The International Women of Courage Award has been revoked from Egyptian Women activist, Samira Ibranhim, due to her anti-American and anti-Semitic tweets. The award was supposed to be presented to her this Friday from Michelle Obama and John Kerry.
Ibrahim was one of a group of protesters who were subjected to forced “virginity tests” after being detained during a protest in Cairo’s Tahrir Square in March 2011. She helped bring worldwide attention to the tests, which led to the military banning the practice last year. It was this as well as her being “a real leader in her country in trying to address gender-based violence and other human rights abuses” that she was initially selected as a recipient.
In July of last year, after five Israeli tourists and a Bulgarian bus driver were killed in a bombing, she tweeted “An explosion on a bus carrying Israelis in Burgas airport in Bulgaria on the Black Sea. Today is a very sweet day with a lot of very sweet news.” As a mob was attacking the United States embassy in Cairo on Sept. 11 of last year, pulling down the American flag and raising the flag of Al Qaeda, a tweet on her account said: “Today is the anniversary of 9/11. May every year come with America burning.” The tweet was deleted a couple of hours later, but not before a screen shot was saved by an Egyptian activist. In other posts, she declared Saudi Arabia’s royal family “dirtier than Jews”, attributed all crimes against society to Jews and referenced Adolf Hitler.
“We became aware very late in the process about Samira Ibrahim’s alleged public comments,” State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said. Ibrahim denied authorship of the tweets claiming her account was hacked, despite the fact that the comments stretch back several months. She later contradicted her excuse posting on her Twitter page (in Arabic) “I refuse to apologize to the Zionist lobby in America regarding my previous anti-Zionist statements under pressure from American government therefore they withdrew the award.”
My question is – why weren’t the tweets discovered earlier? Only 10 women were to receive this award – chosen from all over the world from all walks of life. With such a selective and honorable award, why wouldn’t the administation do a thorough background check? She should have never been one of the 10 honored in the first place.
The paradox of a human rights activist fighting for political progress, freedom, and justice, while spreading racist hatred is alarming but not unique in Egypt since many people grow up with daily exposure to harsh anti-Jewish, anti-Israel and even anti-American messages in the media, in religious sermons and from family. Many Egyptians are speaking out in Ibranhim’s defense saying she is not at fault for the views expressed on her twitter – Egyptian society is. Blaming “society” for a persons own concious actions and beliefs is a sad excuse for racism and hate. Isn’t an activist supposed to exempliy the complete opposite of this? Isn’t an activist supposed to fight for whats right and just? Fight for change in society? What would our world be if everyone believed anything their generation before them did?
This story should be a warning to others and opportunity to address prevalent hatreds and intolerance in the “new” Egypt and across the region. “Activists, reformers and all who are working for a more representative Middle East should seize this moment to confront the fact that after rejecting the values and policies of repressive dictatorial regimes in favor of liberal democratic freedoms, it is inconsistent and even absurd for “new societies” to hold fast to the prejudices and hatreds so prevalent for decades and so contrary to progressive values of tolerance, openness and coexistence.” Ironically, Samira Ibrahim didn’t apologize and still expresses hatred.