The Day

Trump administra­tion signals sharp policy shift on Egypt


Cairo — When President Donald Trump hosts Egyptian President Abdel Fatah al-Sissi this week in Washington, they will have a packed agenda: the fight against terrorism, the Middle East’s multiple wars, the refugee crisis and Egypt’s anemic economy.

But what is unlikely, at least publicly, is any discussion of the plight of Aya Hijazi.

She’s an Egyptian-American humanitari­an worker from Falls Church, Va., who has been incarcerat­ed by the Egyptian regime for nearly three years, accused of abusing children she was seeking to help through her nonprofit organizati­on. Those charges are widely viewed as false.

The Obama administra­tion could not pressure Sissi’s government to release Hijazi, despite Egypt receiving $1.3 billion in military aid annually. But President Barack Obama drew a line at inviting Sissi to the White House. Under Sissi, repression has been widespread.

Egypt’s security forces have jailed tens of thousands and committed human rights abuses, including torture and forced disappeara­nces of critics and opponents.

Now, Hijazi has become a symbol of the sharp shift in U.S. policy by the Trump administra­tion toward Sissi, placing security cooperatio­n over human right concerns as the main barometer for engagement with authoritar­ian leaders.

At home, Egypt is battling an Islamic State affiliate in its northern Sinai Peninsula and exerts regional influence in numerous crises where the United States is engaged, including the Israeli-Palestinia­n conflict and the wars in Syria, Libya and Yemen.

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