An open letter to Michele Dunne

Azza Radwan Sedky
Wednesday 12 Dec 2018

US commentator on Egyptian affairs Michele Dunne has been a constant critic of Egypt, with her ill-informed opinions reaching a crescendo in a recent article for the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace

In a long-winded, 2,900-word, deeply faulty article, you continue your deliberate smearing of Egypt, its military, its judicial system, its parliament, and its leader.

This Egypt-bashing started long before you were barred from entering the country, and it is why you were refused entry. Let’s start with this phase.

You ignored the will and wishes of the Egyptian people in the 30 June Revolution. You told yourself that “Egypt’s democratic opening might very well be over” when, in the eyes of the Egyptians, their regaining of Egypt was the most democratic of all eventualities.

You reckoned that the prospects of things quietening down after 30 June were unlikely, when in fact, and much to your dislike, they did.

You cast an element of doubt over the 2014 presidential elections in Egypt, anticipating a great deal of vote-rigging. You assumed the elections would be a “total sham,” and you did not allow “much room for hope” – both totally erroneous predictions on your part.

From this point on, your animosity to Egypt turned into a vendetta. Not only have you aimed intentionally to instill antagonism to the country, but you even appeared before the US Congress to demand that the US stop its aid to Egypt.

You seem to be on a mission to present the worst impression of Egypt to the rest of the world.

All this is simply by way of a preface to your November 2018 article for the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace entitled “Al-Sisi builds a Green Zone for Egypt” in which you go out of your way to find fault in Egypt’s New Administrative Capital.

For you, the New Capital is where “Al-Sisi will rule indefinitely behind a security cordon,” with the “echoing emptiness” of the Capital symbolising that “Egyptian citizens have no place in Al-Sisi’s vision.”

Your insinuations are delusional. President Al-Sisi cannot remain Egypt’s president forever as you well know, and your view that Egypt’s citizens are being disregarded in the larger scheme of things is simply bizarre.

When two million Egyptians have been cured of the Hepatitis C virus in just two years as a result of government action, is it really the case that “citizens have no place in Al-Sisi’s vision”? When a massive road network has been built to connect dozens of new cities where millions of Egyptians will move from congested ones, and when thousands of new apartment buildings have been erected to replace dilapidated ones, do “citizens have no place in Al-Sisi’s vision”?

Your idea that the New Administrative Capital will be a controlled-access zone “separating citizens from the state” is laughable, since anyone will be able to buy property and live there, and every government employee will have access to the New Capital.

In a flashback to earlier times, you have applauded the way demonstrators burned down the National Democratic Party’s (NDP) headquarters in Cairo and ransacked the state security offices after the 25 January Revolution, until “Al-Sisi brought the whole democratic experiment to a crashing halt with a military coup on 3 July 2013.”

I’ll sidetrack for a moment, Ms Dunne. Are you enjoying the anarchy that is now engulfing France? Are you encouraging that mayhem? Well, Egyptians weren’t proud of similar sights in Egypt either, and they breathed a deep sigh of relief when Fridays became holidays again and when they could walk safely in the streets without encountering chaos.

You say that Al-Sisi has “incarcerated 60,000 political prisoners from across the ideological spectrum”. If you had mentioned that the majority of those imprisoned are members of the Muslim Brotherhood organisation that initiates most of the terrorism in Egypt today, you would have sounded more authentic.

You say that those who remain in the country have chosen to “keep their heads and voices down.” Just a note – Egyptians don’t keep their heads down. They stand up straight, and they hold their heads up high.

Sounding almost disappointed, you say that the Egyptian army has stopped fighting regional wars. This is a good thing, by the way. Then you continue by saying that “Al-Sisi is reorienting Egypt’s economy to serve the interests of the army.” This sounds as if the army is the sole winner in these endeavours, when in fact the current mega-projects, whether carried out by the army or private business, are for the benefit of all Egyptians.

You also fault building a new Coptic Cathedral in the New Capital. Why? Because Copts will be compelled to “troop out” to the New Capital, and “it will become a target for terrorists.”

However, Egypt’s Copts are being given equal opportunities, even if you are attempting to discredit such efforts. Fears of terrorism will not stop us from rebuilding our country.

Your venom continues. “The Al-Sisi regime’s bullying approach to diplomacy led Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry to threaten that Egypt would unleash a flood of migrants across the Mediterranean should European leaders not support Al-Sisi,” you wrote.

I suggest you word things more succinctly and respectfully. Egypt’s efforts to curb the flow of migrants from its shores has been extremely successful, as many European leaders have deemed. It requires vigilance, financing and political will, so please don’t belittle the efforts that have been made.

On another note, the “Al-Sisi regime” does not bully. In fact, the president has never slandered, defamed or bullied even the country’s worst enemies, so please stop embellishing such stories. We leave such rhetoric for other countries to exploit.

You criticise Egypt for declaring the Muslim Brotherhood to be a terrorist group and banning its political party without mentioning its ongoing bloodthirsty efforts.

You also say that political parties “have been compromised” in Egypt because the intelligence services have instigated “leadership splits, financial problems, sex scandals and other maladies to ensure that not a single independent political party… is left standing”.

Why would the regime fear the other parties? The majority of Egyptians are behind it. In the presidential elections of 2018, President Al-Sisi would always have won a landslide victory.

You blame Al-Sisi for the way young people “are underrepresented in the labour force”. Does this mean he is ordering recruiters not to hire young people when in fact every effort is being made to create jobs around the country?

“Now, youth may only speak when spoken to, by Al-Sisi, in carefully orchestrated, invitation-only forums held by the president at the beach resort of Sharm El-Sheikh,” you say.

These forums are hailed as successes all over the world, but you denounce every effort, look down on every project and condemn every promising event instead.

“Al-Sisi made his intention to block any future mass demonstrations plain when he said ‘what happened seven or eight years ago in Egypt will never happen again’.”

You don’t get it, Ms Dunne. Most Egyptians would back this proposition since it has already been seven years since 2011, and we are still only slowly returning to normality. Another bout like the one you propose would take us back decades, and we won’t allow it.

Your comment that Al-Sisi “is far from beloved internationally” is baffling. In all his visits abroad, President Al-Sisi has been met with nothing but respect. German Chancellor Angela Merkel visited Egypt in 2018, a sign that relations between the countries are sound.

Trade exchanges between Britain and Egypt are at an all-time high. On 9 December, African leaders flocked to Sharm El-Sheikh to participate in the Africa 2018 Summit. But you are unable to see all that.

Another prediction on your part is that Al-Sisi will “oversee amendments to the constitution to remove term limits… so that he may remain in office beyond 2022,” as approval from the Egypt’s “tame” parliament is guaranteed.

Come back and say this again once a sign of such efforts materialises. Until then you are simply making up stories.

You end your article on the following note. “Egypt’s restless and resourceful youth, aggrieved Islamists, embittered businessmen and ambitious military officers, working separately or together, might yet find ways to pull down Al-Sisi’s castle of sand.” Dream on, Ms Dunne, dream on.

The first step in any objective journalistic effort is to verify, but nothing in your article is validated or corroborated. Instead, it is built on sweeping fallacies and shoddy journalism, and your abhorrence for Egypt leads you to create far-fetched scenarios.

Ms Dunne, stop going after Egypt. Let this vendetta be. It doesn’t become a scholar like you.

* The writer is a political analyst.

*A version of this article appears in print in the 13 December, 2018 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly under the headline: An open letter to Michele Dunne 

Short link: