A Blog by the Editor of The Middle East Journal

Putting Middle Eastern Events in Cultural and Historical Context

Thursday, March 1, 2012

The American NGO Workers Can Leave: But What About the Egyptians?

I am glad of course that the Egyptian government has lifted the travel ban on the foreign NGO workers; some of the charged Americans, including Sam LaHood, son of the US Transportation Secretary, have already left for Cyprus. What has transpired is not entirely clear. First, the trial was put off until April. Next, all the judges in the case recused themselves because of "discomfort," whatever that means. (Undue Egyptian government pressure?) Then, the travel ban was listed. It's still not clear if all will leave. The ban was lifted on seven of 16 charged Americans.

Clearly, somebody decided that actually putting the Americans and Europeans through a show trial was going to be counterproductive. Shana Marshall's "Why the US Won't Cut Military Aid to Egypt" at yesterday's Foreign Policy notes the powerful economic interests at play; but it's also worth remembering that there are Egyptian employees of the foreign NGOs, not to mention a number of local Egyptian NGOs targeted in the same investigation. And with the Americans and Europeans gone, does that mean the government is free to wrap up the NGOs' operations with impunity? I'm sure if all the Americans get home free, even if they can't go back to Egypt to do the jobs they'd been doing for years (with tactic government approval), US public opinion will be assuaged and military aid will continue. Of course, the NGOs won't be operating. The US and European nationals will be okay, so that's all right, then. Democratization programs crushed? Collateral damage.

Youm 7 videos of NGO employees departing:

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