Alaa Abdel-Fattah: Jailed Egyptian-British activist begins ‘water strike’ at start of COP27

Alaa Abdel-Fattah: Jailed Egyptian-British activist begins ‘water strike’ at start of COP27
Alaa Abdel-Fattah: Jailed Egyptian-British activist begins ‘water strike’ at start of COP27

Alaa Abdel-Fattah: Jailed Egyptian-British activist begins ‘water strike’ at start of COP27

  • Emily McGarvey
  • BBC News

Alaa Abdel-Fattah: Jailed Egyptian-British activist begins ‘water strike’ at start of COP27

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Imprisoned British-Egyptian activist Alaa Abdel-Fattah

The sister of British-Egyptian activist Alaa Abdel-Fattah, who is jailed in Egypt, said he started a water drinking strike to coincide with the start of the COP27 climate summit.

This strike is a step in escalating the hunger strike Alaa started more than six months ago.

Calls for his release escalated after the opening of the climate summit, which will be held in the Egyptian resort of Sharm el-Sheikh on Sunday.

The 40-year-old activist ate just 100 calories during his more than 200-day hunger strike to urge Egyptian authorities to allow him to receive assistance from the British consulate in Cairo.

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said he would raise the issue at the COP27 summit.

Alaa, one of the main activists of the January 25, 2011 revolution in Egypt, is currently serving a five-year prison sentence for “spreading false news”.

His sister Sanaa Seif warned that her brother’s starvation and going on hunger strike could mean he could die before the summit finishes.

Speaking to Sky News, she called on the UK government to take responsibility and demand “to give us proof that he is still alive”.

Sunak wrote to Alaa’s family, saying that he would raise the issue of his detention with the Egyptian government and would provide his family with a refund at the end of the summit.

He added that the activist’s case was “a priority for the UK Government as a human rights defender and as a British citizen”.

Sana, Alaa’s sister, is also a 28-year-old human rights activist. She served three prison sentences in Egypt over allegations that other activists denounced as false. She and her family are still protesting in front of the British Foreign Office in London for her brother’s release.

She expressed her concern that British Prime Minister Sunak’s dialogue with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi would be too late.

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Sana Seif, Alaa’s sister

The activist’s aunt, Ahdaf Soueif, told the BBC that the summit may be the last chance to rescue and release him.

She called on the British Prime Minister to release her nephew.

“That means we only have a few days left. None of us have any reason to believe that the Egyptian regime will ever release him,” she said.

“He has known for some time that Alaa has suffered enough and that he cannot live like this. This is his chance now and really every one of us’s chance to escalate things,” she added.

And she added: “He is counting on us and on society in Egypt who want his release and on the international community to raise the issue and make a fuss about it.”

She said the British government could use its influence to secure his release.

“It is in the hands of the UK Government to facilitate this. It will be very difficult for the UK to continue as usual with Egypt if this issue is not resolved.”

And she added: “I think if the UK government was serious and if Rishi Sunak said it so convincingly, Alaa would be on a plane to London.”

Alaa played an important role in the protests that ousted Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak from power in 2011.

He was jailed for nine years and sentenced to an additional five years in 2021 for “spreading false news” – a charge human rights groups have condemned as untrue.

Alaa received British citizenship from his London-born mother in December 2021.

Human rights groups said he was one of an estimated 60,000 Egyptian political prisoners and accused the Egyptian government of trying to “blow up the image of its repressive reputation” by hosting the climate summit.

The Egyptian government insists there are no political prisoners in the country.


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