By Laura Farrington
Egypt, like many countries in the world today, struggles with many environmental issues, as well as human rights disputes. Similar to many other places around the world, Egypt struggles significantly with the issue of urbanization destroying agriculture and wildlife lands. “With an annual national population growth rate of 2.2–3% over the past decades, Egypt has approximately 1 million new citizens to house every 8 months” (Vignal and Dennis 2006). This requires more homes, as well as more businesses to account for the population growth. In order to expand onto already urbanized cities, usable agricultural land must be taken and transformed into residential and commercial areas. This action, although seemingly helpful to the growing population, also has a negative effect on the farm and crop land in Egypt. Destroying crop land leads to not enough locally grown foods, placing a burden on farmers and people who base their life’s work on agriculture. “Egypt loses an estimated 11,736 hectares of agricultural land every year” because of destruction of crop lands (Emam 2011). The growth in population, and simultaneous drop in available crop land, will make it difficult for Egypt to meet its food needs in the future.
An added problem to reduced crop lands is Egypt’s poor water management systems. Egypt has had issues with their water such as inefficiency of their traditional gravity irrigation system, inadequate maintenance of their irrigation and drainage networks, over abstraction of groundwater, and seawater intrusion in coastal areas.
Another environmental problem, which can also be linked to human rights issues, within Egypt right now which contributes to the desertification are the growing rates of poverty and and hunger. “Because there has been an increase in poverty in Egypt people are suffering from hunger so farmers will over harvest their ground, which in the end will further the desertification of the land” (Datti 2010).
Part of the reason for the increased hunger and poverty within Egypt is the inflation of food prices, coupled with high unemployment rates and lack of adequate health care, which leads to more illnesses. Poverty has always been significant problem in Egypt, mainly because of the lack of employment for many people, specifically women and men from working class families. This all becomes linked to human rights issues from affordable health care and adequate employment opportunities to access to affordable food products to unnecessary taking of people’s personal cropland to make room for commercial projects.
One recent, major human rights issue affecting Egypt right now is the government’s attempt to shut down the most prominent institution in Egypt that provides medical services to victims of police brutality and other types of violence. With all the civil unrest in the Middle East right now, this type of government service is very important. According to the Human Rights Watch, on February 16 of this year, the Nadeem Center for the Rehabilitation of Victims of Violence and Torture received an ‘Administrative closure order’ with no details of the reasoning behind the closure (HRW 2016). The closure of this vital piece of Egyptian’s health and wellness brings up the basic human rights issues surrounding the government’s methods of torture and imprisonment. This is just another tactic that the Egyptian government is using to remain in control of not only the large corporations of Egypt, but also the individual Egyptian people themselves. “The Egyptian authorities are smothering the country’s leading human rights defenders one by one. Closing the Nadeem Center would be a devastating blow to Egypt’s human rights movement as well as victims of abuse” (HRW 2016).
Farish Noor defines eurocentrism as “the emerging perception within the European cultural, historical experience of European identity as good and all other forms as less good or less advanced”. When he talks about eurocentrism, he is expressing how we need to take on a different view, rather than Europe being the ultimate comparison for the rest of the world to go on. This is a tough concept though, when the concepts of ‘basic human rights’ should not vary much from person to person, or country to country, so where is the line of acceptable difference drawn?