Egypt’s prominent activist starts ‘full hunger strike’ in prison
Egypt’s most prominent political activist Alaa Abdel-Fattah has gone on “full hunger strike” starting from Tuesday in protest at his prolonged imprisonment and plans to stop drinking water as well on the first day of a global climate summit, when the North African country comes under the spotlight, his family said.
In a letter to his family, the activist said he won’t drink any water starting November 6, the first day of the UN Climate Change Conference (COP 27), which will be hosted in Egypt’s Sharm el-Sheikh. His family members are worried that if Alaa is not released during the climate conference, he would die due to dehydration.
“After five days, on Sunday, 6 November, I shall drink my last glass of water. What will follow is unknown,” he said in a letter shared on social media by his relatives.
According to his family, which has been lobbying for his release, the activist has been on a partial hunger strike since April 2, consuming only 100 calories per day.
Mona Seif, his sister, said Alaa believed if authorities determined to keep him in prison forever or until he dies, then at least he will decide the terms of the battle himself.
“I cannot ask him to stop what he is doing,” she said in a video that was posted on social media.
His other sister, Sana’a, saidو “When I last saw Alaa three weeks ago he looked so drained. He was struggling to stand.”
Alaa’s family communicates with him through weekly letters and has the opportunity to see him in rare visits.
In April, the family announced he had obtained British citizenship through his mother, Laila Soueif, a math professor at Cairo University who was born in London. The family said then that they sought a British passport for Alaa as a way out of what they described as an “impossible ordeal.”
His family has appealed to UK authorities to seek consular access to visit him in jail. However, all attempts to free him have so far failed.
Alaa, a blogger, a software engineer and an outspoken dissident, became prominent during the so-called Arab Spring protests, which started to sweep across the Middle East in 2011 and overthrew Egypt’s longtime dictator, Husni Mubarak.
The 40-year old activist spent most of the past decade behind bars, with his detention becoming a symbol of Egypt’s return to autocratic rule.
He was released in March 2019 after serving a five-year sentence for taking part in a peaceful protest against military trials for civilians. According to sources, he was arrested again in September in the same year on charges of spreading false news and inciting people.
Human rights groups and activists have constantly accused Egypt’s President Abdel-Fattah Sisi of violating public freedoms and suppressing opponents. According to rights groups, an estimated 60,000 political prisoners are being held in Egyptian jails.
The Egyptian president took power in 2014, a year after a military coup spearheaded by him toppled the country’s first ever democratically-elected president, Mohammed Morsi.
Thousands of supporters of Morsi, as well as activists like Alaa, have been detained since the coup, with many of them dying in custody due to inhumane prison conditions and medical neglect.