The tweets that cost Samira Ibrahim her State Department award


Hillary Clinton and Michelle Obama at the 2012 International Women of Courage Awards. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)

At 3 p.m., Secretary of State John Kerry and first lady Michelle Obama presented Women of Courage Awards to nine bloggers, teachers and human rights protesters -- but Egyptian activist Samira Ibrahim will not be among them.

The Obama administration announced Thursday it would postpone her award after the Weekly Standard unearthed anti-Semitic comments on her Twitter account. Ibrahim has since "refused to apologize" for her tweets, writing on Twitter that the "Zionist lobby in America" is to blame.

The State Department was honoring Ibrahim for speaking out against the sexual abuse she suffered in Tahrir Square in 2011, when Egyptian soldiers subjected her and other female protesters to brutal "virginity tests."

"She . . . became a real leader in her country in trying to address gender-based violence and other human rights abuses," State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said. "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.”

 

A month later, Ibrahim posted a quote she attributes to Adolf Hitler: ”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."

 

According to the Egyptian blogger @SciencePyramid, Ibrahim also posted -- and promptly deleted -- a 9/11 anniversary message saying "America should burn."

 

The incident has enraged U.S. conservatives on Twitter, who accuse the Obama administration of funding Ibrahim's trip without vetting her properly. (According to McClatchy's Hannah Allam, Ibrahim is currently in the U.S. but will go home soon.) It has also drawn attention to anti-Semitism in Egypt and elsewhere.

As the New York Times's Lede blog points out, a number of Egyptian bloggers and researchers have grappled with the fact that Ibrahim could be both "super brave" and bigoted.

One popular blogger compared Ibrahim's remarks to comments President Mohamed Morsi made in 2010, when he told Egyptians to “nurse our children and grandchildren on hatred for Jews and Zionists.”

 

@SciencePyramid has also claimed Ibrahim's anti-Semitic remarks are not unusual among Egyptian revolutionaries.

 

But another Egyptian blogger, who goes by the name salamamoussa, has encouraged Ibrahim to fight back against that image. On his blog, salamamoussa urged her to apologize publicly and even posted a suggested statement for her:

My country has struggled with the effects of decades of misrule and centuries of stagnation. We have allowed our education to decay and our social discourse to grow crude and divisive in spite of our increased religiosity. I, like many other young Egyptians, have fallen into this trap at times. But it is never too late for any one to change.

 

Caitlin Dewey runs The Intersect blog, writing about digital and Internet culture. Before joining the Post, she was an associate online editor at Kiplinger’s Personal Finance.
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Caitlin Dewey · March 8, 2013