As you probably know if you have been reading my posts over the past couple of weeks, I am a human rights activist and work for a human rights organization at the moment. While I find my job fulfilling , however, I am also always concerned about the status of human rights in my country. in talking about the status of human rights, I am not only referring to the respect of human rights by the Egyptian government, I am also referring to the understanding of what human rights are to many Egyptians . Many Egyptians hold the view that human rights are a Western, even imperialist , conception that only serves to diminish state sovereignty by making it accountable to "foreign" institutions such as the United Nations. I do not blame them. For thirty years, many Egyptians have been subjected to state media that instills fraudulent notions about what it means to respect human rights, always painting any human rights institution as a body that seeks foreign, unwarranted intervention. By extension, any human rights defender is surely associated with these foreign bodies and , thus, should never be trusted. In such an environment, it becomes very difficult for human rights activists, such as myself, to try and induce any change. I am still faced with situations in which I find that I have to defend myself for working in a human rights organization, dealing with not-so-innocent jokes about the NGO I am working for receiving illicit funds for surreptitious purposes. However, the situation is not very bleak. In the context of a post-revolution Egypt, sparked by events such as the brutal murder of Khaled Said at the hands of the Egyptian police, I see the potential for a country and a people that would gain more understanding of human rights. I always think, if only Egyptians realize that they revolted because they were ruled by a regime that consistently violated their rights. In order to instill that realization, I think the most pragmatic solution is human rights education. That is, starting a program with the goal of educating Egyptians as to what human rights are, why they matter, and the way in which a regime that does not respect them is one that would make life torturous. Pulsewire and other online communities can certainly help me introduce change, as they will provide a platform through which human rights education can take place. At a time when ever more Egyptians are joining Facebook, Twitter, and other social media outlets, engaging with the public through these platforms is, I think, a sure way to bring about change.

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Comment on this Post


Dear MasaAmir,

Thank you for providing such insight into attitudes toward human rights in Egypt. I also appreciate your steadfast work to change the perceptions that thirty-some years of effective propagandizing (as well as some warranted suspicion regarding some foreign undertakings) have inculcated in the Egyptian people. You are doing important work - and at a very critical time - in Egypt and as we saw from the Egyptian revolution this winter and spring, what happens in Egypt matters around the world.

Education is always an admirable goal. The question is How? What are your thoughts on how human rights education is best approached in Egypt? No doubt as a human rights activist you have many discussions on this with your colleagues. What are some of the ideas that resonate best for Egypt's future?

All the best to you,


Thanks Masa for sharing this. I'm from Egypt too and I can relate to what you're saying. I was working on a child's rights campaign and I remember the kind of accusations I faced from the community of being funded by the U.S. and Israel and all of these conspiracy theory accusations that we saw also during the uprising.

I want to ask you as a human rights educator, how are you planning to work on the perceptions, values and behaviors of a whole generation that has a distorted image of a human being. Do you think there is any hope in this generation, or it's better to focus on the coming one?

I think it's great that you recognize the issues in Egypt and have solutions to create change. Think about making your writing more personal so that the reader can connect on a deeper level with you and where you are in terms of making that change for your people.


This is an amazing article. Thank you! You have raised some fundamental questions. Basic to the discussion is the question of who determines what the rights of a people should be. Are there universal human rights? (For example, as in the declaration of human rights as defined by the United Nations.) Or should human rights be defined by each nation within their own context and culture? And who within each nation should address the question of rights for that nation; the rulers or the ruled? I don't know the answer to these questions but I suspect that the answer is YES. Yes, there are universal human rights. AND, yes, each nation should exercise self determination of "human rights" within their own context and culture. AND, yes, the voice of the ruled should prevail over the will of the rulers. You have initiated a dialog with your article as demonstrated in the comments you have received. Perhaps formulating answers to these questions could be initiated within such a dialog. Isn't open dialog a fundamantal human right?