Egypt's Jewish community backs country's UNESCO candidate

CAIRO — The head of Egypt's minuscule Jewish community voiced support on Monday for the country's UNESCO candidate who has been criticized by Egyptian human rights activists.

Moushira Khattab has shown an impressive and "genuine commitment to our cause to protect Egypt's Jewish heritage," said the statement from Magda Haroun, the Jewish community's leader.

Egypt's Jewish community is made up of six Jews, including Magda.

A U.S. educated longtime diplomat, Khattab is believed to be among the front-runners for the UNESCO top post. Voting is to begin on Monday in Paris.

Khattab is running to replace Irina Bokova of Bulgaria, UNESCO's current director. She is the second Egyptian candidate to seek UNESCO's top post since 2009, when former culture minister Farouk Hosni ran.

In Egypt, Khattab has been criticized for not speaking up against some of the government's repressive policies, such as shutting down public libraries founded by a top rights lawyer.

But Haroun said Khattab is a "courageous woman who has the talent of successfully taking on challenging causes," citing a 1990s campaigning for women's rights when Kattab served as a top aide to the country's first lady at the time, Suzanne Mubarak.

Khattab has also served as chairwoman of the National Council for Childhood and Motherhood and was one of the main architects of legislation prohibiting the marriage of underage girls and female genital circumcision.

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