It's a proud day for new American

Reem Desouky completes the written portion of her citizenship test in 2011. (Matthew Lester)

THE ISSUE

Moustafa Hamed of Lancaster, a 13-year-old who is a rising eighth-grader at Reynolds Middle School, has issued pleas for help after his mother was jailed in Cairo, Egypt, following their arrival there in early July to visit family. The Washington Post reported that his mother, Reem Desouky, an American citizen, has been accused by Egyptian authorities of running social media accounts deemed critical of the regime.

This appears to be an unjust detention by a foreign government, and our elected leaders should be doing all they can to intervene on behalf of an American citizen.

Desouky was taken into custody July 7 at Cairo’s airport, the Post reported. Moustafa, as of the most recent report, has only been able to see his mother once since she was detained.

Now staying with other relatives in Egypt, he’s a scared boy who needs his mother and to be able to return home.

“Days are passing fast, and we need help,” Moustafa states in a brief video obtained by LNP.

Some background: “Desouky’s arrest fits a pattern in Egypt, where the government of President Abdel Fatah al-Sissi has cracked down on online criticism of the military-backed regime,” Jeff Hawkes wrote for Sunday’s LNP, citing the Post's reporting. “Desouky and at least two other Americans are being held on politically motivated charges or as the result of flawed trials.”

The actions by the Egyptian government have rightfully alarmed human rights activists, who “estimate that Sissi’s government has jailed as many as 60,000 dissidents since a 2013 coup against Egypt’s first democratically elected president, Mohamed Morsi,” the website Middle East Eye stated.

All of this has had a chilling effect on free speech and the press in Egypt. In an Aug. 8 story, the Post explains: “Last year, Egypt’s parliament passed a law tightening restrictions on reporters and social media, granting the government far-reaching censorship powers. Journalists, bloggers and authors of dissenting social media posts have been arrested.”

At the center of this ongoing turmoil, though, is a very human story, of a Lancaster boy and his mother.

“My mom is an arts teacher and a translator. She’s a single mother raising me on her own,” Moustafa said in a video posted on Twitter, according to Middle East Eye. Moustafa added: “She loves both Egypt and the USA. We were excited to come to Egypt, so we can spend time with our family during the summer break. When we arrived, we were arrested. It was a horrifying experience for me. ... I told my mom I’d wait for her, and I don’t want to leave back home for school unless she was with me.”

Heartbreaking.

Officials at the U.S. Embassy in Cairo are “aware of Ms. Desouky’s case and are providing consular services at this time,” the Post reported.

Hawkes, in the Sunday LNP, added that U.S. Rep. Lloyd Smucker said his office has asked the embassy to “take every available action it can to provide assistance.” In an email, Smucker added: “I implore the Egyptian government to allow Ms. Desouky to return to the United States immediately. I expect the State Department will be a fierce advocate for Ms. Desouky and work hard to ultimately secure her release.”

We share those expectations.

We hope Smucker and U.S. Sens. Pat Toomey and Bob Casey can help bring about a speedy resolution. We’d also like for President Donald Trump to speak out on behalf of an American who is being held abroad unjustly.

A boy and his mother need to return safely to Lancaster.


Philadelphia shootings

A man barricaded himself inside a Philadelphia rowhouse for 7½ hours Wednesday. He shot and wounded six city police officers during a tense standoff that “paralyzed a neighborhood,” The Associated Press reported.

Tear gas eventually brought him out, and he was arrested without further violence.

We are grateful for the law enforcement officers who put their lives on the line daily to keep us safe.

We hope the six officers who were injured have speedy recoveries. The Philadelphia Inquirer reported that they were all treated at hospitals and released.

We remain horrified by gun violence in America.

The Philadelphia gunman used an AR-15 assault-style rifle, fired more than 100 rounds and also had a handgun in his pocket when he surrendered, according to news outlets.

This comes in the wake of the mass shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, that killed 31 people.

There are a hundred things we could say and must keep saying about gun violence. There are actions our lawmakers must take.

But we’ll conclude for now with these two pleas following Wednesday’s near-tragedy.

Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney: “This government, both on (the) federal and state level, don’t want to do anything about getting these guns off the streets and getting them out of the hands of criminals.”

John McNesby, president of Philadelphia’s police union: “We can’t have this. Too many guns out there. We need more support out there, we need the community’s support, step up — we’re there for you. Come out, tell us what you need and we’ll get it done.”

If you don’t want to heed the words of a Democratic mayor, please heed those of McNesby, a decorated veteran police officer. The police and other first responders know — all too well — how urgent the need is to address our nation’s gun problem.