Egyptian activists pan US actress Helen Hunt in open letter

2017-11-07 18:31
iStock

iStock

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Cairo - Egyptian activists condemned American actress Helen Hunt on Tuesday for her participation in a government-organised youth conference they say is whitewashing authorities' appalling human rights record and suppression of free speech.

The open letter by Mona Seif and other well-known human rights advocates gained nearly 300 signatures by Tuesday afternoon. They included Mohamed Zaree, who last month won the prestigious Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders, and Aida Seif el-Dawla, whose Nadeem Center treats victims of torture and trauma and was shuttered by the government earlier this year.

The letter follows a flurry of online criticism against this week's "World Youth Forum," hosted under the patronage of President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi, 62, in the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh. Hunt, 54, was a keynote speaker at the opening ceremony.

The event's official Twitter hashtag #WeNeedToTalk has become a battleground for opposing viewpoints, with critics overwhelming the thread with images of Egyptian police beating and chasing down youths during al-Sisi's rule alongside portraits of young jailed activists.

"This isn't just any forum that you chose to endorse," the letter to Hunt read. "This is a youth forum with the slogan 'We Need To Talk' called for by a dictator who cannot stand any form of opposition or real criticism. He jails journalists for doing their jobs, youth for expressing their opinions, writers for writing fiction that violates 'public morality,' gays for coming out, supporters of LGBTQ for daring to support diversity, and he has blocked more than 400 different websites and media platforms."

Egypt has waged an unprecedented crackdown on dissent under al-Sisi, a former general who led the military overthrow of his elected but divisive Islamist predecessor in 2013. Thousands have been imprisoned, with some rights advocates putting the number as high as 60 000.

Activists and organisations such as Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have documented enforced disappearances, widespread torture and a recent arrest campaign targeting people authorities believe are gay. The authorities have blocked hundreds of independent news and critical websites.

Al-Sisi denies that Egypt tortures or has any political prisoners, and maintains that human rights are only one among several pressing issues his government is addressing, such as improving the economy and providing stability.

The forum, which lasts until November 10, has been broadcast nearly all day long on state and private television since its opening ceremony on Sunday night. It has been widely promoted with slick television ads in Egypt, where several major Western PR firms advise and work for the government. A giant billboard hovers over Cairo's Tahrir Square, epicenter of the youth-led 2011 uprising.

Hunt, an Academy Award-winning actress who now directs films, delivered a speech on Sunday in which she criticized the US justice system for its high incarceration rates and voiced support for the online anti-sexual harassment movement #MeToo.

That, however, did not deflect criticism from Seif and other Egyptian feminists.

"Unbelievable Hypocrisy! @Helenhunt speaks of "Women Rights" in a PR circus for a general who justified forced virginity tests," Seif tweeted, referring to the military's "virginity tests" conducted on a group of women protesters detained in 2011.

Al-Sisi, who was the chief of military intelligence at the time, was quoted then as saying the tests were necessary to head off possible allegations that the women were sexually assaulted by soldiers.

Others accused Hunt, the most famous Western celebrity at the event, of selling out to al-Sisi, pointing out a string of websites that advertise her as a for-hire speaker with fees between $50 000 to $1m. Hunt did not respond to a social media request to discuss her efforts in Egypt.

Al-Sisi delivered his opening address to the Youth Forum shortly after Hunt, and since then has spoken at length to the major televised panels each day, mainly emphasizing the country's war on terrorism.


Read more on:    amnesty international  |  hrw  |  abdel fattah al sisi  |  helen hunt  |  egypt  |  north africa

Join the conversation!

24.com encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.
NEXT ON NEWS24X

Inside News24

 
/News
Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.




Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.