US postpones award for Egyptian over anti-Semitic tweets

Award to wait while American officials investigate anti-American and anti-Israel online messages

Egyptian human rights activist Samira Ibrahim initially claimed her Twitter account was hacked. (screencapture: Youtube/AlJazeeraEnglish)
Egyptian human rights activist Samira Ibrahim initially claimed her Twitter account was hacked. (screencapture: Youtube/AlJazeeraEnglish)

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Obama administration is postponing an award for an Egyptian activist who rallied worldwide attention against forced “virginity tests” on female protesters because of anti-American and anti-Semitic comments discovered on her Twitter account.

The State Department announced earlier this week that Samira Ibrahim would be among 10 recipients of the International Women of Courage award presented by Secretary of State John Kerry and first lady Michelle Obama on Friday.

But State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said Thursday the US would hold off on awarding Ibrahim while officials investigate the tweets, which include support for attacks against US diplomatic installations and praise for a terrorist assault against Israeli citizens in Bulgaria.

Ibrahim, who has already arrived in the US, says her account was hacked, though the comments stretch back several months.

After five Israelis were killed in a bus explosion in July, she welcomed the “good news.” In other posts, she declared Saudi Arabia’s royal family “dirtier than Jews” and attributed all crimes against society to Jews and referenced Adolf Hitler. She also voiced support for the attacks against US embassies and consulates on the Sept. 11 anniversary.

“We, as a department, became aware very late in the process about Samira Ibrahim’s alleged public comments,” Nuland told reporters. “In conversations with us in the last 24 hours, Ms. Ibrahim has categorically denied authorship. She asserts that she was hacked. But we need some time, and in order to be prudent, to conduct our own review.”

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The tweets were first reported by the conservative publication The Weekly Standard.

The Atlantic reported Thursday that Egyptian activists were responsible for alerting the US Holocaust Memorial Museum, which in turn notified the State Department.

Ibrahim was among seven women subjected to forced “virginity tests” after being detained during a protest in Cairo’s Tahrir Square in March 2011. She helped bring worldwide attention to the tests, which prompted the military to forbid the practice last year.

“Not only did she speak out about that, but she also became a real leader in her country in trying to address gender-based violence and other human rights abuses,” Nuland said. “So it was on that basis that she was initially selected.”

The State Department said Ibrahim also was arrested in high school “for writing a paper that criticized Arab leaders’ insincere support of the Palestinian cause.” She is a coordinator of the Know Your Rights movement, which seeks to raise political awareness and advocate women’s rights in Upper Egypt.

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