*Egyptian Activist Dropped from US Honors List for Tweets Supporting Terror, Including in Bulgaria

Views on BG | March 8, 2013, Friday // 13:13
Bulgaria: *Egyptian Activist Dropped from US Honors List for Tweets Supporting Terror, Including in Bulgaria “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,” Samira Ibrahim wrote on Twitter. Photo by EPA/BGNES

New York Times


The State Department dropped an Egyptian activist from a list of women to be honored in Washington on Friday after comments celebrating attacks on Israelis in Bulgaria and the American Embassy in Cairo were discovered in her Twitter feed, along with an anti-Semitic quotation from Adolf Hitler.The activist, Samira Ibrahim, shattered taboos in Egypt by speaking out about sexual abuse she suffered in March 2011, when she and other female protesters detained in Cairo's Tahrir Square were subjected to so-called virginity tests by Egyptian soldiers. Encouraged by her father, a religious conservative, Ms. Ibrahim filed suit against the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, known as Scaf, which ruled Egypt at the time.

The State Department was notified of the inflammatory comments on Tuesday by an official at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, the Atlantic blogger Jeffrey Goldberg reported. A museum spokesman said that Egyptians critical of Ms. Ibrahim's comments had drawn them to their attention. Early Wednesday, Ms. Ibrahim disavowed the remarks in a Twitter update that read: "my account has been hacked more than once and any note of racism and hatred is not me."

Ms. Ibrahim did not respond to requests for comment, but later on Thursday she appeared to back away from the claim that she had been hacked in a new update to her Twitter feed which read: "I refused to apologize to the Zionist lobby in America for previous comments hostile towards Zionism under pressure from the American government so the prize was withdrawn."

Although Ms. Ibrahim is already in the United States, and spoke with fellow honorees at a college in Pittsburgh on Monday, her name was removed Thursday from the official list of this year's winners of the Secretary of State's International Women of Courage Award.

A State Department spokeswoman, Victoria Nuland, confirmed that Ms. Ibrahim would not be honored Friday, pending an investigation of her Twitter account. "We, as a department, became aware very late in the process about Samira Ibrahim's alleged public comments," Ms. Nuland told reporters on Thursday. "After careful consideration, we've decided that we should defer presenting this award to Ms. Ibrahim this year so that we have a chance to look further into these statements. I would say that in conversations with us in the last 24 hours, Ms. Ibrahim has categorically denied authorship. She asserts that she was hacked. But we need some time and — in order to be prudent to conduct our own review."

To convince the State Department that her account was hacked, Ms. Ibrahim would need to explain why she made no mention of it until this week, months after a series of objectionable updates were posted in her name.

As Samuel Tadros, an Egyptian scholar at the Hudson Institute, a conservative research organization in Washington, reported in The Weekly Standard, four inflammatory comments appeared on Ms. Ibrahim's account last year between July 18 and Sept. 11.

The first comment, posted the day that five Israelis were killed in a terrorist attack in Bulgaria, read: "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."

The following month, one update called the Saudi royal family "dirtier than Jews." Another comment, described as a quote from Hitler, read, " 'I have discovered with the passage of days, that no act contrary to morality, no crime against society, takes place, except with the Jews having a hand in it.' Hitler."

According to an Egyptian blogger who writes as Science Pyramid on Twitter, a mocking, anti-American comment was then posted on Ms. Ibrahim's Twitter account on the morning of Sept. 11, which read: "Today is the anniversary of 9/11. May America burn every year." Before that update was deleted from Ms. Ibrahim's feed, the blogger said, he copied and drew attention to the full text of the comment, which included an untranslatable play on words in Arabic, but a starkly anti-American message.

Although this comment has been interpreted as a celebration of the attack on the American consulate in Benghazi, Libya, that day, a discussion with Science Pyramid, and an examination of the metadata associated with his own Twitter message quoting the remark, shows that the original remark must have been published on Twitter before noon in Cairo — hours before the subsequent attack in Libya.

In an exchange with The Lede by direct message on Twitter, the blogger who writes as Science Pyramid explained that he takes a skeptical view of revolutionary activists like Ms. Ibrahim. "My take on the revolution is that it was filled with na?vet?, hopeless idealism (that even I initially subscribed to) and revolutionary zeal that led to stupid mistakes and lack of focus and lack of pragmatism leading to the terrible takeover by medieval Islamists, an economy in a death spiral and a lawless anarchy. That's your revolution."

In the wake of these reports, Michael Hanna, an Egyptian researcher at the New York-based Century Foundation, observed on Twitter that it might be possible to honor Ms. Ibrahim's battle for her rights against the military and still condemn her anti-Semitic remarks.

The State Department spokeswoman, Ms. Nuland, said something similar, reminding reporters: "We initially selected Ms. Ibrahim because of the incredible bravery and courage she displayed at the time of the Tahrir Square protests. As you may recall, she was detained, she was subject to real police violence. Not only did she speak out about that, but she also became a real leader in her country in trying to address gender-based violence and other human rights abuses. So it was on that basis that she was initially selected, but obviously, these comments need to be looked into and we need some time."

As Ms. Ibrahim told The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette before an appearance at Chatham University on Monday, her experience of sexual violence led her to start a campaign "to encourage young women to share their stories using social media, to share those stories of sexual violations or any kind of violations, and to educate women about their political rights."

The intense focus on Ms. Ibrahim's Twitter account was not the first time Mr. Tadros, the Egyptian scholar at the Hudson Institute who scoured her feed for The Weekly Standard, has devoted himself to exposing anti-Semitism in Egypt. In 2009, he co-wrote an article for the Wall Street Journal's opinion page that claimed, "in Egypt, there's a dirty little secret about these self-described liberal parties: They are, for the most part, virulently anti-Semitic."

On Thursday, he wrote on Twitter that he was glad to see a number of Egyptians denounce Ms. Ibrahim's comments.

In what may have been an attempt to repair some of the damage, Ms. Ibrahim's most recent update on Twitter compared the plight of Egypt's Christian Coptic minority to that of Jews who were forced to leave the country decades ago. "What is happening to the Copts now in Egypt previously happened to the Jews," she wrote. "Enough racism, enough hatred, Egypt is for all Egyptians."

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Tags: Samira Ibrahim, Bulgaria, Burgas, terrorist attack, Israeli, Victoria Nuland, State Department, Egyptian activist
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