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Friday, December 20, 2013

Egypt’s Crackdown on Civil Rights

Human rights activists criticized the interim Egyptian government’s recent crackdown on civil society in a press conference in Cairo, saying that the situation was worse now than under the Mubarak regime. The press conference came after Egyptian security forces raided the offices of the Egyptian Center for Economic and Social Rights on Wednesday and arrested and beat several of their employees, including prominent activist Mohamed Adel. The deputy director of the center said that these events signaled a return to a police state, while Bahey Eddin Hassan, director of the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies, remarked that  “silence about these crimes facilitates the occurrence of more human rights abuses. People who think that human rights abuses are only committed against the Muslim Brotherhood need to review what has happened in the past five months.”

US Senate Eases Restrictions on Aid to Egypt

The US Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs almost unanimously (16-1) passed new legislation easing restrictions on the flow of aid to military-led countries, like Egypt. The new law – the Egypt Assistance Reform Act of 2013 – allows aid to countries in which a military coup has taken place, but requires countries to follow guidelines such as “cooperating on counter terrorism” and taking steps toward democracy.

Egypt and the Gaza Fuel Shortage

Egypt is in the process of organizing a fuel shipment to help relieve the severe gas shortage in the Gaza Strip, the Egyptian foreign ministry announced in a statement yesterday. After Egypt’s new interim government was installed in July, Egypt destroyed many of the smuggling tunnels between Egypt and Gaza which brought in much of the area’s fuel supply, due to an ongoing blockade by Israel. The Egyptian government has also repeatedly shut the Rafah border to Gaza in recent months. Gaza’s main power reactor was shut down last month due to the lack of fuel, and a winter storm last week left much of the small strip of land flooded, exacerbating the situation. “The floods come on top of an already crippling blockade of the Gaza Strip that has forced the 1.7m Palestinians into poverty,” an Oxfam representative said.

Friday Unrest; Two Killed in Sinai

Protests spread across Cairo, Alexandria and Suez on Friday after noon prayers, and Egyptian security forces responded once again with tear gas. Many protesters chanted against the military-backed government and expressed their dissatisfaction with the new draft constitution in contrast with old Egyptian constitution, which was drafted under former president Mohamed Morsi. 40 people were arrested. In the Sinai Peninsula, two Egyptian soldiers were killed while fighting a militant group.

Weekend Read

Legendary actor Peter O’Toole, who stared in the classic film “Lawrence of Arabia” among other films, died this week at 81. The New York Times’ obituary details the Irish actor’s life and accomplishments, and refers to him one of the most charismatic actors of his generation.

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