British-Egyptian activist Alaa Abdel Fattah is “beginning a new stage of his hunger strike” in the wake of COP27 climate conference. He has told close family that he will drink water exclusively until Sunday 6 November, after which he will stop all intake. This brings him down to zero calories for the foreseeable future, which some have speculated may lead to his death during the conference.
For over 200 days, Abdel Fattah has significantly reduced his calorie intake to just 100 calories a day in order to pressure authorities into allowing British consular access, and has now escalated his strike.
“Alaa is using the only tool available to him: his body,” Sanaa Seif, Abdel Fattah’s sister, tells the BBC. She remains camped out in front of the UK Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) in Westminster. “Right now he’s not living like a human being. He’s very frail already. I worry about him dying.”
“Even when he served a full term,” Mona Seif, his other sister, claims in an impassioned Instagram clip, “they imprisoned him again […] the al-Sisi cabinet is proving to us time and time again that it will not take action until [Abdel Fattah] dies in prison.”
She goes on to explain that they have taken “all imaginable” avenues to try and plead for Abdel Fattah’s release, including reliance on his dual nationality and direct contact with the Ministry of Interior.
International calls for his release have only increased ahead of the COP27 conference, including support by climate activists Greta Thunberg and Andreas Magunsson, and rapporteur on human rights and the environment David Boyd.
However, Sanaa believes that not enough is being done to help Abdel Fattah.“The United Kingdom has helped Egypt […] a lot in the logistics of COP, but they’re not willing to show any teeth [for Abdel Fattah].”
Over the previous week, around 64 MPs and peers in the House of Lords urged Foreign Secretary James Cleverly to use “the summit to secure [Abdel Fattah’s] release.”
In December 2021, Abdel Fattah was sentenced to five years in prison after an Egyptian court found him guilty of “spreading false news undermining national security, and using social media to commit a publishing offense.”
Widely believed to be “Egypt’s most famous political prisoner,” Alaa Abdel Fattah has a legacy of political activism and clashes with authority. He was imprisoned several times, as early as 2006 where he spent 45 days in detention for demonstrating for an independent judiciary. Similarly, Abdel Fattah was investigated and arrested in 2011 and 2013 for “incitement of violence at Maspero” and “protest against military trials” respectively.
As of now, he is detained in Tora Prison Complex in Cairo, and the Egyptian government has released no statements acknowledging the calls for his release.