(CNN) — Egypt faces a barrage of criticism over what a rights group says is a crackdown on protests and activists, as the country prepares to host the COP27 climate summit that begins Sunday.
Rights groups have accused the Egyptian government of arbitrarily detaining activists after Egyptian dissidents abroad called for protests against President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi on November 11 during UN climate talks.
According to rights groups, security forces set up checkpoints in the streets of Cairo, and people stopped and searched their phones to find any content related to the planned protests.
CNN has contacted the Egyptian authorities for comment, but no response at the time of writing.
The Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedoms (ECRF), a non-governmental organization, said on Wednesday that 93 people had been arrested in Egypt in recent days. She said that according to the investigations by the National Security Prosecution, some detainees allegedly sent videos calling for protests on social messaging apps. Some of them were also accused of misusing social media, spreading false news, and joining terrorist organizations, a repressive charge commonly used by the security services against activists.
Indian climate activist Ajit Rajagopal was arrested in Cairo last Sunday after he set out in a protest march from the Egyptian capital to Sharm el-Sheikh, where the COP27 conference will be held from November 6-18, and was briefly detained in Cairo with his friend, lawyer Makarios Lahzi. , according to a Facebook post from Lahzi, Reuters quoted Rajagopal, who spoke to Rajagopal after his release on Monday, as saying he is still trying to get COP27 accreditation but does not plan to resume his career.
It is noteworthy that Egypt witnessed a mass uprising in 2011 and 2013, which eventually paved the way for then-army chief Sisi to take power. Since then, thousands of activists have been imprisoned, spaces for public expression have been abolished, and press freedom has diminished.
While protests are rare – and mostly illegal – in Egypt, the looming economic crisis and the security system have prompted renewed calls for demonstrations by opponents seeking to seize a rare opportunity presented by the climate summit.
It is noteworthy that the British-Egyptian activist Alaa Abdel-Fattah escalated his hunger strike in an Egyptian prison this week amid warnings from his relatives about the deterioration of his health, while Sana Seif, Abdel-Fattah’s sister, who is protesting outside the British Foreign Office headquarters in London, said: “Alaa is on strike for Food from 200 days ago, he survives on only 100 fluid calories a day.”