Egypt’s UNESCO candidate ‘complicit’ in rights violations, says local lawyer
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Egypt’s UNESCO candidate ‘complicit’ in rights violations, says local lawyer

Criticism by domestic human rights groups mounts against Moushira Khattab, 1 of 8 candidates for UN cultural body's top job

Egyptian candidate to head UNESCO, Moushira Khattab (CC BY Mahmoud Khattab, Wikimedia Commons)
Egyptian candidate to head UNESCO, Moushira Khattab (CC BY Mahmoud Khattab, Wikimedia Commons)

A top Egyptian rights lawyer said the country’s candidate for UNESCO’s top job is not qualified for the post because of her silence and “sometimes complicity” in the government’s repressive policies.

Gamal Eid, head of the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information, said on Sunday that he had sought in vain to enlist Moushira Khattab’s help after security agents stormed three of six libraries he set up in poor neighborhoods with prize money from a rights award he won.

After promising to help, Khattab told him the courts would have the final say on the matter, a stance later repeated by President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi. Eid said there was no court case on the closures.

A number of other Egyptian rights groups have also been critical of Khattab’s candidacy, including the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies and Nazra for Feminist Studies. They allege that she is complicit in state attacks on the values for which the UN agency stands.

Ambassador Mohammed el-Orabi, director of Khattab’s campaign, provided a list of 23 civil society organizations supporting Khattab’s candidacy.

Khattab, who previously served in Egyptian diplomatic missions, did not respond to messages by The Associated Press seeking comment.

The chief of the UN’s education and culture agency, Irina Bokova of Bulgaria, August 21, 2015. (AP/Raad Adayleh)

Irina Bokova, the current head of UNESCO, is set to step down from her post later this year.

The board of the UN’s cultural body last week began vetting eight candidates vying to head the organization, which has been accused of bias in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and foot-dragging on reforms.

The UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization infuriated Israel and its staunch ally the United States by granting full membership to Palestine in 2011.

Both countries suspended their funding to the agency — best known for its prestigious World Heritage List — over the move.

Most recently, the Paris-based body delighted Palestinians when it declared the Old City of Hebron in the West Bank an endangered World Heritage site. It has also passed several resolutions ignoring Jewish ties to Jerusalem.

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