Egypt Arrests Hundreds in Crackdown Ahead of COP27 Climate Summit

Egyptian authorities have arrested tons of in a crackdown on dissenting voices forward of COP27, the U.N. local weather convention which begins Sunday in Sharm El-Sheikh. Fifteen Nobel laureates have signed an open letter asking world leaders to stress Egypt into releasing its many political prisoners, together with human rights activist Alaa Abd El-Fattah, who plans to accentuate his six-month starvation strike by forgoing water on the opening day of the local weather summit. “He’s organizing all of us from his jail cell,” says Democracy Now! correspondent Sharif Abdel Kouddous.


It is a rush transcript. Copy will not be in its closing type.

AMY GOODMAN: That is Democracy Now!,, the Conflict and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman. joined by Democracy Now! cohost Nermeen Shaikh. Hello, Nermeen.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: Hello, Amy, and welcome to our listeners and viewers throughout the nation and all over the world.

AMY GOODMAN: Egypt has launched a crackdown on civil society simply days earlier than the U.N. local weather summit begins in Sharm el-Sheikh. A whole bunch have been arrested. That is Mohamed Lotfy, the director of the Egyptian Fee for Rights and Freedoms.

MOHAMED LOTFY: [translated] What we see is toughening of the safety grip, even on the civilians passing by on the streets, an interference of their private lives and breaching their privateness by forcing them to open up their cell phones and inspecting their political beliefs on social media…the Egyptian authorities is all the time involved about its picture and one of the best ways to enhance Egypt’s picture is to enhance its human rights file, as a result of the worldwide media will all be centered on Egypt throughout COP27.

AMY GOODMAN: Rights activists say Egyptian authorities printed pointers limiting protests throughout COP27 to designated zones and would require 36 hours advance discover. This week Egyptian authorities launched Indian local weather activist Ajit Rajagopal after detaining him on his March For Our Planet from Cairo to Sharm el-Sheikh. He described his detention.

AJIT RAJAGOPAL: I used to be stored there for hours and hours and the entire night time. I used to be not—they weren’t knowledgeable me effectively what’s the cost in opposition to me, what are they going to do, what ought to I—how can I assist them within the course of. Nothing was being knowledgeable, and even not even I didn’t get any meals from them as effectively, even water as effectively.

AMY GOODMAN: This comes because the household of 47-year-old Egyptian political prisoner Alaa Al-Salami says they’ve been advised he has died in jail after two months on full starvation strike to protest his situations. Fifteen Nobel laureates have signed on to a letter to world leaders attending the local weather summit, asking them to “commit a part of your agenda to the various hundreds of political prisoners held in Egypt’s prisons—most urgently, the Egyptian-British author and thinker, Alaa Abd el-Fattah, now six months right into a starvation strike and vulnerable to dying.” Nearly all of the Nobel literature laureates since 1986 signed the letter.

Alaa Abd el-Fattah will start a whole starvation strike, forgoing even water, on the opening day of COP27. He has already been on a starvation strike for greater than 200 days. As we broadcast at the moment in New York, his household is about to carry a information convention on efforts to free him. In the meantime within the newest information, 56 U.S. lawmakers have despatched a letter to President Biden saying Egypt’s capability to handle crucial local weather calls for is “undercut by its refusal to permit the significant participation of environmental and civil society teams, activists and people most impacted by the local weather disaster.” That is State Division spokesperson Ned Worth being questioned Wednesday.

REPORTER: On Egypt, do you have got any touch upon the dying of Alaa Al-Salami, in Egypt jail, [inaudible] starvation strike to protest the situations of his detention? And any response to the starvation strike that Alaa Abd el-Fattah has began at the moment?

NED PRICE: We’re carefully following the case of Alaa Abd el-Fattah. Now we have adopted it all through his pretrial detention, his conviction and his subsequent and present incarceration. Now we have raised repeated considerations about this case and his situations in detention with the federal government of Egypt. Now we have made very clear on the highest ranges, together with on the very highest ranges, to the Egyptian authorities, that progress on defending human rights and elementary freedoms, that can buoy, it can bolster, it can reinforce, in the end it can strengthen our bilateral relationship with Egypt.

AMY GOODMAN: For extra, we’re joined by Sharif Abdel Kouddous, Democracy Now! correspondent and a reporter for the Egypt-based Mada Masr. Sharif, welcome again to Democracy Now! In case you may give us the most recent information? Once more, as we converse, Alaa’s sisters are about to carry a information convention in London the place they’ve been holding a sit-in for weeks. Are you able to speak about what is occurring and the response of the U.S. authorities? As a result of President Biden shall be in Sharm el-Sheikh on the UN local weather summit on November eleventh, subsequent Friday.

SHARIF ABDEL KOUDDOUS: That’s proper, Amy. As we’re going to air proper now, each of Alaa’s sisters, Sanaa and Mona, are about to carry a press convention. They’ve been camped on the market for the reason that 18th of October. Final night time James Cleverly, the British international minister, did meet with them. He tweeted out that he’s working tirelessly to assist safe the discharge of Alaa. Whereas that is encouraging that he lastly did meet with Sanaa and Mona after so many days ready exterior his workplace—and we’ve to recollect Alaa is a British citizen, and so are Mona and Sanaa, and that’s the reason the British authorities is being referred to as on to intervene—that this sort of language has been used earlier than. Boris Johnson when he was prime minister spoke to al-Sisi, and we nonetheless haven’t seen any form of change. Alaa hasn’t been granted a consular go to by British officers in jail. And I believe except there’s actually top-level intervention—the brand new British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak is attending the local weather summit—we must see what occurs.

Alaa, in a letter to his household, introduced that he was on a partial starvation strike for a lot of months, consuming simply 100 energy a day which is sort of a spoonful of honey and tea and that was serving to to maintain his starvation strike. He stopped taking that on Tuesday, so he’s again on a full starvation strike. And on Sunday, he’s going to primarily cease ingesting water. And the physique can not final very lengthy with out water. So Sanaa is—if it will get to that time, if he isn’t launched, Alaa will do that. Sanaa is planning to journey to Sharm el-Sheikh, to the local weather summit, if that occurs, as an official delegate. And so she’s going to go and she’s going to maintain an occasion on the eighth with the secretary-general of Amnesty Worldwide, and the manager director of Human Rights Watch, and with the German local weather envoy, to assist put stress on the federal government to launch Alaa.

You talked about within the lede {that a} prisoner, Alaa Al-Salami, simply died in jail, within the Badr 3 so-called rehabilitation middle, a jail, a brand new jail. He was on starvation strike for 2 months. He died, what they stated was medical neglect and due to his starvation strike. Now we have to recollect again in early 2020, an American citizen, Mustafa Kassem, who was imprisoned unjustly for six years in Egypt, he was an Egyptian-American twin nationwide, he was on starvation strike for a lot of months. He determined to go on a water strike on a Friday. He was taken to the hospital when he determined to—refused to take liquids, and he was pronounced lifeless on Monday. So that is extraordinarily critical.

Alaa’s sisters say he isn’t bluffing. He’s fueled by hope to be reunited along with his household and likewise by rage on the final 9 years which were stolen from his life. And I believe he very clearly understands the timing of this and what he’s doing. He’s organizing all of us from his jail cell. He’s utilizing his physique, the one factor he has company over, to inject some sense of that means into this second, with this local weather summit, and to spur us all into motion. And he’s I believe accomplished with jail. He received’t serve these 5 years. He’s accomplished with it. And he’s attempting to I believe additionally arrange the that means and the impression, if it will get to that, of his dying.

Let me simply finish, this factor on Alaa, he wrote this letter to his household saying his plans for the water strike. I’ll simply learn a brief translated portion of it. He stated, “If one wished for dying, then a starvation strike wouldn’t be a wrestle. If one have been solely holding onto life out of intuition, then what’s the level of a strike? In case you’re suspending dying solely out of disgrace at your mom’s tears, then you definitely’re reducing the possibilities of victory. I’ve taken”—after which he goes on to say—”I’ve taken a call to escalate at a time I see as becoming for my wrestle for my freedom, and the liberty of prisoners of a battle they haven’t any half in or they’re attempting to exit from. For the victims of a regime that’s unable to deal with its crises besides with oppression, unable to breed itself besides by means of incarceration. The choice was taken whereas I’m flooded together with your love and eager for your organization. A lot love, till we meet quickly, Alaa.”

NERMEEN SHAIKH: Has anybody been capable of go to Alaa? From what he says he’s eager for their firm, so I assume not. Is he capable of see a lawyer? Additionally, you stated that high-level intervention is required to safe his launch. Has there been any response in any respect from Egyptian authorities?

SHARIF ABDEL KOUDDOUS: Alaa will get, as many prisoners do, one go to by one member of the family as soon as a month for 20 minutes behind a glass barrier. They aren’t allowed to the touch him or hug him. He doesn’t go to with legal professionals. Solely instant relations are allowed to go to him. The Egyptian authorities has not addressed this publicly, Alaa’s imprisonment. They level to his conviction in December for 5 years over re-sharing a Fb put up about torture in jail. That’s his official cost. So we haven’t seen that.

However, you understand, it’s worrying additionally that, as you talked about, we’re seeing this intensified crackdown in Egypt within the run-up to the summit when all of the world’s eyes are on Egypt, as world leaders are heading there and tens of hundreds of delegates and activists are planning to go. Actually tons of of individuals have been arrested over the previous week. They’ve been arrested off the streets, they’ve been arrested from their houses, they’ve been arrested from their workplaces. A minimum of 150 of them have been put into pretrial detention on terrorism expenses, all a part of a large case that has been dubbed within the media because the Local weather Revolution Case. They’re all being requested about these protests that we’ve seen on-line requires, plans for protest on 11/11, November the eleventh. That shall be whereas the summit is underway.

There’s a large safety presence in Cairo and in different cities throughout the nation. Police are randomly stopping individuals on the road, taking their telephones, forcing them to unlock them, trying by means of Fb and WhatsApp and on the lookout for political content material and sometimes detaining individuals in the event that they see something they don’t like. As you talked about, worldwide activists are usually not resistant to this. An Indian local weather activist who was attempting to do that solo local weather justice march to Sharm el-Sheikh was detained in a single day, interrogated for a number of hours. He referred to as an Egyptian lawyer good friend to come back assist him. When the lawyer got here, thee lawyer was detained and held in a single day. They have been each launched. They just lately simply arrested a journalist, Manal Agrama, who had written some crucial posts on Fb in regards to the authorities. They got here to her house, arrested her. Presently her whereabouts are unknown.

All of that is taking place within the run-up to the COP and to this summit which most of the key local weather activists and environmental allies from Egypt, from civil society in Egypt, will be unable to attend.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: Sharif, the place are all these arrests happening? And are individuals anticipating that these will proceed even as soon as the summit begins subsequent week, on Monday?

SHARIF ABDEL KOUDDOUS: The arrests are happening throughout Egypt, in Cairo, in Alexandria, in Ismailia, in Suez. It’s form of taking place in all places. There’s a redoubled large safety presence on the streets. The safety equipment appears to be extraordinarily paranoid about these requires protests on November eleventh. It’s unclear if we’re going to see protests on that day. It’s very laborious to foretell. Clearly there’s a preemptive crackdown to try to stop something. And yeah, the federal government is clearly additionally very paranoid after it simply floated the foreign money. The Egyptian pound is at a file low in opposition to the greenback, inflation is means up, persons are poorer. This is available in a context the place the reply to any downside with a citizen is incarceration.

And so I believe it is extremely telling that we’re seeing rising requires the discharge of political prisoners. We noticed this letter by 56 lawmakers within the U.S. Now we have seen individuals within the U.Ok. come out. We’ve seen a number of organizations in civil society name for the discharge of political prisoners. There’s an editorial in The Washington Publish at the moment. As Naomi Klein stated, this COP is extra than simply greenwashing a polluting state; it’s greenwashing a police state.

AMY GOODMAN: Lastly, we’re going to finish with the phrases of Alaa Abd el-Fattah. You interviewed him and we even have interviewed him on Democracy Now! However Sharif, in a short time, for those who can simply inform us who he’s, why one Nobel literature laureate after one other has signed on to this letter. Fifty-six congressmembers and senators have demanded that Biden name for his launch.

SHARIF ABDEL KOUDDOUS: Alaa is a technologist, a author and an activist and he emerged actually within the 2011 revolution as a key thinker and organizer and an icon of change. He has been imprisoned for a lot of the final 9 years, primarily due to his concepts, for the flexibility of his thoughts and what he stands, and he stands as an emblem of 2011 and an emblem of change. I believe that’s the reason there was a lot campaigning round releasing him, as a result of if somebody like him could be launched—and he’s being imprisoned to set an instance for others, principally, that that is what occurs if you try to struggle for change. So I believe his launch would additionally mark a major step ahead for change in Egypt.

AMY GOODMAN: Sharif, we need to thanks for being with us. Additionally Sharif Abdel Kouddous shall be becoming a member of us as we cowl the Sharm el-Sheikh U.N. local weather summit the week after subsequent, the second week of the COP, and other people ought to tune in for our weeklong protection. Sharif Abdel Kouddous, Democracy Now! correspondent, reporter for Mada Masr, normally primarily based in Cairo, Egypt.

We’re going to show now to the phrases of Alaa himself. Alaa just lately printed a e-book, the title of the e-book You Have Not But Been Defeated. He has been jailed for nearly all the final decade, for the reason that 2011 Arab Spring, Tahrir rebellion. We spoke to him in 2011. This was after he was first arrested and ordered jailed by a army courtroom then briefly launched earlier than being imprisoned once more. He described the inhumane situations he confronted in jail.

ALAA ABD EL-FATTAH: The primary 5 days I used to be put in a fairly unhealthy jail. All prisons on the planet are unhealthy, shedding your freedom is kind of robust, but in addition prisons in Egypt are in very poor situations. So even when they don’t torture you, simply spending one night time there’s already a bit an excessive amount of. However I used to be in a very unhealthy jail they usually made certain to place me in a very unhealthy cell and to disclaim me any consolation. As an illustration, I used to be in full darkness for 5 days. It was very filthy and really crowded. There have been 9 of us in a two-by-three meter cell having no entry to water or bathroom besides ten minutes per day.

So principally, they knew they couldn’t torture me due to the solidarity and the media consideration, so they only made certain to try to use each different measure to place me at discomfort or at psychological stress. Now, each different one that was arrested within the Maspero incident have been tortured severely and tortured nonetheless very systematic in police stations and in prisons and so forth. However they knew that they couldn’t torture me.

AMY GOODMAN: Alaa Abd el-Fattah talking to us in 2011 quickly after the rebellion in Tahrir. We shall be broadcasting from the U.N. local weather summit in Egypt. Tune in for that. Additionally tune in on November eighth for our three-hour election night time particular. We shall be broadcasting reside beginning at 9:00 P.M. Jap.

Arising, we are going to take a look at the potential of negotiation and ceasefire between Ukraine and Russia. Stick with us.