- October 4, 2007
Violette Daguerre: Egyptian Regime Is Repressive
She arrived to Egypt particularly to attend the Military Tribunal against Muslim Brotherhood (MB) leaders. The Egyptian regime hasn”t welcomed her attendance and monitoring the trial, lest its violations against the MB leaders are exposed to world. Dr. Violet Dagher, the envoy of the Arab Committee for Human Rights may have other reasons to come to Egypt .
Ikhwanweb wants to shed light on how Mrs. Violet sees the status of the Muslim Brotherhood leaders transferred to the military court. Ikhwanweb holds this interview with her to tackle thorny issues that concern both the Egyptian and Western public opinion.
Ikhwanweb: First of all, we want to know who is Violet Dagher?
Violette Daguerre: I am the chairperson of the Arab Committee for Human Rights. I am in Paris for thirty years and I am of a Lebanese. I teach psychology at university. I try to defend Arab rights voluntarily. So, I founded the Arab Committee for Human Rights through which we hold seminars and conferences, and we move in the Arab arena to follow up everything taking place like elections and judicial trials, we also write and publish reports to introduce human rights issues.
Ikhwanweb: Concerning your visit to Egypt , which we it is specially to attend and monitor the military court trying Muslim Brotherhood (MB) leaders. How do you see the method with which the Egyptian regime is dealing with the Muslim Brotherhood and its issues?
Violette Daguerre: We have come and we come now and will follow up the trials because we know that there is no justification or reason for the military court against these figures. They are civilians who shouldn”t be referred to the military court. A military is referred to a military court except for cases that may harm state security. Why are these referred to the military court although there is no evidence to convict them.
If it is related to running businesses that yield profits for families, it is a legitimate right, even if there is a disagreement in opinion. This is also a legitimate right, and having opposing views is traditionally approved everywhere.
If the national security is really hurt, we have never been informed about any evidence about it yet. Thus, we reject the military court against civilians because they have no legal foundation. Also, they don”t take into consideration human rights conventions in which Egypt is a signatory.
For this, I have come to neutrally observe hoping that I will be allowed to enter the court. I thought that preventing observers in previous sessions was accidental. However, I have realized that it is not accidental but it was a decision.
A question is posing itself: why are they preventing observers?. Is it because they are not caring about international laws or traditions?. Or is it because they hide things which they don”t want to reveal.
Any way, we hope that we will be given access to the court, especially after my appeals and those of colleague Samih Kharis of the Amnesty International. However, we deuced in a way or another that we are not wanted so we retreated, confirming that we will return in coming sessions. We may not be able to bring the same persons for very personal reasons and because we don”t receive and we don”t want to recives in support from any party. We also confirm that we do not represent any western country and there is no agenda imposed on us.
We are concerned about the reputation of Egypt and we want to change this distorted image that shows Arabs and Muslims as terrorists.
Ikhwanweb: We heard that security harassments prevented you from attending the trial session. How far have faced harassments from the security authorities in Egypt , especially after hearing that you suspected that your room has been stormed and searched and some of your belongings have been seized?
Violette Daguerre: I do not doubt that, I am sure that a specific party, whom I do not know it because I did not see, seized some belongings. I think it isn”t dustman that cares for such seized things. I see it as a message from the security, what they have taken have nothing to do with the case. Actually, I have nothing to hide regarding the case.
These seized things prove that I am watched by the security. I want the security to be more intelligent. We know that the security services are watching us although we do nothing illegal. I raise my eyebrows at such conduct but I am sure that the security authorities wanted to send me a certain message.
Ikhwanweb: Have you faced a similar treatment on arriving in Egypt at the airport?
Violette Daguerre: I faced no harassment at the airport. They may have been unaware of the reason of my coming. I have actually come to visit Egypt , and to see my friends. Even in Israel people aren”t denied access. When a foreigner comes to our countries, doors are opened for him. I did not enter Egypt as an Arab, but with a French visa because I am French.
Ikhwanweb: Will your method of defending the MB detainees be affected to the negative.
Violette Daguerre: Our method will even gain strength as we will tell the Egyptian regime that it is mistaken, you should deal with us in a more cultural way allow monitoring trials. What would harm you if you allowed us to monitor the trial. The lawyers told us of what happened inside the court. What will happen if we are given access and tell people what we saw. The Egyptian security is not intelligent enough to have a sharp insight.
We hope that the security deal with this case in a more flexible and a wiser manner and to deal with citizens with more democracy, because the issue of freedom of expression can”t be totally blocked. On the contrary, what they are doing may mobilize the society and fuel its anger against them, and to become more violent.
Ikhwanweb: Well, do you expect any future breakthrough in the security treatment with you as representatives of Human Rights Organizations and civil society institutions?
Violette Daguerre: We do not know for sure, but we will definitely return, not necessarily me. Even if they prevented us we will be here, to tell them that we have come although you prevented us to speak about what will hear or watch, and will meet prisoners” families and tell them that we back them and back their cause.
This does not necessarily mean that we defend a specific party against another one. We are actually defending all human beings. We back a human being”s right to defend himself and to stand before a fair trial regardless of his thought or views, unless his actions pose threats to others. We don”t accept that a state of security replaces the state of law.
Ikhwanweb: Regarding the methods of defense adopted by the international organizations, will they develop to political channels for example.
Violette Daguerre: I think this is actually up to the Muslim Brotherhood group and its supporters. They must make their cause known, hold seminars and try to hold contacts with figures and organizations abroad to show their cause, gain more sympathizers and to change the same time the image of the Arabs and Muslims in the West.
Ikhwanweb: Do you mean that the image of Arabs and Muslim is deformed in all Western societies?
Violette Daguerre: No definitely, the image is not bad among all sections of the western society. There those who hate Arabs and Muslims because they fear them and because they don”t know them and there are those who know them and accordingly sympathize with them. Even in America , we have supporters to Arab issues.
Ikhwanweb: Is this the image with which the West is seeing the MB military trial. Is it rejecting military trials against civilians even if they include Islamists?
Violette Daguerre: Unfortunately, there is a problem, there is an image of the Muslim as an extremist, a hardliner, a one who suppresses women and sees that the woman is incomplete in comparison with the man, that the veil is an issue that does not respect women”s dignity, that all the society is discriminating against women. We are actually to blame for this image because we gave them he opportunity to think in this way, but there are others to blame specially after 9/11 attacks.
Ikhwanweb: Do you think that the Western governments” reluctance in supporting fair cases in the Arab world is somehow tied to the support that these governments give to Arab governments?
Violette Daguerre: Sometimes, according to the agenda of Western governments, pressures are exercised on Arab governments to prevent such trials, but they allow them at other times, in return for concessions in other fields. In other times, these governments bargain on us, when they ask the West to let them do whatever they want in the Arab world, in return for allowing the West to do whatever it desires, as if their job is to satisfy the US government and other Western governments.
I think there will be no serious demand for democracy while governments don”t want to comply. However, there is a dialogue between the West and the governments to concede domestic issues in return for implementing a Western agenda.
These governments want Arabs to be primarily concerned with their living and not to participate in the political life or reject violations. Therefore we should participate as a civil society in determining our fate and not to let them be determined by others. We are not herds.
Ikhwanweb: There is also Western human rights negligence. Is this the product of Western governments” pressure on those human rights organizations? or is it because it is useless to do anything specially as the Egyptian regime doesn”t respond to any of the human rights demands?
Violette Daguerre: We can not say that civil society organizations implement their governments” agendas. Sometimes the media play a big role in distorting the image. They form their culture through media. There are others who are actually controlled by lobbies that work for spreading a specific discourse.
However, this isn”t general. We have human rights organizations that do every thing to denounce such violations, but we should differentiate between persons working inside it, and the various periods of time to deduce a real definition to the nature of such organizations.
It is well-known that Egypt won with a convenient majority the membership of an UN Human Rights Council. Do you think that these violations committed by the Egyptian regime against its critics in the Muslim Brotherhood affect, through referring them to a military trial, will negatively affect Egypt “s position in this council?
I do not know what is being cooked inside the human rights council. When the council was launched, we wished it would do well and we sent it messages thinking it will carry out a good role regarding supporting efforts of human rights societies, and not to comply to what governments want, but it wasn”t up to the responsibility.
This is may be due to the fact that interests of the governments control over what happens inside their countries, but I think also that it is affected by our attitudes as consultative societies. It asks us about how we see the situation. But it should take necessary decisions, and to carry out its pressures on governments that violate rights of their peoples.
Ikhwanweb: Regarding the Western public opinion, do you think it may change under media efforts exercised by the Muslim Brotherhood or efforts exercised by civil society organizations that try to show the full image?
Violette Daguerre: We should try to clarify the issue. The problem is in peoples” relation with each other and the interrelation among cultures, especially that Islam started to draw interests of some people and stir fears of others, based on that the fact that devil that must be stoned is this Other- the Muslim. We can”t generalize such an image, but also we do not accept that the West generalizes on all Muslims what some persons committed.
There should be spaces of common understanding to know each other.
Ikhwanweb: Do you think that the violations committed in Egypt are separate from what is happening in the Arab world or do you think it is a continuous chain of violations throughout the Middle East and Arab world?
Violette Daguerre: Unfortunately, what happens is a ring in a series of violations, but Egypt has its special status. Some parties want it to take another course and another path and the same for the Middle East as a whole. But we do not want any one to determine our fates or control minds of our youth. We also insist that we do not want them to emigrate from their countries, whether it is for the human rights violation or to seek better living conditions which they are denied at homeland.
All of us should work for resisting this scheme which they are drawing for us. The resistance which I mean does not absolutely mean the armed resistance or destroying the other. I mean the non-violent peaceful resistance to show the situations in a dialogue and open up with the other, without allowing this Other to downplay my status or put me any place other than my right position.
Ikhwanweb: Finally, what”s Violet Dagher”s message to the Egyptian regime?
Violette Daguerre: I directed a previous message to the regime. I said if the regime suppressed, it should expect a counter violence reaction. So as to prevent such a violent reaction, the regime should give a margin of freedom as safety valves for the society to give vent to its feelings and views. This actually protects the regime if it wants to secure an everlasting rule.
And I want to add another point about which you didn”t ask me. I hope that more attention be given to weak groups which are still- unfortunately- women and children. The children- kids of the detainees- should be given more care so that such crises do not affect their psychological growth and their personalities later.
I want to say to the youth that the political work is not that easy task, but they should not leave it to others. They should be aware of the truth of the situation to work for it. The youth are our future, and our roles will retreat so that we will be gradually replaced by young men. If they faced such a situation with defeatism and emigrated from their countries, and if they said that they have nothing to do with this country that does not respect their rights, because they have actually witnessed previous problems…to whom will we leave the country?!. I call on young men to be up to the responsibility while dealing with the problem. Children also can do big roles through mothers who unfortunately face huge pressures to avoid that such shocks may cause any bad effect on children.