Take action to #FreeAlaa before Cop27

Egyptian activist Alaa Abd el-Fattah has spent the last nine years in jail simply for voicing his opinion. His hunger strike ahead of the UN Climate Conference hosted by Egypt recall us that there cannot be a sustainable response to the climate crisis without freedom and justice. Join the international campaign to #FreeAlaa.

This week, after more than 200 days of partial hunger strike – consuming only 100 calories a day – the Egyptian activist Alaa Abd el-Fattah has begun a full hunger strike. He will stop drinking water on Sunday November 6, the day of the opening in Sharm el Sheik (Egypt) of the COP27, the annual UN Climate Conference. Alaa has spent the last 9 years in prison – except for a few months in 2019 – simply for voicing his opinion. He was also jailed under Mubarak, and later under Morsi. He is a political prisoner, one amongst too many languishing in Egyptian jails.

I had the pleasure and the honor to meet Alaa in Rome several years ago, in 2007, as my wife used to work with him in Egypt. A few years earlier, together with his wife Manaa, they had founded Manalaa, the first blog aggregator in Arab. Sitting in a café in Rome, I remember Alaa commenting that Egypt had not experience its Renaissance yet, in the sense of a process liberating the individual will and creativity against the political, religious and traditional authority. We had a glimpse of how such Renaissance could look like in Tahir Square with the Egyptian Revolution of January 2011. Alaa become one of the most prominent faces and minds of that revolution. Unfortunately, we know how it ended.

In the past five years I have had the opportunity of working with Egyptian researchers, journalists and photographers on topics related to the Nile river. In our conversations, whenever a reference was made to the Revolution, I remember an initial spark in their eyes, rapidly extinguishing with a gloomy remark on the crackdown on freedom and human rights by the current regime. Several of the creative and critical Egyptians with whom I had the privilege to collaborate have self-exiled to pursue their work and aspiration abroad. Doing research on the role of media and science communication in water conflict and cooperation, we learnt that there cannot be a constructive conversation around water, rivers, and dams, without freedom of expression and freedom of research. In other words, those of Omar Robert Hamilton in the most lucid articles about COP27 that I read so far, “the pollution and the police are not unrelated”.

My plea to the many journalists and colleagues that are traveling to Egypt and will attend the COP27 is to not forget Alaa: raise your voice and join the international campaigns for his immediate release. My recommendation to IHE Delft students who are starting their Master in Water and Sustainable Development, enthusiastically engaging in an interdisciplinary study of water, is to read and get inspired by Alaa’s ideas, starting from this selection of his writing: by escalating his hunger strike ahead of the COP27 he his using his body in a bold and brave way to recall once more how there cannot be climate justice without political justice.

Let’s do everything we can to bring Alaa back to his family and loved ones before he disappears!

Cite this blog post
Emanuele Fantini (2022, November 4). Take action to #FreeAlaa before Cop27. FLOWs. Retrieved June 23, 2024, from https://doi.org/10.58079/os2n

Emanuele Fantini

Emanuele (@emanufanti) is senior lecturer and researcher at the Water Governance Department of IHE Delft. Committed to public engagement and crossover projects with artists and journalists, Emanuele coordinates the project “Open Water Diplomacy. Media, science and transboundary cooperation in the Nile basin”, he hosts the podcasts “The Sources of the Nile”, “Water Alternatives Podcast”, and “Si dice acqua”, and he is the editor of IHE Delft Water Governance Blog, FLOWs.

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