It was either the death of irony or one of the greatest-ever acts of inter-state trolling. On Tuesday, the Egyptian government said it was “closely following” events in Ferguson, Missouri – where police have been condemned for their oppressive treatment of protesters and journalists – and “urged US authorities to deal with the demonstrations, according to American and international standards”.
Egypt isn’t the first human-rights violator to revel in the hypocrisy of the US’s behaviour in Ferguson. Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, unleashed a barrage of tweets this week highlighting the disparity between US criticism of rights abuses abroad, and its tolerance of violations at home.
“The flag of #HumanRights is borne by enemies of human rights w/US leading them!” wrote Khamenei, whose government was recently condemned by the US for arresting two western correspondents.
Moscow’s state-funded RT network didn’t miss its chance either, reporting widely on the arrests and assaults of journalists in Ferguson. As diplomatic trolling goes, it hasn’t quite matched a tweet made earlier this summer by Dmitry Rogozin, Russia’s deputy prime minister, who juxtaposed a picture of Vladimir Putin manfully stroking a leopard with one of Barack Obama caressing a puppy. Its message is nevertheless clear: the US should think twice before lecturing others on press freedom.
But while schadenfreude abounds in diplomatic circles this week, nowhere does it drip with more irony than in Cairo. Egypt’s request that Ferguson’s police “exercise restraint and respect the right of assembly and peaceful expression of opinion” comes exactly a week after Human Rights Watch released a 195-page report accusing Egypt’s police force of the premeditated murder of more than 800 largely peaceful protesters at last August’s massacre at Rabaa al-Adawiya. It came amid a slew of four massacres that summer that saw 51 protesters shot dead in early July, another 82 at the end of July, a further 120 in late August, and 37 prisoners gassed to death in the back of a police truck two days later.
At the time, US secretary of state John Kerry called Egypt’s actions “deplorable”, and the US froze most of its aid to the Egyptian government. But, as Amnesty said this week, the “US can’t tell other countries to improve their records on policing and peaceful assembly if it won’t clean up its own human rights record”.
And so, a year after Rabaa, Egypt is getting its own back.