New York Times Criticizes Raids in Egypt Against 'Well Respected' IRI

December 31, 2011

Egypt’s Obstructionist Generals
The New York Times

Editorial

Egypt’s military council continues to demonstrate its utter contempt for the citizens who risked their lives to end President Hosni Mubarak’s authoritarian rule. In the latest outrage, security forces on Thursday shut down three American-financed democracy-building groups in Cairo and as many as six other nonprofit organizations. Armed with automatic weapons, troops provided no warrants and, in some cases, detained the groups’ employees for hours. They confiscated computers and files and sealed the doors when they left.

The three American groups are all well known and respected. Two of them, the National Democratic Institute and the International Republican Institute, have ties to the main American political parties. They were authorized by the Egyptian government to monitor the country’s first post-Mubarak parliamentary elections, set to resume next week. The third group, Freedom House, just finished its application for official recognition three days ago.

Egypt’s Islamist parties, especially the Muslim Brotherhood, have honed their organizational skills over the years and won a majority in the first rounds of parliamentary voting. But the country’s liberal and secular activists, the heart of the revolution, still need a lot of help to learn the skills to develop political parties, train poll workers and get out the vote.

The raids go against the military council’s promise to allow free and fair elections. They are part of a desperate attempt to intimidate the opposition and cover up the council’s many failures by invoking the canard of “foreign” meddling in Egypt’s unrest.

Egyptians continue to protest because the army has made clear its determination to cling to political power indefinitely — and control lucrative chunks of the economy — no matter how many civilians it has to arrest or kill.

The Obama administration has spoken out firmly against the raids, and, on Friday, it said the Egyptian government had agreed to stop harassing the democracy groups and return their property. The administration needs to keep pressing that message and make clear that if such abuses continue at least some of the $1.3 billion in annual American military aid will be withheld. The European Union should also review its assistance.

Egypt’s generals claim that they are protecting their country. The truth is they are only interested in protecting their own power and perks. Their continued repression is the real threat to Egypt’s stability and its future.