.
When asked by Human Rights Watch later on, the head of the
Egyptian security in the governate of Luxor, Major Khalid
Hassan, replied as to what had happened that he saw nothing
wrong with the police performance. According to him, and this
is a direct quote: ``There was no reason for the police to take
any special measures, it's not [the police's] job to stop
killings; we just investigate afterward.''
I would be happy to discuss what can be done about it in
the question-and-answer session. Thank you very much.
Mr. Smith. Mr. Tadros, thank you very much.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Tadros follows:]
Mr. Smith. Mr. Abou-Sabe.
STATEMENT OF MORAD ABOU-SABE, PH.D., PROFESSOR EMERITUS,
RUTGERS UNIVERSITY (FORMER PRESIDENT OF MISR UNIVERSITY FOR
SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY)
Mr. Abou-Sabe. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Thank you for the
opportunity to participate in this hearing, and I really
appreciate getting that opportunity here.
My emphasis in my statement is really not so much about
Christians and the human rights abuses of Christians, because I
believe that the Morsi government had actually abused the
rights, the human rights of all Egyptians, and that is really I
think something that should really be pointed out. So my focus
is really more coming into U.S.-Egyptian relationships and, you
know, the basis for which many of these things have happened.
So I would say that the events of June 30, 2013, in Egypt,
which resulted in the ouster of former Egyptian President
Mohamed Morsi, were in response to the massive and
unprecedented protests by the Egyptian people. Morsi's
overthrow was supported by and facilitated by the Egyptian
military. Since Morsi's ouster, the U.S.-Egyptian relations
have gone through abrupt changes that threaten and continue to
threaten the special relationship between the two countries.
Now, just for a short historical perspective on how we got
this special relationship, one can only begin by crediting the
late Egyptian President Anwar Sadat for the start of this
relationship. When Sadat took his unimaginable and bold steps
in the 1970s, which were essentially ending the Egyptian-Soviet
relationship and expelling the Russian advisers on July 18,
1972, and then making his historic trip to Israel on November
20, 1977, no one understood at the time what he was doing or
where he was heading. Sadat ended Egypt's relationship with the
Soviets at the time that he was preparing for the 1973 war with
Israel. However, Sadat knew and was convinced that the Arab-
Israeli conflict could only be resolved by the United States
and that all that matters to the U.S. in the region were Israel
and the flow of Middle East oil.
Taking these bold steps, Sadat put Egypt in a most
precarious position that resulted in his own assassination by
the Muslim Brotherhood and the isolation of Egypt for many
years afterwards from the rest of the Arab world. Since then,
and especially after the signing of the Camp David Accord and a
peace treaty with Israel, the U.S.-Egyptian relations, however,
have been at their most cordial levels. This cordial
relationship, as it may now have become clear, was particularly
for keeping the Egyptian-Israeli treaty safe. It did not matter
what the Mubarak 30-year dictatorship had done to Egypt or the
Egyptian people as long as the peace treaty was safe.
Now, with the January 25th revolution in Egypt, the U.S.
administration aligned itself with the Muslim Brotherhood as
the most organized group among all the political parties and
political organizations in Egypt. The Muslim Brotherhood were
deemed to have the highest likelihood to step in the governance
of Egypt. This new relationship with the Muslim Brotherhood,
especially after Morsi's election to the Presidency, was
further strengthened when Morsi was able to secure a cease-fire
between Hamas and Israel on November 22, 2012.
It can be assumed that in this close relationship the U.S.
administration saw the possible venues for the resolution of
the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, while the Muslim Brotherhood
saw the possibility of moving forward with their renaissance
project with the help of the United States. This view is
supported by, for example, one, the unusual close relationship
between the American Ambassador in Cairo and the Muslim
Brotherhood organization outside of President Morsi himself, a
matter that caused resentment among many Egyptians and
political party leaders.
It was most evident when the U.S. Ambassador took upon
herself to meet with the Muslim Brotherhood officials who had
no official status in the Egyptian Government. It further
confirmed that Morsi was, in fact, a figurehead and that
decisions came from the MB leadership office at Al-Mokattam
district in Cairo. In the meantime, the Muslim Brotherhood and
President Morsi were working on establishing legal rights for
the Palestinians in northern Sinai to buy land and settle in
the northern Sinai as a prelude to Hamas expansion into the
One of the vehicles for achieving that was to grant
Egyptian citizenship to as many as 50,000 Palestinians in one
stroke. Former President Morsi was able to do so by changing
the Egyptian law that defined Egyptian citizenship, which
applied only to all persons born in Egypt to Egyptian fathers.
Morsi and the MB simply changed the law to allow all those born
to Egyptian mothers to become Egyptian citizens, opening the
door for thousands and thousands of Palestinians whose mothers
were of Egyptian nationality. Simply it is not. Now the
Egyptian Government is trying to review these newly acquired
Egypt, to Morsi, and the Muslim Brotherhood did not matter.
There was no understanding of Egyptian sovereignty or defined
borders. It was just land that they could deal and hand over to
anybody they wanted.
Now, the impact of the immediate position taken by the
United States Government in response to Morsi's ouster was to
call it a military coup, and Congresswoman Frankel just
continued to repeat that now. And based on that, the
administration initiated the process of suspending U.S.
military aid to Egypt. Such a response by the administration
represented a clear departure from the U.S. longstanding
position in support of Egypt.
It also showed another side to the administration's foreign
policy toward Egypt. It showed the newly developed alliance
between the U.S. and Muslim Brotherhood organization and the
Morsi government, as I pointed out above. Such unlikely
relationship was a great surprise and disappointment to all
Egyptians who did not understand why the U.S. would partner
with an Islamic group that has historically been implicated in
the types of violence that are characteristic of al-Qaeda and
On the ground, the U.S. administration condemned the
military overthrow of Morsi and cautioned the Egyptian
Government against the use of force in dealing with the
peaceful protesters. Little did Washington know that the Muslim
Brotherhood protests and sit-ins were actually militarized, not
peaceful. There was no holdback by the Muslim Brotherhood
leadership from issuing their numerous public threats from
their own staged platforms and on live television of the dire
results if any attempts were made to evict them.
These were the peaceful protesters who were constantly
reported by the New York Times and other U.S. reporters in
Egypt. You could only see the contradiction between what the
U.S. media reported and what every Egyptian, including myself
watching from here, was viewing directly and live on Egyptian
satellite television while listening to the MB's threats. There
was no hesitation on the part of the Muslim Brotherhood protest
leadership to admit their role in the terrorism against
Egyptian military and security that was taking place in the
Sinai, as they continued to make pronouncements: If the
Egyptian Government yields to our demands, all violence in
Sinai would immediately stop. These were the peaceful
protesters the administration was supporting and the U.S. media
There was also a human cost to the U.S. support of the MBs.
Namely, it cost hundreds of Egyptian lives that were lost from
both protesters, as well as the security forces, during the
forcible eviction of the sit-ins. These lives could have been
saved if the Muslim Brotherhood did not count on the U.S.
support and would have at least allowed the 8-week mediation
efforts by the international community to succeed. To this day,
the MBs believe that they were the aggrieved rather than the
aggressor and the cause of the violence that they perpetrated.
They have continued to hold violent protests, block roads, and
instigate the Egyptian people irrespective of their unrealistic
expectation of Morsi's return to office.
In the meantime, former President Morsi was held in custody
for several months before he was charged in court on the 4th of
November and was subsequently remanded to prison awaiting
trial, you know, slated for January 2014. Among the alleged
charges against Morsi are incitement to murder and, more
importantly, the charge of espionage, having colluded with
international organizations against the interests and security
of Egypt. There is currently a gag order on discussions of
these particular cases.
The conflicting signals by the administration with
statements from the State Department holding on to the U.S.-
Egyptian relations while at the same time other U.S. officials
continued to call the ouster a military coup played a major
part in the resistance of the MBs to any kind of mediation and
resolution. Significant among those were the statements by
Senator John McCain and Lindsey Graham, who visited Egypt in
July and met with Morsi. After their meeting they came out and
in a press conference once again called the ouster a military
coup. In fact, Senator John McCain in his comments predicted a
civil war in Egypt as a result. Luckily, this prediction has
not happened, at least until now.
These reactions and contradicting statements by U.S.
officials simply confirmed the ambivalence of the U.S. foreign
policy toward Egypt. Not only that, but it also implied that
the U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East has changed and that
a new agenda may be under development as we speak.
The same ambivalence was demonstrated by the same U.S.
administration after the January 25th revolution in Egypt which
resulted in the resignation of the U.S. longstanding ally
Mubarak. The unyielding question remains, why was a
relationship with the Muslim Brotherhood and what was the
purpose of aligning ourselves with a terrorist organization
with a long-documented history that backs it up? What was our
ulterior motive behind this relationship that we would
undertake at the expense of an ally and a regional power like
On June 26, 2013, before Morsi's ouster, a report signed by
some 20 human rights organizations was published by the Cairo
Institute of Human Rights Studies assessing the 1-year rule
under Morsi. The report was entitled ``One Year Into Mohamed
Morsi's Term, Manifold Abuses and the Systematic Undermining of
the Rule of Law.'' In this report the many facets of human
rights abuses were reported undertaken by the Morsi government
Mr. Smith. Mr. Abou-Sabe, unfortunately we are going to
have to leave the room at 11 o'clock because there is going to
be a sweep of the room because Senator Kerry will be coming in
Mr. Abou-Sabe. Okay.
Mr. Smith. If you could just sum up, and then Mr. Stahnke,
and then we will go to some very quick questions.
Mr. Abou-Sabe. Yes, sir.
Mr. Smith. Thank you, sir.
Mr. Abou-Sabe. I will sum up essentially in just a couple
of words. As Egyptian-Americans, we therefore call upon the
President and the Congress to carefully examine our role in
fostering peace and stability in Egypt. It is imperative upon
us to take the lead in establishing a close relationship with
the Government and the peoples of Egypt. We need to be mindful
of the facts behind the events before jumping to conclusions
and taking other drastic measures as those that have been
taken. We also call upon the U.S. media to bring the truth
behind the violence that is perpetrated by the terrorists and
Thank you very much.
Mr. Smith. Thank you, Mr. Abou-Sabe. Thank you very much
for your testimony.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Abou-Sabe follows:]
Mr. Smith. Mr. Stahnke.
STATEMENT OF MR. TAD STAHNKE, DIRECTOR OF POLICY AND PROGRAMS,
HUMAN RIGHTS FIRST
Mr. Stahnke. Yes, thank you, Mr. Chairman, Madam
Chairwoman. Thank you for convening this hearing, for your
leadership on human rights in Congress. Members of the
subcommittees, thank you as well. We look forward to working
with both subcommittees to try to advance human rights
protections in an increasingly volatile Egypt.
The rapidly deteriorating situation of Egypt's Coptic
Christian minority is an alarming symptom of an unresolved and
worsening political crisis. If left to fester, this crisis
could further destabilize Egypt and the region, as well as hold
back the possibility of economic and political reform and the
protection of human rights, and be profoundly harmful to the
interests of the United States and our allies.
As you have heard, there has been an unprecedented
escalation in attacks against Coptic Christians since August
14th, when the military violently dispersed those protesting
President Morsi's ouster. Discrimination against members of
religious minorities, incidents of sectarian violence that go
largely unpunished, anti-Christian incitement, and anti-
Semitism have, unfortunately, long been a feature of Egyptian
life. But the political polarization of the past few months has
taken violence against Christians to unprecedented levels. Many
have been killed, well over 100 churches, homes, and other
properties have been attacked. Perpetrators have not been
brought to justice. In addition, members of other religious
minorities have been attacked and continue to be persecuted,
including Baha'is, Shitte, and Sufi Muslims.
It is the great misfortune of the Christian Coptic
community that they are pawns in a highly destructive zero-sum
political game between the Muslim Brotherhood and the military-
backed national security state. The Morsi government bears
considerable blame for fueling a climate of anti-Christian
intolerance when its rhetoric became increasingly paranoid and
Christians were among the forces said to be conspiring against
it. And following Morsi's overthrow his supporters, openly
blamed the Copts for it, claiming that Christian hostility to
Islam and the idea of a Muslim Egypt led them to conspire with
the military and hostile foreign powers like Israel and the
United States. This demonization of Christians has made the
community more vulnerable to the violence that has followed.
At the same time, the military-backed government seems more
interested in pointing to anti-Christian violence as evidence
of Muslim Brotherhood extremism than in taking effective
measures to protect Christians from attack. This posture of
pointing to the violent excesses of Islamic extremists as an
excuse to resist their own reforms is a familiar throwback to
the days of Mubarak.
Egyptian authorities under the SCAF, under Morsi, and under
the current government have failed to protect the Coptic
community and to hold accountable those who incite and commit
sectarian violence. The current government needs to do so. It
should also remove longstanding restrictions on religious
freedom, such as abusive blasphemy laws and the decrees banning
Baha'is and Jehovah's Witnesses. It should enact a
nondiscriminatory law for the construction and repair of places
But these recommendations alone, we fear, are inadequate as
a response to the crisis now confronting Egypt's Coptic
community and, by extension, all Egyptians. The current
government and the security apparatus are largely made up of
the same people who have held power in Egypt for decades. They
are unlikely to change their ingrained habits on sectarian
issues and may even see some advantage in assaults against
Christians continuing, because it supports their narrative.
Thus, there needs to be progress toward a political solution in
Egypt, one that includes movement toward political
reconciliation as a first step.
Teconciliation is a challenge, as the current government
has engaged in a brutal and wide crackdown against the Muslim
Brotherhood and its supporters and has also repressed non-
Islamist critics and repressed fundamental freedom to speech
and assembly. We detail the deterioration of the human rights
situation throughout the transition period, and especially
since Morsi's overthrow, in our written statement. Government
force is implicated in the mass killings of hundreds of
protesters since August 14th, the wholesale roundup of Muslim
Brotherhood political leaders and sweeping charges of
involvement in violence or terrorism, intensifying restrictions
on the media and harassment of government critics, the
increased use of military trials against civilians, and
incommunicado detention leading to torture.
This is all familiar. The state security apparatus is back,
promoting a climate of fear under the rubric of a war on
terrorism. And to make matters worse, all this is taking place
against the backdrop of a breakdown in the rule of law and the
deterioration of state institutions which began under the SCAF
and continued under Morsi.
A polarized, increasingly violent Egypt is a serious
problem for the United States. The White House says that they
are undertaking a thorough review of Egypt policy, and we
welcome that. Indeed, supporting repressive governments in
spite of its abuses has failed in the past, and a major shift
in U.S. policy is needed to one that puts Egypt's commitment to
human rights and democratization at its core. We set out
several recommendations for U.S. policy blueprints, published
last week, but let me end by suggesting a few of those
Working with its donor partners, the United States must
establish sizable sustained economic incentives for Egypt's
leaders, including IMF loans, which should be conditioned on
Egypt adhering to human rights standards. The administration
suspended some military aid following the coup, and they are
right to set human rights conditions on full resumption of aid
to Egypt. If it wishes to benefit from a close cooperative
relationship with the United States, the Egyptian military must
use its power to move Egypt back onto a path of peaceful,
inclusive, civilian-led governance, and this necessarily
entails some form of reconciliation.
Some supporters of President Morsi and the Muslim
Brotherhood should be let back into the political process.
Credible Islamist leaders need to condemn violence against
religious minorities, and there is a reduced incentive to do so
when thousands are in jail, frozen out of the political
process, and indiscriminately labeled as extremists and
terrorists. We shouldn't ask Egyptians to accommodate Islamists
who espouse violence or hatred, but leaving the large part of
the Egyptian electorate that wishes to support an Islamist
political party in elections, leaving them disenfranchised is
not a recipe for stability. The United States should publicly
promote reconciliation and continue to try to initiate a
process to advance it.
And finally, the State Department and USAID should increase
their efforts, bilaterally and/or multilaterally, to fund
independent civil society organizations with the capacity to
monitor government institutions and expose official wrongdoing,
as well as promote religious pluralism and intolerance. There
are many influential voices in Egypt who are suspicious of the
U.S. Government's commitment to democracy. The Embassy in Cairo
needs to continue to show that, in Washington they need to
continue to show it, Congress continues to need to speak out
about it, and the U.S. should be working with other like-minded
governments to bring about a successful political reform in
Egypt. Thank you very much.
Mr. Smith. Mr. Stahnke, thank you so very much for your
[The prepared statement of Mr. Stahnke follows:]
Mr. Smith. Again, we are going to have to leave the room
shortly because of the security sweep in anticipation of
Secretary Kerry's trip, so what I thought, all of us on the
panel will go through a few questions, and if you could take
notes, we will do it all at once, and then you answer those
questions as you see fit.
Bishop Angaelos, if I could just say, you mentioned the
kidnapping of Coptic Christian girls, which is an issue that I
chaired three hearings on, and Congressman, the chairman,
Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, was there at each of those hearings. We
did not get good answers back from the administration. As a
matter of fact, they failed to raise those issues in any
substantive way. Could you speak to that very briefly? And
there are many other issues I would like to ask you, but time
does not permit it.
Dr. Abou-Sabe, you mentioned the close relationship with
the Muslim Brotherhood. Who advised the administration, if you
know, to do that? I remember when you briefed me in my office
several months ago, you went to great historical lengths to
tell me and my staff what the true underpinnings of that
organization are and the hostility that they bear to so many,
including other Muslims. If you could speak to that.
If I could, you mentioned, Mr. Stahnke, about the
suspicious nature of many toward the U.S. Government. It didn't
help that when the President spoke at the United Nations he
talked about our core interest including Camp David Accords and
counterterrorism and no mention, as far as I could tell,
whatsoever of human rights. So if you could speak to that as
And, finally, the forced reconciliation issue that, Mr.
Tadros, you spoke to, it seems to me that law enforcement
should be all about enforcing the law. Somebody commits a
murder, a rape, burns down somebody's house, you arrest, you
prosecute, and then you jail based on the evidence. You don't
force a Coptic Christian or the victim into a
``reconciliation.'' If you could elaborate on that.
Mr. Connolly. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. And I want to thank
our panel for their testimony. Many of these issues are
heartwrenching issues. And as my friend Ileana Ros-Lehtinen
knows, I was a Senate staff member for 10 years, and every time
President Mubarak appeared before our committee--I worked for
Claiborne Pell at the time--we forcefully tried to make the
case on behalf of minorities, especially Coptic Christians in
Egypt, and the house arrest of Pope Shenouda and other issues.
It is a little bit troubling that those same issues haven't
changed. In fact, maybe have gotten worse.
I will say, however, human rights are human rights, whether
you are a Copt or a Muslim. The fact of the matter is hundreds,
if not more, of Egyptians have been slaughtered on the streets
of urban Egypt since the military coup. I had a constituent
come to see me last week. He had to pick up his brother. He is
an American citizen, he had to pick up his brother back in
Cairo. He was shot in the head, one bullet. He went to visit
the morgue. There were dozens of bodies from protests, street
protests. Shot in the head. And interestingly the death
certificate said died of natural causes. And it is an elaborate
process to get the police to redo the death certificate if you
want the body. And if you are a Muslim that is a big deal. If
you are a Christian, too, but there are time limits. Very
elaborate process to go to the police and get them to admit
this was homicide, not a natural cause. The trauma is
And I say that both Muslims and Copts and others in Egypt
are suffering today. And I would hope, Bishop Angaelos, that in
the Christian view you and I share it encompasses the violation
of the human rights of Muslims as well as Copts, because in
your safety is also theirs and in theirs is also yours. And I
wonder if you might comment a little bit about that from your
And, Mr. Stahnke, I thank you so much for acknowledging
those points, because I think as we move forward in the United
States we have got to deal with the political reality of how do
you put together a coalition that can work moving forward, that
encompasses all of the points of view of Egypt.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. Smith. Madam Chair.
Ms. Ros-Lehtinen. Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.
Two questions, one on the draft Constitution and the second
on the NGOs. As we know, Morsi rammed through a Constitution
that severely restricted all rights, women's rights, religious
rights, ethnic rights. And although the referendum passed, it
only had a 33-percent voter turnout. Now we have got this draft
Constitution. In theory it recognizes the rights of Jews,
Christians, and Muslims, but leaves other religious minorities,
such as the Baha'i community, unprotected. What can we do to
ensure that the new Constitution would not restrict the
fundamental rights of any Egyptian and that real progress is
made, not just in theory but in practice?
And on the NGO convictions, they still have not been
overturned. The draft NGO law that is proposed will have many
of these NGOs still fearful if they continue operating in
Egypt. What can we in the U.S. do to ensure that the Egyptians
have what they need to build the capacity, foundation for a
strong democracy? What do you think that the future of the NGOs
will be? Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. Smith. Ms. Frankel.
Ms. Frankel. Thank you, Mr. Chair.
First, I just want to say that, for me, I say freedom of
religion is like the H2O of human rights. What water
is to the body, for many people freedom of religion is the
water for their soul. So I want to emphasize that. And so when
I was in Egypt, I think I mentioned that we met with Coptic
Pope Tawadros II. He shared stories with us of the burning of
the churches and the oppression, showed us photos, and so
My first question is, do you believe that this concept of
freedom of religion is recognized universally in Egypt? Is it
something that most Egyptians even know or feel?
And then the other issue I would like you to comment on,
and I think it was raised by Mr. Rohrabacher, I think he was
getting there, which is, you know, there is a concept called
``first, do no harm.'' And so my second question would be
really is, what about Israel, the stability of the Middle East?
There has been some suggestions of us perhaps withdrawing
support or having certain conditions for support of the
military. I would like you to comment on that.
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Smith. Mr. Weber.
Mr. Weber. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. If I could get these
questions answered, to my staff, I guess. They are not going to
comment later. Is that right, Mr. Chairman? We are out of time?
Oh, they are going to comment, okay.
For each of you, what do you view as the greatest hope of
the Jews, the Christians, and the Muslims? What is their
greatest hope? And how do we reconcile those differences? And
that is pretty simple, isn't it? And I yield back.
Mr. Smith. Chairman Rohrabacher.
Mr. Rohrabacher. Thank you very much.
Here we are stuck with trying to figure out whether we are
going to use our heads or whether we are going to use our
hearts, and whether there is a contradiction in America's soul
about these very questions that we are talking about today. We
must obviously be committed to our ideals, and yet we must also
understand if we do not have a commitment to a practical policy
we could end up bringing the world and bringing ourselves to
the opposite of where our ideals would have us go.
So I would suggest that finally where does this all land us
for this hearing? And that is, and I would just like to state
and get your opinion on it, denying spare parts to the Egyptian
Army at this moment would not lead to a better world and to a
better situation in Egypt, and that is my analysis of it. What
is your response to that?
Mr. Smith. And Mr. Meadows.
Mr. Meadows. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
I will just ask each of you to submit for the record, if
you would, where the Egyptian people view five inconsistencies
in U.S. foreign policy. Inconsistencies. And so where do the
Egyptian people see where we are saying one thing and doing
another? If you could do that.
And I yield back. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. Smith. Your Grace, if you could begin, and each of our
Bishop Angaelos. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. On the view of
the kidnapping of those, of course, as has been mentioned
numerous times, there is an inequality before the law, and so
the way that the matters are investigated sometimes depends on
who is on the receiving end of the alleged criminal action. And
so I think what we have seen is in times there have been forced
conversions. There have been forced kidnappings. At those
times, security forces have been reluctant to investigate. Even
if the outcome of the investigation is that it was an
intentional action, or it was a personal choice, the
investigation needs to be transparent, needs to be honest, and
we haven't seen those. What we have seen is where calls have
been made in particular cases that have been proven to be
forced. They have been set aside because they have been
designed not to cause offense to particularly majority Muslim
areas where that could cause trouble for the security forces.
So there are, just as in the case where people were
attacked in their homes and this deal was struck, sometimes
similar things are done to ensure that there is some sort of
equilibrium kept at the expense of the Christian community
there, of course.
Mr. Smith. Mr. Tadros.
Mr. Tadros. A couple of on the general questions. I think
there are definitely huge abuses of human rights in Egypt, not
only to Christians, as the honorable Member pointed out, the
massacre of Muslim Brotherhood supporters was probably the
largest such massacre in Egyptian history, and it is an
extremely polarizing event. I know it is easy to talk of the
Egyptian people, but there are divisions within those people.
The Muslim Brotherhood continues to have supporters. Exact
figures are hard to tell, of course, because we didn't have an
election. Street demonstrations are hard to count and hard to
determine who has more supporters on the street, so there is a
continuous polarization today in Egypt, and there is no plan on
how to solve that situation.
Egypt is not transitioning to democracy. There is an
attempt to rebuild authoritarian regime with some changes as to
different shaping just from what was under Mubarak, but there
is no attempt to create a serious democracy in Egypt at all.
People have a lot of anger--both sides in Egypt have a lot of
anger toward the United States, and part of it is simply
conspiracy theorizing and active propaganda by the various
groups, whether it is the Muslim Brotherhood or the Egyptian
military to paint the United States as an enemy and to use that
as an attempt to shore support for the various sides.
Specifically, to the rule of law, I think there has been a
lot of focus on general words. We need to have a general
situation where people in Egypt are all treated equally. These
are all nice words, but the important things, the specifics
that can deal with that situation, I would like to suggest a
First, identification. It doesn't take a genius to identify
what are the most vulnerable villages in Egypt that are likely
to witness attacks. Experts on the situation of Christians in
Egypt could have told you before the 14th of August that the
governorate of Menya was likely to have the most attacks. So, a
process needs to be there where the 100 most vulnerable
villages can be identified. The Egyptian Government should be
urged to do that. The U.S. might be able to help, giving
resources to help that process to happen;, it is important to
prevent those attacks from happening at the first place.
Secondly, the Egyptian police needs to have a security
protocol to deal with mob violence. Again, if this situation
has been repeating itself one time after the other, there needs
to be a clear security protocol on how to deal with those
Thirdly, a crisis office in the Egyptian Presidency that
has actual power to deal specifically with that issue so that
it is not an issue left to each local governor or local police
station to deal with, but there is a headquarters that deals
Fourthly, a rapid response unit whereby once the situation
is created in one of those villages, and that office
immediately sends a rapid response unit to deal with that
situation in the village.
Fifth, the reform of the legal system in terms of having
actual punishment, giving up on those reconciliation sessions,
punishing those people that attack the Christians.
Lastly, a localized reward and punishment system. Again, if
the governorate of Menya witnesses the most attacks on
Christians and the local authorities there are not willing to
protect the religious minorities or the worst violators of
human rights, then probably the governorate of Menya should not
be receiving U.S. funding through USAID. Perhaps the
governorate of Sohad, which has a better performance on those
issues would get more USAID funding of that regard, so
localizing both punishment and rewards for the governorate in
an attempt to enforce the local governors and the local
authorities to deal with those specific issues.
Mr. Smith. Thank you. Thank you. Dr. Abou-Sabe.
Mr. Abou-Sabe. Thank you. The first question--I thank you,
Mr. Chairman. Your first question is about what was behind
this, and I don't really have any particular evidence, but what
the news media in Egypt have reported on throughout early this
year, essentially that there may have been some sort of an
agreement of sorts for, more or less, annexing a portion of the
northern Sinai with Gaza for the benefit of the solution of the
Palestinian-Israeli problem, and in essence, that that portion
of the Sinai was going to be used to allow additional
Palestinians, to come in, and that really was--so the Muslim
Brotherhood was essentially the entity that came in the right
time that would allow that to happen because of its close
relationship with Hamas and all that, and the idea was
essentially to establish an arc of ``moderate Islamic states,''
essentially, you know, between Egypt, Gaza, and Turkey, and
obviously that all was really very, very incorrect and bad.
In terms of the U.S. foreign policy, the question, the
question that was asked about U.S. foreign policy, I think it
is important that--there is a whole feeling in Egypt among the
people that, you know, people are like, you know, conspiracies,
in essence, that there is a fear that the U.S. may be, as well
as other countries, may be embarking on a redefining of the
Middle East, and I think Secretary Condoleezza Rice had
publicly stated in many situations that we are redrawing, we
are going to create some chaos and some havoc and there will be
some instability, and out of this instability we might end up
with some democracy and maybe with the democracy that we get,
then we need to really redraw the map of the Middle East in the
way that we can actually have an impact on the outcome itself.
So, I mean, it is a very long story, but the suspicion is
there. And I am not in agreement to people that say that the
aid is an essential part for Egypt. I think it is not. It is
really the relationship and the support for the development of
the country, allowing the country to utilize its resources,
allowing it to use its human resources is very, very important
And the last point that I will say essentially, religious
freedom, the question I was asked about religious freedom.
Islam came to Egypt 1,400 years ago, and until the Muslim
Brothers came into the picture last 1\1/2\ years or 2 years,
everybody in Egypt had the full opportunity to practice his
religion, whatever it was. I grew up in Egypt, and when I was
in the grade school and high school, most of my friends were
Christians, and actually I had a Jewish friend as well, Eliahu
Cohen, and never had any difference. My name is Morad, which is
not an Islamic name.
I was many, many times confused that I was also a Copt, so
it was not an issue until the Muslim Brothers came in, and that
is why it is important to really recognize that. Freedom of
religion in Egypt is there always, has always been there. Thank
Mr. Smith. Thank you. Mr. Stahnke.
Mr. Stahnke. Thank you. Well, Mr. Chairman, I think it was
unfortunate that the President did not mention human rights in
his U.N. speech. That was a missed opportunity to be clear
about what the United States stands for, and this
administration and previous ones have shown an ambivalent
relationship to promoting human rights and democracy in Egypt
and in the region, and we are hoping that the policy review
that the administration says that it is undertaking will make
it clear and actually reorder U.S. priorities to focus more
clearly on democratic and human rights developments.
Now, the President's comments do, I think, get a little bit
to what the question Mr. Rohrabacher had about in terms of our
head and our hearts. But in my view, there is a difference
between spare parts and aid for the Egyptians to conduct
counterterrorism and border security and even some of the
specific things that Mr. Tadros mentioned about protecting
The difference between that and sort of prestige weapons
systems, some sort of false sense of balance of military power,
I think that the US aid relationship can be looked at and
reformed and reordered to bring about a mix of carrots and
sticks, conditions, but also the promise for significant
economic development. I think the Bishop mentioned that, you
know, that the country is in dire need of economic development,
and you know, the Saudis can give cash, but the West can bring
about investments. Stability can help bring about tourism again
in the country. This is the type of economic development that
the country needs and that the United States and its Western
partners and the IMF can bring about, but they should do it in
a phased way in response to serious reforms on some of the
human rights issues that Mr. Connolly mentioned as well as the
religious freedom issues that we are talking about today.
Mr. Smith. Thank you, Mr. Stahnke.
Again, because of the sweep that is pending for Secretary
Kerry's testimony, the hearing is adjourned. I would ask
everyone if they could leave the room immediately so they can
come in and do the sweep, and I thank you so much for your
tremendous insights and for your expert testimony. Hearing is
[Whereupon, at 11:15 a.m., the subcommittees were
A P P E N D I X
Material Submitted for the RecordNotice deg.
Response from Mr. Samuel Tadros, research fellow, Center for Religious
Freedom, Hudson Institute
Material submitted for the record by Morad Abou-Sabe, Ph.D., professor
emeritus, Rutgers University (former president of Misr University for
Science & Technology)