Suspend Military Aid to Egypt: An Open Letter on Tax Day 2021

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To: Members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee

      Members of the House Foreign Relations Committee

      Members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus

We the undersigned, scholars of Egypt and the Middle East and others who follow regional affairs closely, urge you, on Tax Day, to support civilian, democratic rule in Egypt by suspending military aid to the country.

An estimated 105,000 prisoners are currently held in Egyptian detention centers. The most common estimate is that 60,000 of them are political prisoners. Most prisoners suffer inhumane conditions, including torture, overcrowding, poor sanitation, and medical neglect. The State Department’s Annual Human Rights Report cites, “unlawful or arbitrary killings … forced disappearance; torture and cases of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment by the [Egyptian] government … harsh and life-threatening prison conditions; arbitrary detention.” Civil society activists, bloggers, and journalists have been especially targeted. Human rights workers, scholarly researchers, and medical professionals highlighting the shortcomings of the government’s COVID response face terrorism charges. 

For more than forty years, the US government has spent billions of dollars to help build and sustain a system of rule that does not serve the interests of the Egyptian people. The core of that regime throughout this period has been a small military class whose power is underwritten by American taxpayers. This was true under Hosni Mubarak and it is just as true today under the presidency of Abdel Fattah el-Sisi. 

Sisi established his power in a coup that overthrew the democratically elected president of Egypt in July 2013. Presidential elections in 2014 and 2018 were marred by irregularities. In the 2018 polls, candidates who challenged Sisi were arrested; his only opponent had supported Sisi’s re-election until the day that he registered to run in opposition.

Since the July 2013 coup, Egypt has suffered a dramatic escalation of human rights violations. Nonetheless, Egypt continues to be the second largest recipient of US military aid (after Israel). Since 1978 Egypt has received over $50 billion in military and $30 billion in economic assistance. All military aid since 1985 has consisted of grants which do not have to be repaid. For FY 2021 Egypt is slated to receive $1.3 billion, or $3.56 million dollars a day,

in foreign military financing, the same level of funding it has received since 1987.

Last year Congress passed legislation conditioning $75 million of the appropriated aid to Egypt on the release of political prisoners. These funds are not subject to a national security waiver. An additional $225 million is conditioned on other human rights improvements but may be waived. While this is a positive step, it is inadequate. 

Egypt continues to demonstrate its contempt for human rights. Nonetheless, in February, only days after Egyptian security forces detained family members of human rights activist and dual US-Egyptian national Mohamed Soltan, the Biden administration announced the sale of naval surface-to-air missiles to Egypt worth $197 million. 

On this Tax Day 2021 we raise our voices to call on Congress to suspend military aid to Egypt’s praetorian dictatorship until all political prisoners are released.

Initial Signatories

  1. Ahmed Abbas (CNRS, Paris)
  2. Fida Adely (Georgetown University)
  3. Max Ajl (Wageningen University and Research)
  4. Lori Allen (SOAS, University of London)
  5. Ammiel Alcalay (Queens College, CUNY)
  6. Walter Armbrust (University of Oxford)
  7. Moustafa Bayoumi (Brooklyn College, CUNY)
  8. Joel Beinin (Stanford University, Emeritus)
  9. Marilyn Booth (University of Edinburgh)
  10. Laurie A. Brand (University of Southern California)
  11. Michaelle L. Browers (Wake Forest University)
  12. Jonathan Brown (Georgetown University)
  13. Jason Brownlee (University of Texas at Austin)
  14. Rosie Bsheer (Harvard University)
  15. Charles E. Butterworth (University of Maryland)
  16. Noam Chomsky (University of Arizona/MIT)
  17. Elliott Colla (Georgetown University)
  18. Rochelle Davis (Georgetown University)
  19. Jennifer Derr (University of California, Santa Cruz)
  20. Mona El-Ghobashy (New York University)
  21. Richard Falk (Princeton, Emeritus)
  22. James Gelvin (UCLA)
  23. Irene Gendzier (Boston University, Emeritus)
  24. Joel Gordon (University of Arkansas)
  25. Neve Gordon (Queen Mary University of London)
  26. Elaine C. Hagopian (Simmons College)
  27. Michael Harris (Columbia University)
  28. Waleed Hazbun (University of Alabama)
  29. Steven Heydemann (Smith College)
  30. Rebecca C. Johnson (Northwestern University)
  31. Arang Keshavarzian (New York University)
  32. Assaf Kfoury (Boston University)
  33. Dina Rizk Khoury (George Washington University)
  34. Vickie Langohr (College of the Holy Cross)
  35. Mark Andrew Le Vine (UC Irvine)
  36. Zachary Lockman (NYU)
  37. Shana Marshall (George Washington University)
  38. Melani McAlister (George Washington University)
  39. Timothy Mitchell (Columbia University)
  40. Pete W. Moore (Case Western Reserve University)
  41. Amir Moosavi (Rutgers University–Newark)
  42. Danny Postel (Northwestern University)
  43. Nancy Reynolds (Washington University of St. Louis)
  44. Laura Robson (Penn State University)
  45. Jeff Sacks (University of California, Riverside)
  46. Christa Salamandra (Lehman College, CUNY)
  47. Victoria Sanford (Lehman College, CUNY)
  48. Yezid Sayegh (Malcolm H. Kerr Carnegie Middle East Center)
  49. John Schaefer (Miami University of Ohio)
  50. Sherene Seikaly (University of California, Santa Barbara)
  51. Samer Shehata (University of Oklahoma)
  52. Josh Stacher (Kent State University)
  53. Gregory Starrett (University of North Carolina at Charlotte)
  54. Rebecca L. Stein (Duke University)
  55. Suzanne Pinckney Stetkevych (Georgetown University)
  56. Ted Swedenburg (University of Arkansas)
  57. Chris Toensing (International Crisis Group, for identification purposes only)
  58. Judith Tucker (Georgetown University)
  59. Max D. Weiss (Princeton University)
  60. Jessica Winegar (Northwestern University)
  61. John Womack, Jr. (Harvard University)

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