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Egyptians abroad weighing lobby to boost country's image in US

The General Union of Egyptians Abroad will lobby the Biden administration on President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi's achievements.
A voter walks to her ballot box during voting for Egypt's parliamentary elections at the Egyptian embassy October 18, 2015 in Washington, DC.  Egyptians trickled in to polling stations Sunday to elect a new parliament that will tighten President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi's grip on power after he crushed all opposition since ousting his Islamist predecessor. The vote for the much-delayed 596-member parliament is being staged in two phases ending on December 2, with Egyptians abroad casting their votes for the fir

CAIRO — Egypt is seeking to form an Egyptian lobby in the United States to present a positive image of their country and government to the Joe Biden administration.

During an online meeting Feb. 22, the General Union of Egyptians Abroad discussed the possibility of forming an Egyptian lobby aimed at leading civil society organizations to pressure the American public opinion and introduce the Egyptian point of view vis-a-vis the American leadership.

Ismail Ahmad, chairman of the union, said during the meeting, "The union is working on gathering all Egyptian immigrants in the United States — from the West Coast to the East Coast — and unifying their ranks to form an Egyptian lobby capable of achieving several benefits and overcoming challenges.”

The General Union of Egyptians Abroad is a well-known civil society institution in the Ministry of Social Solidarity. The union has publicly declared its support for the Egyptian government and had previously organized several conferences for Egyptians abroad to endorse the nomination of President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi for a second term in office in 2018.

Demands for the formation of an Egyptian lobby in the United States have increased since Biden was elected president.

During a Jan. 25 parliament session in the presence of Minister of Immigration and Egyptian Expatriates Affairs Nabila Makram, member of parliament Ashraf Rashad — the majority leader in parliament and head of the parliamentary committee of the Nation’s Future Party, which is close to the government — called on the “need to form a lobby to defend the Egyptian state through the diplomacy of Egyptians abroad in a bid to explain the reality on the ground, the state’s achievements and role in combatting terrorism.”

On Jan. 31, Makram announced the establishment of the first lobby of young academics abroad to defend Egypt in several countries, mainly in the United States, through a center for Egyptian students abroad, which is responsible for organizing meetings and visits for Egyptian youth in the United States and other countries to promote the Egyptian government role.

Since Biden took office, the United States has begun exerting pressure on Egypt regarding the human rights situation in the country.

On Jan. 25, two members of the US Congress — Don Beyer and Tom Malinowski — announced the formation of the “Egypt Human Rights Caucus.” Both members, who previously served in the US State Department, said they would mobilize support on a bipartisan basis, from the Democratic and Republican parties, in a bid to pressure the Egyptian government regarding its human rights record.

On Feb. 23, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken expressed, in his first call with his Egyptian counterpart Sameh Shoukry, the US’ concern about the human rights situation in Egypt, stressing that this issue is central to the US-Egyptian relations.

In November 2020, following Biden’s victory, Foreign Lobby reported that the Egyptian Embassy in Washington signed an agreement with Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck, a law firm, for the provision of government relations services and strategic advice in matters presented to the US government in relation to Egypt. The lobby team defending Egypt through this public relations company includes several Republican and Democratic politicians.

The Egyptian government has also begun to mobilize Egyptians in the United States to form a lobby to pressure the Biden administration.

Alaa Salim, secretary-general of the General Union of Egyptians Abroad, told Al-Monitor, “The union has begun taking steps to form an Egyptian lobby to confront any US misinterpretation of the situation in Egypt.”

He said, “The union is now identifying the most important Egyptian figures in the United States capable of influencing American society as well as Egyptians who are members of the Democratic and Republican parties, who will be at the basis of the lobby. The lobby would later expand to include more Egyptians based in the United States."

Salim noted, “The aim of forming an Egyptian lobby is to state and confirm that the Egyptian state under President Sisi has made breakthroughs in many human rights issues, most notably in issues related to citizenship, equality, and confronting extremism and intolerance. The lobby would also confront the moves by the Muslim Brotherhood and other opposition groups in the United States to tarnish the image of the Egyptian state, undermine its achievements and incite against it.”

He added, “There has been cooperation between the union and the Egyptian government institutions as well as parliament to mobilize Egyptians based in the United States to support their country and deal with attempts to undermine Egypt."

Tarek Fahmy, professor of political science at Cairo University, told Al-Monitor, “The formation of an Egyptian lobby in the United States is of paramount importance and necessary for Egypt — especially with the Biden administration.”

He said, “There must be adequate funding to form such a lobby. Also, the Egyptian community in the United States is dispersed. Therefore, any Egyptian lobby must have a database of all Egyptians based in the United States to contact them. Prominent figures must also be identified and contacted. It is also equally important to monitor the moves of the Muslim Brotherhood against Egypt in the United States."

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