With COP27 Around the Corner: Human Rights Activists Accuse Egypt of Violations

Protesters shouting slogans at a demonstration in Yemen. Photo: Khaled Abdullah/Reuters/Ritzau Scanpix 

The upcoming UN Climate Conference (COP27), held in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt next week, has been labeled by many human rights activists as a whitewashing event for the country’s tarnished reputation.

By Salma El Ashmawy 

One might wonder how the climate crisis and human rights are connected? Sanaa Seif, who was jailed in both 2014 and 2020 by Egyptian authorities without due process, explained the connection to the European Parliament: 

“The climate crisis is not about the planet. The planet will outlive us all. The climate crisis is about life on the planet. And life in Egypt as we speak right now is very dangerous”. 

At the core of climate action lies the purpose of improving people’s living conditions. Thus, at a time where Egypt projects itself as a responsible actor on the climate agenda, human rights activists remind us to keep Egypt from whitewashing its image on the global stage.

According to the Human Rights Watch, breaches of human rights have been more frequent since President Abdel Fattah Al Sisi took over the regime in 2014. Amnesty International has also reported an increase in detainments of human rights activists, journalists, and political dissidents under Al Sisi. This despite the Egyptian constitution guaranteeing freedom of thought and opinion.

Human Rights Activists and Ex-Prisoners Sanaa Seif (Second from the Right) 
and Ramy Shaatah (Furthest on the Right) at the Subcommittee Meeting on 
Human Rights in the European Parliament. Photo: Salma El Ashmawy.

“Enough is enough” Egyptian activist Ramy Shaatah said at the subcommittee meeting on human rights in the European Parliament last Wednesday, October 26th. Shaatah is an Egyptian Palestinian political activist and human rights defender. He served a prison sentence of 2.5 years for peacefully exercising his right to free expression.

Since the Egyptian government has rejected applications from several Egyptian NGOs to attend COP27, Shaatah urges the European Parliament to deliver his message. “Next time you meet Egyptian officials at COP27, look into their eyes and tell them: Your lies and propaganda are no more selling in Europe”. 

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