Support of Human Rights Violators
Egypt's President El-Sisi
El-Sisi took power in Egypt in 2013 and became president in June 2014. Human rights organizations have documented abuses by police and the National Security Agency targeting human rights defenders and sexual and gender minorities. Abuses include prosecutions, torture, travel bans, and asset freezes.
In November 2015, Gabbard and Conservative GOP Congressman Dana Rohrabacher traveled together to Cairo to meet with El-Sisi. Less than two months later, they asked Speaker Paul Ryan to allow El-Sisi to address a Joint Hearing of Congress.
Modi, the BJP, and Extremists
Gabbard's relationship with Prime Minister Modi is much deeper and more extensive than her somewhat brief support of El-Sisi.
Modi is a member of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), a Hindu nationalist, and member of the right-wing Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS). According to Human Rights Watch, "under the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party government, pro-BJP vigilantes have committed violence against religious minorities, marginalized communities, and critics of the government. The failure of authorities to investigate attacks, while promoting Hindu supremacy and ultra-nationalism, has further encouraged violence."
In December 2013, prior to Modi's election, Gabbard opposed HR 417, which praised India’s “rich religious diversity and commitment to tolerance and equality” but reaffirmed “the need to protect the rights and freedoms of religious minorities,” specifically referring to incidents of deadly violence against minority Muslims in the Indian state of Gujarat in 2002, when Modi was the state’s chief minister.
In her official statement criticizing the bill, Gabbard did not address the concerns about human rights abuses.
In 2015, Civil Beat reported on the House Resolution and on Gabbard's other actions in defense of Modi, as well as her focus on using the term "radical Islam." Link to full article here.
In April 2014, Gabbard joined leaders of the Hindu American Foundation to criticize a hearing of the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission about religious freedom in India.
She accused the Commission of trying to influence India's national elections. According to a Times of India article:
The panel' s leading witness made no secret of her concern over a Modi-led government coming to power. "Many religious minority communities fear religious freedom will be jeopardized if BJP wins and the Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi becomes Prime Minister. We hope that is not the case," USCIRF's Katrina Swett said.
In August 2014, Gabbard met with BJP leaders, Vijay Jolly & BJP MP Col. (Retd) Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore, in Atlanta, Georgia. As described on the BJP Facebook page, "While speaking on the occasion, Ms Gabbard concurred with the view of US audience that it was a great blunder by US Govt. for having denied a US visa to Mr Narendra Modi, a true democrat." She is pictured wearing the BJP banner at the Atlanta event. She is photograped with Vijay Jolly, who was subsequently accused of rape in 2017.
In 2014, the Indian government paid for Gabbard to visit India and her trip was allowed under the auspices of the Mutual Educational and Cultural Exchange Act of 1961 (MECEA) though she met with many high-level government and military leaders and spent campaign funds while there.
When Prime Minister Modi came to the US in September 2015, Gabbard welcomed him on Indian television.
In June 2017 in "Beware of the rise of Hindu supremacists in America, Is there a progressive Hindu counter-narrative to the one propagated by supremacists and ultra-nationalists?"
"The affinity between Hindutva and white nationalism is hard to miss. The Republican Hindu Coalition under Shalabh Kumar was one of Trump's biggest campaign donors and heartily endorsed his Muslim ban. The profound and unapologetic Islamophobia has emboldened white supremacists across the land and led to a spate of attacks on people of colour, including the murder of Indian immigrant Srinivas Kuchibhotla."
In addition to Prime Minister Modi specifically, Gabbard has directly and indirectly endorsed many of the most extreme members of Modi's government, as well as other fundamentalist groups in India.
One of the World Hindu Congress (WHC) speakers will be controversial BJP politicians like Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, who is known for extreme Islamaphobia, misogyny, and support for Donald Trump.
Criticisms of Gabbard for indirectly endorsing Adityanath circulated on social media, and in June 2018, the Times of India announced that the Chair of the event would be Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) professor, Dr Sriprakash Kothari.
In June of 2018, an open letter from the Organization of Minorities of India expressed alarm about Gabbard's continuous and earnest relationship with leading figures of the Sangh Parwvar and urged her to end her relationship with groups that promote Hindu nationalism, stating that:
'The mission of the people of Hawai’i is well stated in its motto,
“Ua Mau ke Ea o ka ʻĀina i ka Pono” —
“The life of the land is perpetuated in righteousness.”
Can one stand for righteousness while standing shoulder-to-shoulder
with the fascist element of Hindu nationalists of India?
We implore you to reconsider your friendship with such entities that stand against Hawaiian and American principles.'
In July 2018, OFMI released a YouTube Video describing fascist Hindu Nationalism in an "An Appeal To Rep. Tulsi Gabbard To Reject Fascist Links."
In her own district, Gabbard has seldom been questioned about her support for (and financial support from) Hindu fundamentalists. However, when she was interviewed in March 2016 by Quartz, she was asked about religious discrimination. Her response regarding Modi and the Indian Governments' actions against religious minorities was very similar to statements she would make one year later about Assad and the Syrian Government:
QZ: You referred to the suffering of Hindu minorities across the world, in a speech you gave during a fundraiser attended by some of the top leaders of the BJP. Do you think that in India there exists a similar situation?
TG: While there is no doubt there is some discrimination directed toward different “religious minorities” in India, throughout India you will find Muslims, Christians, and people of all kinds of religions free to practice their faith. However, you will not find this degree of tolerance or openness in countries like Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Iran, or other Muslim countries. In fact, if you are not a member of the government-approved religion in those countries, it is government policy that you will be punished and discriminated against. To my knowledge, this does not exist in India. However, if India were to enact government policies that punish their citizens simply for being of a “minority religion,” I would condemn that action.
(italics added for emphasis)
Russia and Putin
While Gabbard promotes Russian interests generally through her support of leaders like Syria's Bashar Al-Assad, and by choosing to remain mostly silent about investigations in Russian meddling in elections, under the Obama Administration, she was more open in her admiration of Putin.