The arrest of an Indian climate activist by Egyptian security forces has renewed international alarm about Egypt’s human rights record as the nation prepares to host the annual UN Climate Summit, COP 27.
President Joe Biden is set to attend the annual climate conference. Activists and experts around the world have long criticized that Egypt would be the host country of the important climate summit, saying that its human rights record is too appalling.
The alarm has increased as Cop 27 inches closer, set to begin in one week.
Ajit Rajagopal, an architect, and activist from Kerala in south India was arrested on Sunday shortly after setting off on an eight-day walk from Cairo to Sharm el-Sheikh as part of a global campaign to raise awareness about the climate crisis.
The arrest was described as “illegal” by a local human rights group which reported that at least 67 people had been arrested in Cairo and other cities in recent days as authorities try to quell any planned protests.
It is not the only case that has been in the news lately.
There are thousands of political prisoners in Egypt. One is writer Alaa Abd El-Fattah, who is six months into a hunger strike and at risk of death. The majority of living Nobel prize for literature laureates have called on world leaders attending the Cop27 climate conference in Egypt this week to help free political prisoners.
Egypt has recently announced that protesters at COP 27 will be corralled in the desert far away from the conference. Visitors to the resort town where the summit is being held will face extensive searches and video surveillance.
The conference will be in Sharm el-Sheikh, a slim strip of manicured resorts, asphalt, and concrete near the southern tip of the Sinai peninsula. There, teams of workers are putting the finishing touches to preparations for the UN’s Cop27 climate conference.
There will be space for protesters, but only in a purpose-built area out near a highway and away from the conference center or any other signs of life.
New surveillance technologies are also in place, so much so that Maj Gen Khaled Fouda, governor of South Sinai, recently boasted to a local cable channel that any visitors entering overland will be extensively searched at a gate encircling the city.
He added that 500 white taxis commissioned to transport attendees during the conference will be equipped with interior cameras, all connected to a local “security observatory”, to monitor the footage.
Amnesty International said it will be the most highly surveilled Cop in the history of the conference. Egypt has been criticized for blatantly not allowing protests or freedom of assembly.
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