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Dictatorship in Egypt is more dangerous than carbon emissions

November 1, 2021 at 11:00 am

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi in Budapest, Hungary, on October 12, 2021. [ATTILA KISBENEDEK/AFP via Getty Images]

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson called Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi a couple of weeks ago regarding the latter’s invitation to attend the 26th Climate Change Conference being held in Glasgow over the next couple of weeks. Johnson also expressed his happiness about Egypt’s nomination to host the 27th conference next year. Defence and national security issues were discussed as well, especially relating to Libya and the need for foreign forces to withdraw from the North African state along with the holding of presidential and parliamentary elections there next month.

The two men agreed on the need for the Glasgow conference to succeed. It comes amid large demonstrations and much criticism of the policies of participating countries in facing the dangers of climate change and the marked increase in carbon emissions.

However, dictatorship is the most dangerous polluter in the world today. This is the message that the leaders taking part in Glasgow need to know when they meet General Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi and shake the hands that are stained with Egyptian blood. When they stand next to him for official photographs they give him a veneer of legitimacy that enables him to continue his horrific violations of human rights in Egypt, including extrajudicial killing.

Of course, we cannot ignore the dangers of climate change, which has become a real threat to the planet. Millions of people are counting on governments to come up with viable, practical decisions and strategies that will be implemented to confront the pollution and the increase in carbon emissions, especially in those countries which do not have the financial resources, the political will or societal awareness to deal with such a global problem.

READ: Hungary asks EU to drop ‘artificial political preconditions’ on funding Egypt 

As the world discusses climate change and the risk it poses, everyone needs to know that there are thousands of Egyptians languishing in prisons established by Al-Sisi’s regime. Many are held in solitary confinement and have not seen the sun or breathed fresh air for years. Repression and rights abuses against political opponents in Egypt are at their highest ever level.

“Prison officials in Egypt subject prisoners of conscience and others detained on political grounds to torture and cruel and inhumane conditions of detention,” said Amnesty International in its report released in January this year under the heading Who cares if you die? Neglect and Denial of Care in Egyptian Prisons. “They deny them health care on purpose as punishment for their opposition, which has caused deaths in detention as well as irreparable damage to the health of other prisoners.”

Sisi's Prisons - Cartoon [Sabaaneh/MiddleEastMonitor]

Egypt Sisi’s Prisons – Cartoon [Sabaaneh/MiddleEastMonitor]

Al-Sisi will talk to participants in Glasgow about “Egypt Vision 2030” for the reduction of pollution in the country by 15 per cent. He will promise an increase in green spaces by 2024 and he will talk about an initiative he launched to plant one million trees. He will tell them about his regime’s heroic decision to switch to electric transportation to reduce carbon emissions in Egypt.

What he will not speak to them about, however, is the damage done to trees and green spaces across Egypt by his policies which outnumber the latest cosmetic changes. He will not explain that his negative environmental policies have reduced every Egyptian citizens’ share of green space to one square metre, which is much less than the global average per capita share.

READ: Rights groups call on Egypt to release veteran journalist Tawfik Ghanem 

What’s more important than photographs and diplomatic handshakes with this military dictator is for someone to ask him about the number of political detainees in Egypt, or the overcrowded cells which do not allow them to sit, sleep or even breathe normally. It is also important to ask him about the allegations made by human rights organisations about his regime’s deliberate medical neglect of detainees, including those with Covid-19. Many have died in prison without ever receiving any treatment.

If the issue of climate change needs scientists and specialists to deal with it, then participants in Glasgow need to know that there are many university professors and scholars in Al-Sisi’s prisons. If the matter requires the efforts of researchers and academics, then ask him about Patrick George Zaki. And if the matter requires the mobilisation of activists and civil society organisations, then ask Al-Sisi about Alaa Abdel Fattah, Ahmed Amasha and thousands of others who are still in his prisons in Egypt.

With his repressive dictatorship in Egypt, Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi is much more dangerous to this world than climate change and carbon emissions. The Egyptian general does not need to wait for the harmful effects of climate change to kill people. He is getting rid of Egyptians quickly through his dictatorship and human rights violations.

Translated from Arabi21, 30 October 2021

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.