Egypt disappears a very nice young man

Before I came to FP, I was living in Egypt and working at the Ibn Khaldun Center, a pro-democracy organization chaired by Dr. Saad Eddin Ibrahim, a prominent Egyptian academic and dissident who was jailed between 2001 and 2003 for his activities. 

I was deeply disturbed to learn recently that one of my colleagues at the center, Amr Tharwat (the younger on the right of the photo), has been arrested and disappeared by the Egyptian security services. And now the story has been confirmed by the New York Times. Amr had been in charge of supervising election monitoring efforts for Ibn Khaldun during the recent elections for Egypt’s upper house (They were a farce: The government’s party won 69 of 71 seats). He’s also the nephew of Ahmed Sobhy Mansour, a reformist Muslim scholar who was granted asylum in the United States because ideas are controversial within Egypt. And now, Amr’s gone missing, along with his cousin. It’s likely Amr’s been sent to Tora prison, where the Egyptian government sends political prisoners, or worse—mistreated in a local police headquarters somewhere.

Amr was just finishing his college degree at Cairo University when I first met him last spring. He was an incredibly nice young man, and a firm believer in democracy and moderation—hardly a threat to Egyptian national security. Last summer, he began getting extremely nervous about getting arrested for the work he was doing in conducting political opinion polls, which are effectively illegal in Egypt. Unfortunately, he was right to worry. I hope he and his family will be safe and sound.

As for the government of Egypt, it faces the possibility of $200 million of cuts in its annual U.S. aid package, tied to its failings on human rights. Nearly every year around this time, the U.S. Congress debates the same question: Shouldn’t we be sending these bozos a message? And every year, Egypt gets its money. Will this year be different?