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Why Egypt’s World Youth Conference Mattered

November 12, 2017

This week in the Egyptian coastal city of Sharm el-Sheikh, thousands of young people from all over the world gathered for the ‘World Youth Forum’. Many Egyptian human rights activists denounced the conference as a token and superficial public relations stunt by the Egyptian government, with a now notorious open letter being addressed to American actress Helen Hunt to criticize her involvement, touting it as a validation of human rights abuses. “They said, ‘You can’t kill an idea,’ but what use are ideas lost in the eternal noise of gunfire,” wrote blogger and activist Mona Seif of the event, posting a photo of jailed activist Alaa Abdel Fattah to her Twitter feed. The letter, written by Seif, is part of a wave of criticism around the event. “This isn’t just any forum that you chose to endorse,” the letter to Hunt read. “This is a youth forum with the slogan ‘We Need To Talk’ called for by a dictator who cannot stand any form of opposition or real criticism. He jails journalists for doing their jobs, youth for expressing their opinions, writers for writing fiction that violates ‘public morality,’ gays for…

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