Climate summit and President El-Sisi: support and praise are met with mockery, criticism and demands for the release of Alaa Abdel-Fattah
The activities of the climate summit, known as COP27, take place in the Egyptian city of Sharm El-Sheikh, where over the course of a week, proposed solutions to protect global food security and save the planet from the effects of climate change will be discussed Severe weather phenomena such as desertification and forest fires.
And a different kind of debate is being waged on social media about the legitimacy of a country that, according to legal experts, has a “disturbing record” in its environmental and human rights record to host such international conferences.
Some saw the conference as “an opportunity to boost tourism and shed light on environmental issues,” while others saw it as “an attempt by the authorities to cover up Egypt’s environmental disasters.”
This also coincides with calls for the release of activists and detainees in Egyptian prisons, including activist Alaa Abdel-Fattah, who is on hunger strike.
“upbeat and welcoming”
As soon as you search social media, you will come across a group of hashtags in different languages promoting the climate conference and emphasizing its importance in saving the planet.
If you search for the conference in Arabic, you’ll find people saying, “Egypt leads global march to save the planet” or “Egypt is one of the first countries to set national goals to address climate change issues.” “.
All of these terms and phrases reflect a segment of Egyptian commentators’ delight in the conference their country is hosting.
There are those who are optimistic about the conference, seeing it as an opportunity to shed light on environmental issues and revitalize the tourism sector.
Egyptian media outlets also tried to focus on “the projects led by the Egyptian President to protect and develop the country’s environmental systems”.
“Disparity and Paradoxes”
But on the other hand, there are those who poke fun at these attempts, accusing “electronic committees” of “brightening the Egyptian government’s image, covering up its record of environmental violations and prosecuting climate activists,” they said.
Others pointed to the irony that led Egypt to host the world climate summit when the capital, Cairo, is the second most polluted city in the world, according to a 2016 World Health Organization study.
Environmental activists accuse the government of “removing much green space in Cairo and many other cities in favor of urban projects, roads and bridges without consulting environmental experts”.
Many saw these operations as “an explicit violation of the goals of the world’s largest climate forum,” and this discrepancy prompted the question, “how serious is Egypt and its right to host such an event?”
“It’s more useful to cut than to keep.”
Egyptian Environment Minister Yasmine Fouad previously defended tree felling in an interview with the BBC.
Defenders of Egypt’s legitimacy to organize the climate conference gave similar justifications, believing that their government “has presented many environmental initiatives that qualify them to organize the conference.”
One of these initiatives is the “Cairo Bike” bicycle project.
Since 2014, the Egyptian government has announced the implementation of a strategy to reduce emissions and pollution as part of its efforts to combat climate change.
In July 2021, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi announced his adoption of a $40 billion strategy for the production of “green hydrogen,” putting Egypt in a frenetic global race to harness it.
However, tweeters and environmental activists questioned “Egypt’s ability to produce green hydrogen or deliver on its promises on issues that depend primarily on civil society activities and ensuring freedom of expression.”
“Government requirements for a suitable activist”
Climate change conferences usually witness protests organized by representatives from environmental groups to demand that officials take serious action to protect the earth.
But in Egypt, the scene appeared to be different, or at least that was reflected in comments by human rights organizations via electronic platforms, which lamented that “hundreds of Egyptians are still being arrested during the summit’s kick-off.”
Despite Egypt’s pledge to allow protests and allocate activists a spot near the conference center, human rights activists have claimed on social media that “the government has pre-empted the protests with a campaign of arrests and arrests of many activists in various governorates across the country.”
Many cited what happened to Egyptian lawyer Makarios Lahzi and his friend, Indian environmental activist Ajit Rajagopal.
A few days before the start of the conference, Lahzi posted a picture of him with Rajagopal, who seemed happy to attend the summit, so he decided to walk from Cairo to Sharm El Sheikh to raise awareness of the dangers of carbon emissions to sharpen.
Hours after this picture was posted, news of their arrest was broken, and news of their arrest was later reported before they were released the next day.
The BBC could not confirm the fate of Rajagopal’s attendance at the climate summit. Some describe what happened to him as “a clear example that the government has not changed its policy towards other forms of protest”.
“Civil Society Participation”
Commentators also see that “the selection of resorts in Sharm El-Sheikh, away from the cities and crowded streets, as the location for the COP27 conference suggests that the government fears the participation of local civil society at this conference”.
Others questioned “the level of security enjoyed by environmental activists attending the summit” while poking fun at it hung up What they called “the government’s special criteria for selecting the appropriate activist”.
This is consistent with Kant’s account “Human Rights Watch “ The lawyer published it last September.
The organization noted in the report that “a recent increase in official tolerance of environmental activities is slightly in line with government priorities and is not viewed as government-critical”.
The report added that a number of these environmental groups “work primarily in technical areas such as garbage collection, recycling, renewable energy, food security and climate finance.”
Human Rights Watch also accused the Egyptian authorities of “arresting hundreds of people in connection with calls for demonstrations during the COP27 conference.”
Egyptian government supporters, on the other hand, have denounced these allegations as “mere allegations”.
They say the government was “interested in removing barriers for those wishing to attend the summit,” and some of them cited Cop27’s request recently launched by Egyptian authorities.
However, activists and human rights defenders warned against registering in it for “security reasons”.
A memory of Alaa Abdel Fattah and others
Prominent Egyptian human rights and environmental activists were due to attend the conference, but most of them were absent for various reasons.
As a result, tags with the names of a number of Egyptian political activists and opponents have proliferated.
Interacting with these hashtags called for investing this opportunity in “defending human rights in Egypt,” whose prisons are “swarming with tens of thousands of activists defending human rights and the environment,” as they described.
Among the commentators were those calling for the release of imprisoned activist Alaa Abdel-Fattah as “one of those who have devoted most years of their lives to realizing the dreams of the youth of the January 25 Revolution.”
Abdel-Fattah went on a partial hunger strike about 200 days ago, after which he announced the escalation of his strike by stopping drinking water.
There are also those who called for the release of Seif Fatin, an environmental engineer specializing in sustainable energy.
Others have also called for the fate of Ahmed Amasha, a veterinarian and environmental justice specialist, to be revealed.
Skills behind bars
Some questioned the rationale for keeping “most of the skills that can help Egypt deal with climate change” behind bars.
While some of them reiterated that “the summit will not succeed” and that “climate justice cannot be achieved without respect for human rights,” others seemed optimistic about its success.
Others slammed the sympathizers of Alaa and other activists, saying they were “paying the price for their mistakes and creating chaos.”
As the activities of the climate conference continue, the voices of human rights defenders denouncing and calling for the lifting of “restrictions on freedom of expression” are becoming louder.
Human rights organizations also warned against “using the global forum to promote an image that does not reflect the reality of human rights in Egypt.” Some activists called the conference a “summit that promotes green fraud.”
Egypt usually denies criticism or ill-treatment in prisons. In a previous statement, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi pointed out that “Egypt is committed to human rights, given the beliefs and ideas it believes in, without being under pressure “.
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