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crackdown intensifies ahead of COP27

A few hundred meters from Tahrir Square, the symbol of the 2011 revolution, police have set up an office on the asphalt. A wild checkpoint which adds to the already considerable police presence in downtown Cairo. The officers there challenge passers-by deemed suspicious and search their phones: a private message, a relayed political post, or even a like on a video deemed critical, and these are immediately arrested.

On October 28, the game night when the country’s two favorite teams faced off, all the cafes and restaurants likely to bring people together were forced to lower the curtain. At the same time, on social networks, a timid call to demonstrate took the form of the hashtag “post-match”. Others were later added, around the same call to demonstrate on November 11, the day that US President Joe Biden is supposed to make his speech at COP27.

“It’s even worse than under Mubarak…”

“It’s even worse than under Mubarak, because this time the regime is afraid… And so are we,” commented a neighborhood trader, who preferred to remain anonymous. In September 2019, following calls for demonstrations by exiled entrepreneur Mohamed Ali, similar police deployments led to more than 2,600 arbitrary arrests.

Under pressure from Western diplomats, Egypt set up a zone reserved for protests for COP27, an exceptional device in this country where demonstrations have been strictly prohibited since 2013. However, human rights organizations are warning guard against the risks of calling or participating in a demonstration. In recent days, checkpoints have been installed all over the capital.

COP27, an opportunity to restore the country’s image

Egypt, plunged since 2016 into an unprecedented economic crisis, fears possible food riots. COP27 is a perfect opportunity for it, both to reassure its economic partners and to try to restore its image on the international scene. The government, which launched a “national dialogue” with great fanfare last April, is pleased to have pardoned 850 political prisoners over the past six months.

Over this same period, however, according to human rights organisations, 1,300 people were arrested, joining the ranks of the country’s more than 60,000 political prisoners. “The truth is that nothing has changed, says Tahrir Institute analyst Timothy Kaldas, it’s just smoke and mirrors, a desperate move to try to reduce international pressure and perhaps unlock the funding the regime sorely needs. »

The alarm bell of the UN Human Rights Council

In early October, the United Nations Human Rights Council sounded the alarm over the political repression of the regime, which now extends to climate experts and environmental activists. In a damning report, he denounced in particular the lack of transparency concerning accreditations, the delays in the issuance of visas, and the coordinated increase in all the prices of hotel rooms in the seaside resort of Sharm-El-Sheikh , where the conference is to be held, and whose cost per night is now regularly around €500.

“Only a small number of Egyptian NGOs have been accredited”

In addition to these numerous administrative and financial obstacles, there is an additional difficulty for Egyptian civil society, explains Mohamed Lotfy, human rights lawyer and director of the Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedoms (ECRF): “Only a small number of Egyptian NGOs, those which of course do not criticize the government, have been accredited and have the means to go there. »

However, he believes that the role of civil society in the fight against global warming is essential, while many communities across the country are suffering from desertification, rising sea levels, pollution of the water or air and struggle to be represented. “In the face of the climate emergency, freedom of expression is more important than ever,” he concludes.

Source : BBN NEWS

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