Hannahs Monthly


Arab Spring 2.0

In Egypt there are mass detentions of protesters. European spy software is probably involved. Yet there is no ban on exports. In Iraq, demonstrators are being shot at with live ammunition. Looking ahead to further protests in Lebanon and Algeria, it is evident that we are facing an Arab Spring 2.0. And the next few months will be decisive as to whether the protests will lead to more freedom and democracy this time. So far, EU member states and the international community have been alarmingly quiet about the demonstrations. In Parliament, however, we have fought for clear resolutions – sometimes with success. This also applies to a resolution which strongly denounces the Turkish invasion of Syria and calls for clear sanctions.

Egypt: Resolution for human rights activists enforced

The reason for my trip to Egypt was the Munich Security Conference in Cairo, where I discussed peace strategies for the region with representatives from various nations. I arrived early to have enough time for discussions with human rights activists on site. The tragic reports were confirmed: Since the beginning of the protests in September hundreds of people disappeared and 4300 activists were arrested. Social media is monitored. Young people are arbitrarily arrested because they have installed WhatsApp or Facebook on their mobile phones. The message is clear: ruler Al-Sisi does not tolerate criticism of his regime. The speaker of the Egyptian parliament compares him with Adolf Hitler – and that is meant as praise! At the latest now the alarm bells should ring everywhere in Europe.

In the European Parliament, as rapporteur I was able to push through the toughest EU resolution on the situation in Egypt that we have ever had. We demand an end to reprisals against human rights activists, a stop to the export of surveillance equipment and a review of EU budget support for Egypt. Travel bans must also be considered. (here to my speech in parliament.)

It is now up to the Member States and the Commission to implement this. But the Federal Government remains without a profile. Foreign Minister Maaß travelled to Cairo and criticised the disregard of human rights. consequences for the regime are missing, however. One of the largest clients for German arms suppliers remains.

Iraq: Using live ammunition against its own population

From Cairo we went to Iraq via Qatar. There too, young people are taking to the streets. Because they want to know where all the money from the flourishing oil business is going, why jobs are allocated through contacts and why qualifications play hardly any role. They take to the streets because they are ignored and want to be heard. More than 250 of them were killed in October. We must not allow people who demonstrate peacefully against corruption and for democracy to be shot at or imprisoned. – And this by security forces advised by an EU mission. In my speech in parliament, I asked for an explanation. I will stay on it, at the latest in the next plenum in Strasbourg I will ask again.

During my trip I was able to talk to many young Iraqis* about their experiences of the protests and their expectations for the future. Despite all the violence they showed themselves optimistic and unshakable. They provided me with photos and eyewitness accounts. Since the social media in Iraq are also monitored, I wanted to distribute the material in Germany to give human rights activists a voice. However, shortly after my return home, the eyewitnesses asked me to delete their names and photos from the reports for fear of political persecution. So much for the human rights situation in Iraq – as the EU we urgently need to use our influence and stand up for these people.

Syria: Arms embargo necessary instead of sham debate

Erdogan’s campaign in Syria is a clear violation of international law. So the judgment of the European Parliament. After long debates in the Foreign and Security Committee, Parliament calls for trade sanctions against Turkey. In my opinion, this is not enough. In an interview with radioeins, shortly after Erdogan’s invasion, I pleaded for an EU arms embargo against Turkey. And on the Syrian-Iraqi border I was able to hold talks with people who had to flee from Northern Syria again. Their stories are shocking.

For the EU, the possibilities of exerting influence on Turkey are limited. The accession negotiations have been frozen and the visa facilitation that was promised has not materialised. And even now we are acting without an arms embargo and therefore not consistently enough. The consequences: Once again, people fleeing from war are becoming a bargaining chip in a proxy conflict. That is deeply cynical. Erdogan is using the fate of the Syrian refugees as a means of exerting pressure on the EU.

National interests in refugee or arms export policy must not allow EU member states to be played off against each other. Only together can the EU have a chance to bring peace to the conflict. It is not enough that countries like Germany and France do not issue new licences for the time being (but they still fulfil old contracts and continue to supply weapons and spare parts). And a sham debate about a security zone unfortunately distracts from the concrete things the EU could very well do.

Night train to Brussels

Apart from travelling to a few of the world’s trouble spots, I have also tried to make a small contribution to more climate protection here on site. In an open letter to the German Chancellor, initiated by co-initiators , I jointly called on the Co-Parliamentarians Gaby Bischoff, Martina Michels and Hildegard Bentele to resume the night train connection from Berlin to Brussels. Because next year Germany will take over the EU Council Presidency, which will lead to many more commuters. At the latest then it is necessary that politicians* do not constantly get on the plane for this short distance! That would be a signal towards the necessary European traffic turnaround, we told the Tagesspiegel. Will the train come? I will keep you informed.


In the coming weeks, I will continue to fight for the EU to strengthen and protect those who stand up for peace and human rights in the trouble spots of these countries. How concretely? I am shadow rapporteur for the annual report on human rights and defence policy. I shall be tabling amendments to these reports. I will press for the EU to stand alongside the peaceful protesters – in Iraq, Lebanon, Algeria, Egypt – and support them in their fight for greater freedom and against corruption. I will also explain how this can succeed at the Europe Brunch in Berlin on 23 November. Come by or accompany me on 24 November to the Nikolai Church to celebrate the peace project Europe a little bit more. You can get more information about it on Facebook and Instagram from me! Stay tuned!

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