by Suzanne Pollak
It wasn't that many years ago that Cynthia Farahat was a political activist in Egypt, calling for normal relations with Israel and working "side by side with secularists, Muslims, Christians and atheists."
Those years were filled with fear, constantly learning of missing friends and family and always "waiting for the dawn visitors," the Egyptian security that came in the early mornings, Farahat told the 260 people gathered at a June 21 dinner in support of EMET, Endowment for Middle East Truth.
Farahat fled Egypt about three years ago and has been speaking out and publishing articles criticizing the Egyptian government and in particular, its crackdown on Copts, Egyptian Christians, ever since.
As co-founder of the Masr el-Om Party, later renamed the Liberal Egyptian Party, Farahat worked for the rights of the non-Muslims under the former Hosni Mubarak regime.
"The Muslim Brotherhood was never banned. I was banned," she said. "You could say death to the Jews, but you cannot say the opposite. It could cost you your life," she told the audience at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in the District.
While working for the abolishment of Shariah, the moral code and religious law of Islam, Farahat witnessed a friend being stabbed, her brother being beaten and called a Jew, and her name prominently posted on an online hit list, she said. This violence is always conducted "while they are screaming Allahu Akbar [God is great]," she said.
Farahat says she managed to avoid death and make it to America, "because I understand that it takes a victim to create a victimizer," adding she never "compromised with evil. There is only submission or courageous fight," she said.
For her efforts, she was one of several people receiving a Ray of Light in the Darkness award from EMET.
Also receiving that award was Simon Deng, who as a young child was captured in South Sudan and sold into slavery. He eventually made it to this country, where he speaks out against slavery and human rights abuses.
Due to delays on his Amtrak train, he wasn't able to attend the dinner.
In a short video, Deng talked about "the worst sort of racism," which is what he described as the United Nations' "calling Israel a racist state. It is absolutely absurd."
"Arab racism is the same, whether in Khartoum or Cairo," he said in the video.
In Israel, "we are welcomed and treated like human beings. The black Muslims from Darfur choose Israel. Compared to Egypt, Israel is heaven," he said.
Also receiving the Ray of Light award were Ambassador John Bolton, Rep. Allen West (R-Fla.) and Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.), who is still rehabilitating from a stroke.
Earlier in the evening, Sarah Stern, EMET founder and president, called for America to stop aid to Egypt, work to end the violence in Syria and to "stop playing into Iranian hands" as that country builds its nuclear weapons facility.