The Egyptian Embassy was not best pleased! The Socialist Group had invited well-known Egyptian dissident Said Eddin Ibrahim to a conference on the human rights situation in the EU’s southern neighbourhood countries.
The response came that Ibrahim is not representative – the embassy could provide a better speaker. I understand the diplomats’ nervousness: Egypt is playing a prominent role in the putative EU-Mediterranean Union and the appearance of an opponent to the Egyptian regime in Brussels could have thrown a spanner in the works.
Saad Eddin Ibrahim opposes authoritarianism and anti-democratic activity. All attempts to intimidate him have come to nothing. He recalls his experiences in Egypt’s jails with humour and does not hold back in his criticism of the situation in his country. He can’t return there – return would mean instant arrest. At present he lives in the USA. He is hopeful that the EU can help broker solutions. He wants to see a broad dialogue involving everyone in Egypt – even the Muslim Brotherhood whose fundamentalism he opposes.
There has to be dialogue about the future of Egypt otherwise the prognosis is not good. Ibrahim subscribes to the position taken by Joost Lagendijk and myself in our book Sturen bij de Moslim Buren that the polarisation between Islamists and the government is to no-one’s benefit and that there must be investment in a secular political alternative.
Ibrahim is paying a high personal price for his campaign and is someone I rate highly in my roll of honour. Sadly he is prevented from playing a role in shaping a better Egypt.
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