No American left behind under Trump…
American humanitarian worker Aya Hijazi and her Egyptian husband Mohamed Hassanein have been released from prison in Egypt, where they were detained on allegedly “trumped up” human trafficking charges. Their released was secured by the Trump administration after weeks of negotiation with the Egyptian government.
Aya Hijazi grew up in Falls Church, Virginia and graduated from George Mason University. On May 1, 2014, however, Aya and her husband were arrested for allegedly engaging in human trafficking. The couple was running the Belady Foundation, a rehabilitation center and haven for street children.
The Egyptian government alleged that the couple was using their non-profit as a front for human trafficking but never provided any substantial proof. The charges have been widely lambasted by both other non-profits and the American government. Besides Aya and her husband, four other workers at the center were also imprisoned.
Their release comes after three years of imprisonment. On numerous occasions their trial was halted and hearings were delayed. Meanwhile, allegations of abuse while imprisoned have been circulating. Now, charges have officially been dropped, meaning that the couple has not only been released but can return to the United States.
Their release comes after a “reset” in relations between the Trump administration and Egyptian government. Trump has largely praised the Egyptian government and its president, Abdel Fatah al-Sisi, whom many have accused of being a de facto dictator. The Obama administration had previously tried to secure their release but was unsuccessful.
The release of the humanitarian workers is arguably the most important “deal” yet secured by the Trump administration. Trump’s relatively warm relations with questionable leaders, including al-Sisi and Russian president Vladimir Putin, have drawn a lot of criticism. However, warmer relations can make it easier to negotiate on sensitive issues.
On the flip side, negotiating with questionable leaders also legitimizes their governments. Further, using the Belady workers as negotiating chips could embolden and encourage other governments and groups to essentially take American hostages. The American government has long avoided negotiation with terrorist groups out of fear that such negotiations could embolden and encourage said groups to take hostages.
Either way, Aya and her husband are free and have now returned to the United States. President Trump is said to have overseen not only negotiations, but also Aya’s return to American soil. Aya and her brother are scheduled to meet with President Trump and his family on Friday.