CAIRO (Middle East Eye) – Swedish environmental activist Greta Thunberg has announced she will not attend the Cop27 United Nations climate change conference in Egypt next month, condemning human rights abuses in the country.
The 19-year-old criticized the conference for being “held in a tourist paradise in a country that violates many basic human rights”.
“I’m not going to Cop27 for many reasons, but the space for civil society this year is extremely limited,” she said during a launch event for her new book The Climate Book at London’s Southbank Centre.
“It’s important to leave space for those who need to be there. It will be difficult for activists to make their voices heard.”
Cop27 will be hosted in Egypt’s resort town of Sharm el-Sheikh from 7 to 18 November amid tight restrictions on peaceful assembly and free speech.
Residents in Sharm el-Sheikh and its surrounding areas told MEE that the area had turned into what looks like “a war zone” with draconian security measures allegedly aimed at protecting the event.
“The [Cop conferences] are mainly used as an opportunity for leaders and people in power to get attention, using many different kinds of greenwashing, lying and cheating,” Thunberg said.
Earlier on Sunday, she visited a sit-in outside the UK Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) in London in solidarity with Alaa Abd el-Fattah, a British-Egyptian writer imprisoned in Egypt.
Abdel Fattah, an activist who called for peaceful assembly and free speech, was an icon of the 2011 Egyptian revolution and has spent eight out of the past 10 years in jail on various charges.
Thunberg held up a sign saying “#FreeAlaa before #COP27” and wrote in a sit-in visitors’ book. The imprisoned writer’s sister Sanaa has been sitting outside the FCDO since 18 October.
Last week, Thunberg joined over 200 organizations and individuals calling for Egyptian authorities to release journalists and political prisoners ahead of the conference.
At least 60,000 political prisoners are estimated to have been jailed since President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi overthrew Mohamed Morsi, the country’s first democratically elected president, and took power in 2013.