The past week was full of many tragic events, all of which connect in the lack of any value placed on human life and respect for the right to dignity and safety. The experience of the Arab Spring, including its limited victories and successive defeats and failures over the past decade, has connected us to events taking place around us affecting refugees or prisoners of conscience. Who would have thought that we would one day care about who has been chosen to head the International Criminal Police Organisation, Interpol?
Amazingly, Major General Ahmed Nasser Al-Raisi is the new president of Interpol. He will be in the role for the next four years. This means that the inspector general of the UEA's interior ministry; the man responsible for torture against dissident Emirati citizens and human rights activists, such as Ahmed Mansour, for example; the man whose harm extended to foreign citizens from Britain, Turkey and some African countries; this man has become responsible for monitoring, following up and even arresting and handing over any opponent of his country's government under the pretext that they are wanted for criminal offences in cases that everyone knows are fabricated political stitch-ups. All in the name of international police cooperation.
As an Egyptian journalist who writes about human rights violations in my country and exposes the crimes of the regime against journalists and political opponents, I was sentenced in absentia to five years in prison, my name was put on three terrorist lists, and my assets were seized. This makes me personally, along with thousands of Egyptian opponents of the Sisi regime living abroad, subject to arrest at our first attempt to travel internationally. The Egyptian regime simply has to contact the UAE head of Interpol and send him new lists containing the names of thousands of political opponents and human rights activists. We can expect nothing less from Al-Raisi of the Abu Dhabi police force than his flattery of his Egyptian allies by handing over those who Interpol manages to arrest in this airport or that border crossing.
Misfortunes, it is said, rarely happen in isolation. And so it was no real surprise, but shocking nonetheless, to hear that at least 31 people died trying to cross the English Channel en route from France to Britain. Their quest for dignity, safety and a decent life ended in the freezing waters of one of the world's busiest shipping lanes. This shouldn't have happened, and in a more caring and responsible world, it wouldn't have happened, because refugees would be treated with more concern for their basic humanity.
As a political refugee myself, I have lived through a similar experience, when the tyranny, oppression and persecution of the regime in your own country force you to risk everything you have on a treacherous journey in exchange for safety and protection. It must be said that neither the British Home Secretary Priti Patel nor her French counterpart knows anything about the plague of war in Syria and the effects of explosive barrels in Daraa, nor do they know anything about those who are killed in Sisi's prisons in Egypt every day, or those who are victims of the Saudi-UAE war in Yemen. They have no first-hand experience of such things, and just spend their time bickering about who can show the least concern about desperate human beings facing awful dilemmas, including those boys and girls who fall prey to repressive regimes around the world.
Patel and her kind in the West leave people like us with no other option. They support the despotic regimes in our lands with money and weapons, and then they express faux amazement that we are fleeing and seeking asylum in their countries. Their empty rhetoric about human rights and democracy didn't save Dr Hamdi Hassan, for example, who died inside one of Sisi's prisons after eight years without being allowed to see his family. He is just one of many examples of the victims of Western foreign policies and duplicity.
The bottom line is that you either live under oppression in your own country, maybe even take your final breath in an appalling cell that is not fit for animals, or you get lucky, and manage to survive the perilous journey of the migrants.
However, that's when you come up against a heartless politician like Priti Patel who doesn't try to help you in your predicament, but instead looks beyond you to throw the blame for that predicament on the French, or anyone else, but not the British. This is not a blame game, though. Don't waste time seeking to identify the villains, Ms Patel, you know who they are. Your government supports them. You speak to them.
Now, even when you reach a safe refuge and are granted asylum, the danger is not over. Because now you know that the UAE's Major General Ahmed Al-Raisi is in charge of Interpol, and you face the possibility of being arrested every time that you travel, and handed over to your country's repressive regime, never to see the light of day again.
The world is governed by hypocrisy and false slogans. It is no longer a safe place for anyone.
This article first appeared in Arabic in Arabi21 on 26 November 2021
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.