Ten years after the state successfully handled the chaotic events in Bahrain, and eight years after the June 30 revolution in Egypt—two turning points at which Egypt and Bahrain succeeded in turning the tide of the so-called Arab Spring, aka the movement to topple regimes— President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi stated in his speech in Belgrade before European delegations on Tuesday 12 October at the Visegrád Group (V4) "We do not need anyone to tell us that we have infringed upon human rights standards." A day later, the Bahraini Minister of Interior Sheikh Rashid bin Abdullah declared before a group of Bahraini human rights NGOs "Our internal affairs, we are better at managing them and taking care of them." Both nations thus emphasize that the issue of human rights is no longer open to outside interference, but rather is an internal affair in which no one has the right to lecture us. The two statements send a clear message to the international community that interference in internal affairs of the two nations under the pretext of defending human rights is a Trojan Horse that is no longer welcome. The statements left no room for interpretation, as any hesitation or lack of clarity in the message would only be considered an open door that encourages re-entry.
The two countries have now overcome any timidity in talking about this issue, as the Minister of Interior said "And we have learned from our history and experience how to deal with crises and emerge them in a better state", and most importantly, the people of Bahrain succeeded in turning human rights into a success story, as the Minister said "It is no secret that the human rights issue, which represents a national success story in the Kingdom of Bahrain, was collaboratively shaped by official and civil institutions and agencies." The two countries have also succeeded in making it a domestic, internal file, not allowing it to be a point of entry or loophole for any foreign interference. This is the sovereign decision that any Arab official, whether Bahraini, Egyptian, or other, must adhere to in order to cut off anyone who tries to play the human rights card in any meeting or setting. This is the unified discourse that every Arab official should espouse, that this is an internal file that we do not accept to discuss.
Among the examples President al-Sisi gave the V4 of achievements in Egypt in this regard, was Egypt taking in 6 million immigrants and treating them not as guests but as citizens, providing them with the same services as Egyptian citizens without discrimination. This is something that the US and many European countries unfortunately do not fully appreciate, while in their countries they put migrants in shelters and fail to provide them with services like those provided by Egypt, nor do they see the progress and development that Bahrain has made in rehabilitation centers, or in treating expatriates just like citizens with no discrimination in the services mentioned by the Minister of Interior. For these Western countries, human rights are limited to the freedom of anarchists and terrorists to disrupt our security, and they do not see it from any other angle, although in these other manifestations of human rights we have greatly surpassed them.
I liked what President al-Sisi said to the Europeans, “If you are worried about us and want to help us, we need transfer of technology, twinning between universities, and localization of industries to provide job opportunities for 65 percent of the Egyptian people, who are the youth.
Unfortunately, these matters do not concern them, but rather they are concerned and issue a statement because the authorities arrested those who violated the law in relation to expression or assembly, and in every meeting, they raise the issue, and their representatives threaten to stop dealing with Arab countries, to ban weapons and close doors, for in their eyes all human rights are limited to the freedom of a handful of disruptive elements only!
The statements that Egypt and Bahrain made today, ten years later, shows that they have learned their lesson and that they will no longer accept lecturing on human rights.
What we need to make progress on the two fronts is: a firm and decisive stance in conveying the message that this is an internal matter in which we reject any foreign interference, and a better communication of the reality of the humanitarian situation in our countries to public opinion and the international community, not to observers and politicians only. This, unfortunately, remains a point of weakness for most Arab countries.
This article was originally published in, and translated from, the pan-Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat.