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Calls for Alaa Abdelfattah’s release outside BP-sponsored Egypt exhibit at British Museum

October 12, 2022 at 12:14 pm

Alaa Abdelfattah [Twitter]

A photograph of the British-Egyptian activist Alaa Abdelfattah has been projected onto the British Museum as part of efforts to secure his freedom.

Yesterday, activists read from Alaa’s book, ‘You Have Not Yet Been Defeated’, a collection of essays written by Egypt’s most high-profile political prisoner, many of them from inside prison.

Sitting outside the exhibition, activists called for Alaa’s release and the release of all political prisoners in Egypt.

It follows a letter signed by 80 actors, climate change organisations, scientists and workers’ groups calling on the British Museum to support human rights in Egypt.

The letter, which has been signed by actors Mark Rylance and Maxine Peake and comedian Steve Coogan, coincides with a major new exhibition at the British Museum, Hieroglyphs: unlocking ancient Egypt, which is sponsored by BP.

READ: UN, Denmark, Swiss embassies sign $6.2m project to support Egypt through COP27

The letter urges the museum to join calls for Egypt to release political prisoners ahead of COP27 in November and highlights Egypt’s crackdown on freedom of assembly and expression which raises questions over to what extent the participation of civil society activists will be meaningful.

It also points out that BP is Egypt’s largest fossil fuel producer and has close ties to President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi.

“By allowing the company to sponsor this exhibition, the museum is actively assisting BP in projecting a misleading picture of its business,” reads the letter.

“BP has partnered closely with successive governments and regimes in Egypt and the same laws and practices that limit the role of civil society and have condemned thousands to imprisonment have aided the expansion of BP’s fossil fuel extraction in the country.”

British officials have still not been able to visit Alaa in prison and he has been on hunger strike since April 2022 to demand consular access by the British embassy.

The exhibition is taking place just weeks before COP27 will take place in Egypt’s Red Sea resort town of Sharm El-Sheikh which Egypt is using to deflect criticism of its human rights record and present itself as a global leader on climate change.

“As the museum puts Egypt in the spotlight it has both a position of influence, and the responsibility to use it,” says the letter.

“It should not celebrate Egypt’s cultural past while ignoring the human rights situation in the present, or the climate impacts Egypt faces in the future.”

“Museums are not neutral. Representatives of the Egyptian government and BP will no doubt have been invited to attend the exhibition’s opening and we call on you to take the opportunity this week to raise the case of Alaa’s imprisonment and support the international call for the release of all prisoners of conscience before COP27 opens.”

READ: ‘The climate crisis is a human rights crisis worldwide’