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The whole world stands with Alaa AbdelFattah.. Will Sisi respond?

The whole world stands with Alaa AbdelFattah.. Will Sisi respond?

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Politics Freedom of Expression

Thursday 10 November 202202:22 pm
إقرأ باللغة العربية:

العالم يتضامن مع علاء عبد الفتاح… فهل تستجيب السلطات المصرية؟

Amidst growing fears for his life as he enters his fourth day of a full-scale hunger and water strike — following nearly 200 days of a partial hunger strike — voices from around the world have grown louder in a bid to appeal to the Egyptian government, headed by President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, to release Egyptian-British writer and activist Alaa AbdelFattah.

The COP27 climate summit, hosted in the Egyptian city of Sharm el-Sheikh and being attended by many world leaders, presented an important opportunity to shed light on Alaa's situation, and pressure the authorities for the release of the young man who has not been let out of prison since 2011, aside from a few days.

In a letter dated November 5, the day before the climate conference kicked off, British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak vowed to raise the issue of the activist's release during talks with Egyptian officials. He further stressed in his letter to Alaa's sister Sanaa Seif, that the case "remains a priority of the British government", as it has already been raised several times during discussions with the Egyptian side.

The pledge was not enough to reassure Alaa's family and friends. They see the remainder of his threatened life as numbered "in the hours", after he abstained from drinking water at ten o'clock on the morning of Sunday, November 6, in a final escalation of his protest against his unfair imprisonment, the denial of his full rights, and his despair that this situation will not change if nothing else is done.

Following this, appeals, events, and statements in solidarity with Alaa escalated, calling for his speedy release and saving his life. We review them in this report:

"There's no climate justice without human rights".. Voices around the world are rising to demand "life" and "freedom" for #AlaaAbdelfattah, with solidarity sit-ins and official appeals to the Egyptian government. Will they respond? #COP27 #SaveAlaa #FreeAlaa

Johnson's hopes

In an interview on the sidelines of the summit, former British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, when asked about Alaa, told the New York Times, "This is a sad situation. I have repeatedly said in talks with the Egyptian government that he should be released and granted consular access. I recently raised it with President Sisi as well."

"President Sisi seemed to me open to discussion. All I can say, and we have a good relationship with Egypt, is that President Sisi has been able to sort things out in the past. I hope he can move forward with this as well and that Alaa will be released as soon as possible."

"Climate Action" raises its voice

At the opening session of the Climate Conference, Climate Action Network International (CAN), the largest global coalition on environmental issues and comprising 1,900 environmental organizations from around the world, called for Alaa's release. South African activist and executive director of Climate Action Network International, Tasneem Essop, drew attention to the impact of climate crises on the violation of the rights of millions of people, calling for the rescue of Alaa's life and the release of all prisoners of conscience.

"The right to have our voices heard, the right to assemble, the right to protest, the right to dissent and hold those in power accountable, these rights should not be abused or undermined," Essop said. "Climate activists and human rights defenders are increasingly being attacked across the world."

She went on to say, "Alaa Abdel-Fattah, the Egyptian prisoner of conscience, has escalated his hunger strike that started more than 200 days ago. He has stopped drinking water. His life is now in severe danger. We call for his immediate release and the release of all prisoners of conscience," before concluding with the words, "There can be no climate justice without human rights — we are not yet defeated," referring to the title of Alaa's most recent work, which he wrote while in prison.

Human rights activists held vigils in solidarity with Alaa in front of British embassies in several capitals around the world to remind the British government of its responsibilities towards its citizen who is facing death in an Egyptian prison

Germany's High Commissioner for Human Rights issues a statement

The German Commissioner for Human Rights, Luise Amtsberg, adopted the same route, praising Egypt's organization of the international summit, but at the same time holding the Egyptian government fully responsible for the protection of human rights.

Amtsberg said, “A significant event such as COP27 in Sharm el-Sheikh inevitably puts the host country and all of its different facets in the spotlight. Taking on global responsibility means, not least, taking on responsibility for protecting human rights. But the human rights situation in Egypt does not reflect that and falls short of this.”

She went on to add, "The case of the journalist and activist Alaa AbdelFattah and his lawyer Mohamed El-Baqer, who are both detained in conditions that are in some ways dire, is a prime example. It is unacceptable for people who want to freely express their opinion, and stand up for the right to do so, to be punished with long prison sentences – sometimes in inhumane conditions."

She concluded by marveling at the fact that Egypt "declared this year to be a Year of Civil Society", calling first for "the release of Mr AbdelFattah, who is at acute risk as a result of his hunger strike, and other political prisoners " to serve as an important sign that Egypt takes this responsibility seriously."

Amnesty International appeals

Amnesty International stated via Twitter that the COP27 climate summit has kicked off in Egypt amid a human rights crisis, noting that "far from the dazzling hotels, thousands of people are still being unjustly arrested. Alaa AbdelFattah's life is in imminent danger following 219 days of strike and him now abstaining from drinking water."

The rights organization denounced, "In the six months leading up to COP27, the Egyptian authorities released 766 prisoners. Yet over the same period, Amnesty International has documented the arrest of double that number; 1,540 people who were questioned over the exercising of free speech and association."

Amnesty International: "In the lead-up to COP27, Egyptian authorities released 766 prisoners. Yet over the same period, Amnesty documented the arrest of double that number; 1,540 people who were questioned over the exercising of free speech and association"

A hunger strike at the Egyptian Journalists Syndicate in solidarity

Three female Egyptian journalists, Iman Ouf, Rasha Azab, and Mona Selim, on Monday launched an "open-ended hunger strike and a sit-in inside the Journalists' Syndicate in solidarity with Alaa AbdelFattah and all detained journalists," according to what they stated on their social media accounts.

The demands of the three female journalists include: "The immediate release of Alaa AbdelFattah, the end of the targeting of journalists in publishing cases, as well as opening the public sphere in Egypt and retrieving the historic role of the Egyptian Press Union, ending the ongoing security crackdown against those expressing their opinions, and introducing radical solutions to the political prisoners file, along with the release of all those who were not involved in acts of violence."

Solidarity vigils in front of British embassies

The "Free Alaa" campaign held a candlelight vigil in front of the British government headquarters in Downing Street, with the presence of Alaa's sister, Mona Seif, on Sunday, November 6th, coinciding with the launch of COP27.

A number of human rights activists have also held vigils in solidarity with Alaa in front of British embassies in several capitals around the world — including South Korea and The Hague — to remind the British government of its responsibilities towards its citizen who is facing death in an Egyptian prison. Human rights defenders also organized a vigil in front of the Egyptian Embassy in Berlin.

At the same time, SMEX, a Lebanese NGO for online freedom of expression, announced a stand in solidarity with Alaa in front of the UK Embassy in Beirut on Monday afternoon.

The organization wrote on its Twitter account, "These will not be Alaa's last days. People across the world will stand in solidarity with Alaa today. Join us in Beirut at 4 PM to let leaders at #COP27 know the whole world is watching."

A change in the tone of the appeals

With campaigns from pro-Egyptian regime supporters and loyalists on social media smearing Alaa AbdelFattah, attributing things to him that he did not do, and warning that his release would mean "breaking the prestige of the Egyptian state" and "succumbing to foreign pressure and intervention", some were keen on presenting their appeals in the tone of "requests for pardon and amnesty", because the most important thing at the moment is saving Alaa's life.

Among them is the head of the Egyptian Constitution Party, Gameela Ismail, who began her appeal with the Quranic verse, {"Those who restrain (their) anger and pardon men; and Allah loves the doers of good (to others)"}, before calling on the Presidential Amnesty (Pardon) Committee in Egypt to "issue a decision to pardon those sentenced in Case 1228, the first of which is Alaa AbdelFattah, whose health is greatly and rapidly deteriorating, along with Mohamed El-Baqer and Mohamed Oxygen," listing other names of prisoners of conscience.

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