A month ago I wrote to Dr. William McCrea, an MP who had been particularly outspoken on the issue of the persecution of Copts in Egypt. I asked him
How Britain might help the Coptic community in Egypt ?
What he thought about British exports of arms to Egypt ?
What he thought about one British multinational still supplying tear gas to Egypt ?
He kindly forwarded my letter to Alistair Burt, Minister for North Africa and the Middle East. I had also written earlier to Alistair Burt, and even the Prime Minister had forwarded one of my letters to him, but the Minister hadn’t so far replied to either. However this time he did reply in considerable detail.
You can read his response in detail in the attached letter. However I will try to summarize both the more encouraging and more negative aspects of his response.
What I think Egypt’s revolutionaries will like about the British Minister’s response.
His assurance that Britain continues to monitor the human rights situation in Egypt.
His obviously deep concern about the protection of and rights of Copts under any new constitution.
His assurance that the British government is encouraging SCAF to keep to its’ timetable for the transition to civilian rule. (This letter was written prior to the “judicial coup” of 14 June).
His affirmation that the British government hopes to see a new Egyptian constitution which respects the interests of “all Egyptian people.”
However Egypt’s revolutionaries and liberals will be less encouraged by
His claim that the British government can not prevent British Multinationals with factories outside the U.K. supplying the Egyptian military with crowd control material, including tear gas. He says it would “not be legally viable” and “such controls would be impossible to enforce.”
His failure to explain why the British government continues to allow British arms exports to Egypt’s military regime despite acknowledging that “human rights and fundamental freedoms are mandatory considerations for all export licence applications.”
The Minister’s Response – page 1
The Minister’s Response – page 2
And below are some photographs I took in February showing the effects of tear gas used on crowds. Many people were vomiting and one man had gone into convulsions.
04February 2012 – Man lying in Mohamed Mahmoud Street after tear gas attack.
04February 2012 – tear gas attack – Mohamed Mahmoud Street.
4 February 2012 – man being carried off for treatment – Mohamed Mahmoud Street
Effects of tear gas – 4 February 2012 – Mohamed Mahmoud Street
For the first time I’m aware of, a U.K. Member of Parliament says he intends to visit Egypt to see how the country’s Christian minority is being treated. Jeffrey Donaldson, MP for Lagan Valley, Northern Ireland, has already met with Egypt’s only Christian member of parliament to offer his support and help to “raise with the UK government the plight of the persecuted Church in Egypt.”
His letter arrived the same day an Egyptian judge sentenced 12 Coptic Christians to life in prison for their alleged part in a riot in which two Muslims and a Christian were killed in the village of Abu Qurgas. However eight Muslims charged with the same crimes in the same riot were all acquitted.
Jeffrey Donaldson also says he hopes the U.K. government will tighten up the lax controls on arms exports to Egypt and other regimes where such weapons may be used for internal repression. On 9 October last year 24 protesters, mostly Coptic Christians, were killed by the army and pro-regime thugs during a demonstration near Cairo’s main television building. Some protesters were run down by armoured personnel carriers and others shot soldiers allegedly using live ammunition. The army insists they only fired blank cartridges.
Christians in Egypt are very worried about the future and despite my only personal disagreement with some of the MP’s policies on domestic social issues, I think it’s great that he should go to such lengths to try to help even if he hasn’t yet specified the date of his intended visit – here is a copy of a recent letter I received from him in which he makes his views clear.