Hundreds march behind hunger striker’s sister at COP27

Hundreds march behind hunger striker’s sister at COP27


At COP27 on Saturday, the biggest protest since the UN climate summit began, chants of “free them all” and “no climate justice without human rights” rang out.

The sister of jailed Egyptian dissident Alaa Abdel Fattah, Sanaa Seif, who is campaigning for her brother’s release at the summit, marched in the front lines with hundreds behind her.

Seven months into his hunger strike, Abdel Fattah began refusing water last Sunday as world leaders arrived in the Egyptian resort of Sharm el-Sheikh for COP27.

With them came Seif, who was berated at two press conferences this week by apparently pro-regime attendees, who called her brother a “criminal” rather than a “political prisoner.”

Behind her on Saturday, hundreds of protesters meandering between the halls where world leaders are negotiating the climate crisis called for urgent action for climate justice and human rights, an AFP correspondent said.

Although demonstrations at COP27 must be approved by the organizing authorities and should only take place in a designated zone, activists behind Saturday’s rally said they had received UN authorization to act outside the designated area.

They marched behind a banner that read “You Are Not Defeated Yet” – the title of Abdel Fattah’s book that has become a rallying cry for summit activists.

The protesters incorporated the words into their calls for tribal, women’s, labor and disability rights. Several speakers ended their speeches with the same sentence in the formal course of the conference.

“I came here thinking I was alone. I’m sure those in power thought my voice would be drowned out and ignored. Instead, I found that my family was already waiting for me here,” protest organizer Asad Rehman read before Seif’s statement.

She stood silently beside him.

Abdel Fattah was a key figure in Egypt’s Arab Spring uprising more than a decade ago. He began eating “just 100 calories a day” in April, his family said, to protest the conditions he and about 60,000 other political prisoners in the country are being subjected to.

His family say they fear for his life and have spent months appealing to the international community, particularly the UK, where Abdel Fattah gained citizenship behind bars this year through his British-born mother.

Some leaders have raised his case at bilateral meetings during climate talks with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.

The family filed an official request for a presidential pardon with President Sisi on Friday, Abdel Fattah’s other sister said.

The appeal was taken up by one of Egypt’s most-watched talk show hosts, ardent pro-Sisi Amr Adib. On Friday, Adib said on prime-time television that the pardon was “primarily in Egypt’s interests.”

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