Middle East round-up: Alaa Abd el-Fattah, Egypt and COP27

Here’s a round-up of Al Jazeera’s Middle East coverage this week.

[Al Jazeera]
Mona Seif has been attempting to focus attention at COP27 on the plight of her brother, Alaa Abd el-Fattah [Joseph Eid/AFP]

Alaa Abd el-Fattah demands his release in Egypt, a rocket attack on a Syrian IDP camp, and a family accusing Sudan’s police of killing their son. Here’s your round-up, written by Abubakr Al-Shamahi, Al Jazeera Digital’s Middle East and North Africa editor.

Hosting the COP27 climate conference was supposed to be an opportunity for the Egyptian government to show a respectable face to the world, one that would maybe help eclipse the headlines of recent years about massacres, mass trials, economic crises and political repression. But with world leaders in attendance — including UAE President Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, French President Emmanuel Macron and British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak — the Egyptians have instead created a ready-made show to highlight the thousands of political prisoners currently behind bars.

A large part of that has been down to Alaa Abd el-Fattah and his family. He’s an activist, with dual Egyptian and British citizenship, known for his critical role during the 2011 revolution. He’s been on a hunger strike to protest against his imprisonment. But on Sunday, just as COP27 began, he also stopped drinking water. His family are now incredibly worried, and are calling for the UK to secure his immediate release.

Abd el-Fattah’s sister, Mona Seif, told Al Jazeera’s podcast, The Take, that Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi doesn’t want Alaa out of prison for as long as he’s in power. But the pressure is ramping up. The UN’s rights chief has said that the activist’s life is in great danger, and the case has become a major focus for the international media in attendance at the conference.

Rocket attack hits Syrian camp for displaced people

Syria has largely slipped from the headlines, and while the front lines have been relatively quiet over the last two years or so, death it seems is never far away. On Sunday, government forces fired 30 rockets at the Maram camp for displaced people, located in opposition-held Idlib province, killing nine people and injuring 25.

The attack was the latest violation of a March 2020 truce between Russia (which supports the Syrian government) and Turkey (which supports the opposition). Right now, though, a peace deal doesn’t look even remotely possible any time soon.

Police accused of brutality in Sudan

On October 11, Mudasser Kamal’s vehicle broke down. The police stopped, not to help him, but to arrest him. Why that happened, his family doesn’t know. They suspect it’s because he was a Sudanese-Ethiopian, and therefore represented an opportunity for the police to extort someone with foreign ties, and money.

But the next thing his family knew, Kamal was dead. They’ve accused the police of being responsible, and rights groups think he’s just the latest victim of a culture of impunity that prevails among the police, who are immune from criminal prosecution. Read Mat Nashed’s report from Khartoum on the family’s search for justice.

And now for something different

Cricket isn’t a sport people usually associate with the Middle East. And yet, in one corner of the Shatila refugee camp in Beirut, Syrian children have taken up the game with a passion. And, as this story from Laure Delacloche tells us, the sport has helped them cope with their unstable environment.

In Brief

Turkey demands Sweden address “terrorist” threats before allowing it to join NATO – MSF calls for Western countries to repatriate citizens held in Syria’s Al-Hol camp due to rampant violence and exploitation – US aid worker shot dead in Baghdad – Families of Bahraini prisoners stage protests during Pope Francis’ visit to the kingdom – Iran’s currency plunges to historic low during protests – Iran confirms drone sales to Russia – Football is for everyone, says Qatari minister in response to World Cup critics – Israeli fighter jets hit Gaza Strip in first attack since August – Human Rights Watch criticises new Tunisian electoral law that eliminates gender parity.

A ‘fanatical’ new Israeli government

Marwan Bishara is bound to upset a few people with this opinion piece. In light of the involvement of far-right, ultranationalists in the new Israeli government, Al Jazeera’s senior political analyst says that Israel has “given birth to a potentially more extreme type of ‘Jewish state’ akin to a more sophisticated and modern version of the ‘Islamic state’”. The main difference, he adds, is that Israel has nuclear weapons.

Quote of the Week

“[The interrogator] said I have interrogated major political people for a lifetime, but my most difficult interrogations were of several hundred people arrested on the streets. Neither could I understand what they were saying, nor did they understand what I am saying,” – Iran’s tourism and culture minister, Ezzatollah Zarghami, on the difficulties interrogators face with teenagers arrested during the country’s ongoing protest movement.

Source: Al Jazeera