Tea with Madame Mubarak
At the moment I’m in Egypt with the diplomatic training program of the Swedish foreign ministry. Our program contains meetings with as well NGO:s and Human rights activists as with officials from the Egyptian government.
Yesterday our group of young diplomats had been invited to have tea with Madame Mubarak, the first lady of the country and wife of the Egyptian dictator (since 1981) Hosni Mubarak.
After being directed through the presidential palace by two chiefs of protocol who seemed surprisingly nervous, we were offered tea and cookies by the first lady in the presidential reception hall.
Apart from a general introduction about youth participation, tolerance and gender equality (aspiring for world record in political correctness being the wife of a brutal dictator) Mrs Mubarak was kind to answer our questions.
I took the chance to ask her about the blogger Karim Amer who was recently sentenced to four years of prison for giving political comments on his blog (the judge had been kind enough to motivate the sentence, three years of prison for insulting islam and one year for critizising president Mubarak). My question concerned the difficulty of promoting youth participation (sic!) on the one hand, and locking up young political activists on the other.
Mrs Mubarak’s answer turned into a fluffy speach about the cultural sensitivity of islam, claiming not to know anything about the specific case of Karim Amer. She also elegantly ignored the fact that one fourth of Karim’s sentence was motivated by his critique of Mubarak and apparently had nothing to do with islam.
Leaving the presidential palace after having finished our tea but left most of the presidential cookies untouched, most of us had a very awquard feeling…
…not very surprised about Madame Mubaraks empty message, but concerned about the weakening pressure of the international community and the EU when it comes to Human rights in Egypt.