State Department Denies Courage Award for Egyptian Activist
At the 7 th annual Secretary of State International Woman of Courage Awards, only nine of the previously announced 10 honorees were present. Egyptian activist Samira Ibrahim, named in the original release as one of the winners, was not at the ceremony and will not be receiving an award State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said on Friday.
"Upon further review, the department has decided not to present her with the award. Our understanding is that she plans to return home," said Nuland, who added that the U.S. will help her get home, as the State Department paid for her to come to the United States for the awards ceremony.
The Weekly Standard and other conservative media flagged some of Ibrahim's tweets, which have been criticized for being anti-Semitic.
"On Twitter, Ibrahim is quite blunt regarding her views. On July 18 of last year, after five Israeli tourists and a Bulgarian bus driver were killed in a suicide bombing attack, Ibrahim jubilantly tweeted: 'An explosion on a bus carrying Israelis in Burgas airport in Bulgaria on the Black Sea. Today is a very sweet day with a lot of very sweet news.'" the Weekly Standard noted.
The State Department originally chose Ibrahim because of her work speaking out against the "virginity tests" the Egyptian military forced female protesters to undergo during the Arab Spring two years ago, saying she "was among seven women subjected by the Egyptian military to forced virginity tests in March 2011."
On Thursday, Nuland detailed additional reasoning behind the decision to name Ibrahim as one of the world's courageous women this year.
"We initially selected Ms. Ibrahim because of the incredible bravery and courage she displayed at the time of the Tahrir Square protests," she said. "As you may recall, she was detained, she was subject to real police violence. 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."
Ibrahim initially claimed that the controversial tweets weren't from her and that her account had been hacked, but Nuland said on Wednesday that the State Department needed to conduct its own forensic investigation into both Ibrahim's statements and whether there was a breakdown in the vetting of her candidacy.
Nuland said on Friday that the investigation had concluded and the department would no longer be giving Ibrahim the award.
"We didn't consider some of the public statements that she had made appropriate," said Nuland "They didn't comport with our values."
Ibrahim now takes responsibility for the statements in question and said she stands by them, even if the comments cost her receiving the prestigious award.
"I refused to apologize to the Zionist lobby in America on the previous statements hostile to Zionism under pressure from the American government, so the prize was withdrawn," Samira Ibrahim tweeted Thursday.
At the actual ceremony on Friday, attended by first lady Michelle Obama, there was an emotional moment when Secretary of State John Kerry paid tribute to the last woman to receive the award, "Nirbhaya," the 23-year-old gang rape victim in India. While Nirbhaya is not her real name, the name means fearless in Hindi and was given to her by local media. Her attack and subsequent death sparked protests around the country demanding better treatment for women in India.
"Nirbhaya's fight survives her," said Kerry. "For inspiring people to work together to end violence against women in India and around the world by displaying immense courage by demanding justice, as this inscription reads, and with great sadness, we honor Nirbhaya, a woman of exceptional courage and we honor her posthumously."
He asked the crowd to join him in a moment of silence.
An emotional Kerry thanked the crowd for its silence, and then read a letter from Nirbhaya's parents.
"We never imagined that the girl who was our daughter would one day be the daughter of the entire world," Kerry read. "She was meant to be the daughter of the world."