Moderator : Hello and welcome to today’s webchat with Ambassador Margaret Scobey. The topic of today’s chat will focus on Egypt – U.S. Bilateral Relations. Ambassador Scobey will lead this discussion and answer your questions.
Ambassador Scobey : Welcome, everyone. I’m delighted to answer your questions today. One of things I most enjoy about my job is the opportunity to meet and speak to Egyptians from all around Egypt. Just this week, I was in Gharbiya Governorate and learned about the economic dynamics of the area. I visited a school and learned about their science and reading programs, and met some of the outstanding students there. The president of Tanta University and I discussed possible areas of future cooperation, and I had the opportunity to meet and hear from women from the Governorate who would like to stand as candidates in the next local election. At the end of the day, I was graciously hosted by Mr. Sayed El Shazly, of Shazly Commercial Dairy, and I learned about the productive relationship they have with the US Grains Council and the American Soybean Association, and saw their herd of American Holstein cattle. I’d especially like to thank General El Shenawy, Governor of Gharbiya, for his kind hospitality during my visit.
My hope is that I can visit every Governorate in Egypt, because I find that I learn so much more about Egypt and Egyptians when I’m out of my office and talking directly to people from all over Egypt. Your stories and our shared history have created a strong connection between Americans and Egyptians for more than 150 years. To document this longstanding partnership, we recently published a collection of photographs owned by the US Embassy in a book called “The United States and Egypt, 150 Years of Friendship.” This pictorial history highlights different aspects and phases of the relationship, from political and diplomatic relations through war and peace, to our enduring cultural and historical ties. We hope to have this online soon so that everyone can have a chance to see it.
With that, let’s begin with your questions.
Abdallah Abu Enaja : Hello Ambassador Scobey, First, What realistic plans do the USA government have to persuade Muslims that the war against terrorism isn’t a war to terminate Islam ?
Second , in case you have these plans , do you touch effective co operation in carrying out these plans on the side of the governments of The Islamic countries ?
Finally , thank you and the USA government for every helpful hand given by you to the peace , prosperity and welfare of every part on Earth.Thank you.
Ambassador Scobey : Abdallah, thank you for your question and your kind words.
In President Obama’s speech in Cairo, he reminded us that Islam has always been a part of America’s story. He said that our second President John Adams wrote: “The United States has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion or tranquility of Muslims.” And since our founding, American Muslims have enriched the United States. They have fought in our wars, served in government, they have stood for civil rights, they have started businesses, they have taught at our universities, they have excelled in our sports arenas, they have won Nobel Prizes, built our tallest building, and lit the Olympic torch. And when the first Muslim-American was recently elected to Congress, he took the oath to defend our Constitution using the same Holy Koran that one of our Founding Fathers – Thomas Jefferson – kept in his personal library.
There are nearly seven million American Muslims in our country today who enjoy incomes and education that are higher than average.
Moreover, freedom in America is indivisible from the freedom to practice one’s religion. That is why there is a mosque in every state of our union, and over 1,200 mosques within our borders. That is why the United States government has gone to court to protect the right of women and girls to wear the hijab, and to punish those who would deny it.
The Embassy manages a range of exchange opportunities and cultural programs aimed at exposing Egyptians to life in America and in particular, the fact that America is in no way at war with Islam. In fact, one of our International Visitor programs provides opportunities for graduates from the Faculty of Islamic Studies at Al Azhar University to study and conduct research in the United States. In terms of cultural programming, the Embassy invites speakers to discuss the situation of Muslim-Americans in the United States and how Muslim-Americans are actively engaged in the political sphere and civil society.
Walid : hello sir , i walid student . i want study in usa . so what can i do to travel and study – walid
Ambassador Scobey : Walid, I’m delighted you want to study in the U.S. Please take a look at the Embassy website and at our Facebook Study USA- Egypt page. There are opportunities for all types of students and teachers, and we welcome Egyptian students in the U.S. Through our partner, AMIDEAST, we offer information sessions on how to apply, and even how to obtain financial aid. The number of Egyptian students enrolled in U.S. institutions of higher education has been increasing for the last 3 years, and last year, it reached 1,900 Egyptian students.
Martin : Dear Sir or Madame: My fiancé and I will be saying our wedding vows in front of the pyramids [2-14-2010] and would like have the ambassador Margaret Scobey (or a US representative) to be the officiate. We will have the marriage legalized the day we fly out to Egypt in California. We are an adventurous couple and would like to have a exciting way to say our vows to each other. The ceremony will only consist of the wedding couple and photographer and will not take too long. We would appreciate any assistance you may have to offer. firstname.lastname@example.org
MARTIN C-H NGUYEN, ESQ.
Ambassador Scobey : Hi Martin, Congratulations on your upcoming nuptials (and on your creativity too!) I think you will have a memorable time in Egypt if you celebrate your marriage here. Unfortunately, Ambassadors, unlike a ship’s captain, do not have marriage authority, so I can’t officiate. But I do encourage you to visit Egypt and recommend that you consult the Egyptian Embassy in Washington regarding your desire to be married in front of the pyramids. I can’t think of a more magnificent symbol of an enduring relationship than the Great Pyramids of Giza.
yoeseph al : since jan 23 of the year 2008 till now i see the realtion between usa and egypt is realy great in all topics what i need from you honor is to make sure that all the help that usa give to egypt goes to real public of egyptain people if is it possible i will be under your service the rest of my life and thanks alot for all any way u r such great person
Ambassador Scobey : Thanks for your question. I am proud of the way USAID programs are designed to improve the quality of life for ALL Egyptians. A quick glance at some of the accomplishments that have resulted from the work we have undertaken with our partners in Egypt over the last five years will show you how our programs reach a broad range of the population:
Libraries in all 39,000 Egyptian public schools, totaling over 24 million books;
A 216 percent increase in the number of microfinance borrowers, many of whom are women who are the sole family provider;
A 26 percent reduction in the infant mortality rate, a 31 percent reduction in the children under five mortality rate, and a 16 percent reduction in the mortality rate for women during, or soon after, pregnancy;
Improved drinking water service for more than five million people living in Alexandria;
Farmer incomes have almost doubled for members of horticultural producer associations set up with USAID assistance; and
Lead pollution levels have been reduced by 75% in Cairo’s densely populated Shoubra El Kheima area.
I think these statistics, a small sample of our achievements, speak for themselves and clearly demonstrate the wide reach of our programs in Egypt. And let me assure you that we have audit offices in USAID whose full time job is to ensure that our money is well spent and that it reaches the targeted people. We do have a strong monitoring system on all our money and activities.
KHALID METWALY : Ambassador Margaret Scobey , I apreciate your conference today , i wanted to meet with you at the embassy one day but i guess its hard .
I am an Egyptian American , Currently in Egypt , I won a foundry for steel , The foundry is currently not operating however , my question is , The American Aid to Egypt , Can i have a chance in getting a part of this Aid that will help me run the foundry and make it a successfull place?
we estimate the number of Egyptian workers will be 600 workers and that will provide good living for all these workers . Please advice how to apply to get this Aid.
Ambassador Scobey : Thank you for your question, Khalid. A major portion of USAID assistance has focused on strengthening Egypt’s private sector. USAID does not invest, however, in individual business enterprises. I would be happy to have someone in the Economic section of the Embassy contact you to see if we have any ideas that may be of use to you. You can send your contact information to email@example.com and we will call you.
Gamal Essam El-Din : My question to her excellency ambassador Scobey is that how does she see the impact of the US State Department’s annual reports on human rights and religious freedoms on the relations between America and Egypt? The Egyptian foreign ministry’s spokesman Hossam Zaki harshly criticised these reports, wondering who gave a certain country the right to judge the situation of human rights in another country? Not to mention that Mr Zaki said that most of the information cited by the reports of US state department’s on human rights and religious freedoms in Egypt are entirely unfounded. How do you respond?
Gamal Essam El-Din
Al-Ahram Weekly newspaper
Ambassador Scobey : The US believes strongly that all individuals should be allowed to exercise freely the human rights and fundamental freedoms enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. This belief is central to our value system and to our foreign policy. One of those fundamental freedoms is the freedom to practice a religion without a state interfering or oppressing that practice. These are not just American values – these are agreed to be universal values. Respect for these values are cornerstones for every healthy society, fostering tolerance and respect among different communities and allowing nations to become more stable, secure and prosperous.
Two days ago, Secretary Clinton outlined the US Human Rights Agenda for the 21st Century. She said, “A commitment to human rights starts with universal standards and with holding everyone accountable to these standards, including ourselves.” She pointed to President Obama’s executive order on his second day in office prohibiting the use of torture by a US official. She also noted that next year’s State Department annual report on human trafficking will include the US for the first time, and we will participate through the UN in the Universal Periodic Review of our own human rights record. So yes, it’s important to hold ourselves accountable to the same standards. As Secretary Clinton said, “Often the toughest test for governments, which is essential to the protection of human rights, is absorbing and accepting criticism.” The American experience shows how we’ve struggled with this, from internment of Japanese Americans in the 1940s to the discrimination embodied in Jim Crow laws of the American South.
As for the Human Rights Report and the International Report on Religious Freedom, we welcome contributions that would make it more accurate. These are large reports and we are required to answer a large number of questions. We do our best to answer them factually. We invite anyone to come to us and say, “I think you are wrong here, this is really what happened.” When we prepare these reports we seek a variety of opinions and sources, including the government, civil society, individuals and news reports. We also try to fact-check and look for corroboration of incidents so we don’t just take one person’s word about what happened. One thing I would like to point out is that the National Commission of Human Rights of Egypt publishes an annual human rights report, and when I compare the summary of that report with the issues raised in our report, they are very similar.
Ra’ed Mohamed : I hope you accept my appreciation and respect to the efforts of the US governemnt in supporting the Egyptian educational system, most distinguished for us here in Luxor is the various precious books in almost every school. But as we believe that you are one of the basic sponsors of the professional development of teachers, especially Teachers in English, we notice the decrease of the role since the sudden suspense of the scholarship program in 2001. I am asking if this program is or can be replaced by training programs that can be held in far areas, like upper Egypt or providing opportunities of studying via the same program but through distance learning.
Ambassador Scobey : Ra’ed, thank you for your question. The Embassy continues to support English language education in Egypt in a variety of programs. I am not familiar with the particular program you described, but we do have several new opportunities for teachers. The SUSI Secondary School, International Leaders in Education, and Teaching Excellence and Achievement programs are all geared toward secondary school teachers, and we encourage teachers of English to apply now. The ILEP and TEA programs focus on teaching methodology, and have a practical internship component. You can find information on all of these programs on the Embassy’s web page at http://egypt.usembassy.gov/ and on the Study USA-Egypt Facebook page.
Best of luck to you in your professional development.
Bassma El Shazly : It was a pleasure to have the opportunity to meet you at El Shazly Dairy Farm. I hope you enjoyed your visit with us, I’m writing to you just to thank you for your great visit to our farm we had the pleasure to host you in our house on the 14th of December 2009.
Looking forward to know your feedback about your visit with us.
Ambassador Scobey : Dear Bassma, I had a wonderful visit and enjoyed meeting your family and seeing the great business you have built. Whenever I eat or drink a dairy product in Egypt, I will think of you. Good luck, and thanks again for your hospitality!
Ahmed Aly : Hello, Why are you chatting today? I hope my question is not rude, but what is the occasion? Ambassadors usually talk when they leave the office, or when something significant has happened. What is the state today?
Ambassador Scobey : Hi Ahmed, and thanks for your question. This web chat is an opportunity for me to hear what is in the minds of Egyptians today, and it is something I try to do every few months. One of the most pleasant jobs of any U.S. Ambassador is the opportunity to visit and listen with a variety of citizens in the host country. In addition to the occasional web chat, I try to visit cities and towns outside of Cairo, and to talk to students and other groups in Egypt on a regular basis.
amro selim -Journalist : m.s margreet .. is united states support certain person for 2011 egyptian presidency elections ?
Ambassador Scobey : Hi Amro, I already answered this question in Arabic, but for you English-speakers out there, let me answer to the question again.
The question of the 2011 presidential elections is one that can only be answered by the people of Egypt.
Ahmed Mourad : Hello Ambassador Scobey,
It gives me the greatest pleasure to be on this chat today with your honor. I am an investor under the E2 visa business program . The program allows Egyptians who invest in usa To Live in Usa. The Visa issued is a 3 month Visa single Entry , However , the stay is 2 years upon entry to USA. while other countries are issued the same type of visa as a 5 years visa multiple Entry , unlike Egyptian Investors who recieve a 3 months single Entry Visa. Ever time we visit Egypt we have to go to the embassy , make an appointment and wait few weeks till interview date , pay interview fees of 740 le for each family member ( 5 total)
I hope we as egyptian Investors can get the same benifit of the 5 years multiple entry visa . Also i am surprized the B1/B2 visa gets 5 years multiple Entry howver the investor who spends money gets an E2 visa with 3 months single Entry. I thank you again for this webchat and looking forward to hearing from you .
Ambassador Scobey : Hi Ahmed, I’m glad you raised this question. This policy is set in Washington, but we are going to pursue your points with the Department of State in Washington. If you want more information, please send your contact information to firstname.lastname@example.org, and we’ll be glad to get back to you.
Ahmed Aly : Hello, In all of your conversations and interviews, you mention the importance of studying in the United States, and you mention the exchange programs that the American administration is spending millions of dollars for it. But in reality,Egyptian students usually face difficulties in obtaining visas, and they are considered as “illegal immigrants”. What is your advice to those students who missed the opportunity of studying in America, just because of visa refusal?
Ambassador Scobey : Dear Ahmed, The number of Egyptians studying in the U.S. has increased steadily over the last three years, and the number reached over 1900 last year. We have also increased funding for a variety of scholarship and training programs. Unfortunately, our pool of scholarship money is not unlimited, and we are not able to accommodate every applicant. Please check our facebook page at Study USA-Egypt, where you can find information about our partner, AMIDEAST, which offers training sessions on opportunities to study in the U.S. and also provides sessions on how to finance your studies in the U.S.
In addition to all the academic and financial requirements for studying in the U.S., all visa applicants must demonstrate eligibility for the visa. I wish you the best of luck, wherever you pursue your studies!
Martin : I am a coptic Egyptian citzen……. i and other copts in Egypt suffer from violence by muslims i need lots of pages to describe what happen to copts in Egypt and we hope that our God solve our problems through you http://freecopts.net/english/ – this site describe what happen to copts in Egypt.
Ambassador Scobey : Thank you for your comment Martin. I know I have already answered this in Arabic, but let me reiterate for those who may not read Arabic:
President Obama has strongly emphasized the importance of religious freedom and minority rights. In his Cairo speech, the President referred specifically to Egypt’s Copts and stated our belief that, “People in every country should be free to choose and live their faith based upon the persuasion of the mind and the heart and the soul. This tolerance is essential for religion to thrive.”
That is why we seek a principled engagement with all nations, including Egypt, on this issue—in a spirit of mutual interest and mutual respect. All nations, including the United States, wrestle with how best to accommodate their religious diversity. We are convinced that the freedom to profess, practice, and promote one’s religion is a basic human right, a social good, a source of stability, and a key component of international security.
The US Department of State makes an annual report on religious freedom worldwide, and the most recent report is available on the Embassy website at http://egypt.usembassy.gov/.
Beshoy Ghali : I would like to know what is the best option to obtain a Visa to travel and work in the united states ?
Ambassador Scobey : Dear Beshoy: As you are aware, there are many types of visas for travel to the United States. These include visas for business, tourism, studies, and employment, as well as many others. If you wish to work in the United States, your prospective employer will need to file a petition on your behalf with DHS. Once you have an approved petition, it can be processed at the embassy. I would encourage you to take a look at the embassy’s website, which provides a wealth of information concerning visa categories and requirements. Good luck!
Mohamed Zeid : What is her Excellency’s expectations regarding the upcoming strategic dialogue between both countries? Iran’s influnce on the region and how her Excellency views crucial roles of countries like Egypt in the region? Human rights in Egypt…
Ambassador Scobey : Thank you for your question, Mohamed. We look forward to continuing our strategic dialogue, which began in June, 2009. Egypt’s contributions to regional stability and its shared interests in finding peaceful solutions to the problems of the region are appreciated by the United States, and we find the strategic dialogue to be of great value. I anticipate that the meetings in Washington today will cover a broad range of regional topics.
Moderator : Thanks to everyone who participated in today’s webchat and thanks to Ambassador Scobey for joining us.
Ambassador Scobey : Thank you very much, and I look forward to doing this again in a few months!