The World Today for January 10, 2022


Perception is Key


French automaker Citroën recently apologized for airing a television commercial in Egypt that featured the popular Egyptian performer Amr Diab driving a C4 crossover sport utility vehicle. In the commercial, Diab uses a built-in camera in the car to snap a picture of a woman crossing the street. The woman seems to enjoy the unsolicited attention. Later in the commercial, she and Diab appear as if they are on a date.

In a country where sexual harassment and gender-based violence are rampant, the advertisement stirred controversy, the Associated Press reported.

Public criticism rarely engenders much change in other areas of human rights in Egypt, however.

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi recently issued a national strategy for human rights, for example. “It is a practical path to enhance the rights of the Egyptian people, integration with the national development path of Egypt, which establishes the principles of the new republic,” the president wrote on social media, according to the Daily News Egypt. “This comes in response to the aspirations of the present and future generations.”

But critics on the Washington Post’s editorial board and elsewhere claimed that el-Sissi’s real strategy appears to be designed to trample on human rights, not protect them.

An Egyptian court recently sentenced an activist, a human rights lawyer and a blogger to prison terms ranging from four to five years on charges of spreading false news that harmed national security, wrote the New York Times. Others face similar charges.

The verdict was delivered under emergency measures undertaken in the wake of el-Sissi’s rise to power in a 2013 coup that toppled the late President Mohamed Morsi, an Islamist with links to the extremist Muslim Brotherhood. Egypt has designated the Brotherhood as a terrorist organization, explained Middle East Eye. Morsi was elected president after the downfall of President Hosni Mubarak, a dictator who was in office for 30 years until the Arab Spring of 2011.

Some Egyptian human rights groups have praised el-Sissi for installing women in government positions, pardoning political prisoners and other moves, reported Ahram Online, a division of the state-owned newspaper Al-Ahram.

Human Rights Watch and other groups blasted the president’s prosecutions of activists and others, though. El-Sissi has technically lifted the emergency measures. But authorities filed charges against at least 48 activists before his decision, dooming them to a judicial process where they can’t appeal the court decisions. The Egyptian government has also released deceptive videos that make its prisons look clean and orderly while in reality they are squalid and rife with torture and other abuses, Human Rights Watch stated.

Whether being targeted by car companies or politicians, Egyptians must be aware of the differences between images and reality.

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