the financial files and the program files for the center were kept. These were systematically rounded up. They were all taken to state security headquarters in another part of the city and held incommunicado overnight.

When my son, who is 25 years old, returned to the house after an evening out with friends, he was told by observers that this had happened. He began mobilizing my married daughter and her husband and others of our friends, but until the early hours of the morning we did not know what had happened to my husband. We tried calling him on his cellular phone (which figured in the discussions this morning) but that telephone had been confiscated by a strange voice, who told my children that their father was attending a seminar, he was speaking, he had asked not to be disturbed, at the Sheraton Hotel and, therefore, they had nothing to worry about.

I was out of the city but I quickly made arrangements to return and by early in the morning we had gathered. By then he had been allowed a phone call, so we knew where he was being held, and that he would be interrogated that day.

That is a little bit of the personal story, the personal background, of what brings me to this seat in your presence today.

We believe that this is a stage in Egypt’s political and social development where the country very much stands at a crossroads in its evolution as a modern state and as a modern society. The government of Egypt contains a strong cadre of progressive and enlightened and very modern forces who understand the global realities, who want Egypt to join states that operate under the rule of law, who very much believe in global human rights and what it represents. They have been active in Palestinian-Israeli peace negotiations on the side of moderation and resolution. So on the one hand, you have this presence very much within the state, actively promoting human rights.

Just to give you one very striking example: while my husband was imprisoned over the summer, someone faxed to me from Geneva the text of the UN declaration on the protection of human rights defenders, and this is a document that you will begin to hear more and more about as states begin to ratify it, but the drafting committee had been working for a number of years, a small group of states, behind closed doors, to ensure that human rights defenders have the freedom of speech to criticize their governments without repercussions, to accept international funding, so all of the things under which my husband is now being charged were being protected in the text of this declaration. What struck me particularly was the footnote at the bottom of the first page, which showed the states that had participated in the drafting committee of that piece of legislation and Egypt was an active participant in that small committee; they had approved every single word of the convention and, of course, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has a very active human rights office within its ranks. So—one side of the Egyptian regime.

At the same time, unfortunately, we also deal with forces within the government that are remnants from a more authoritarian past, from a Cold War era in which everything was seen in terms of inside/outside espionage, control of information, and where the mentality is if you disagree or if you have an

The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement