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Egypt's Youth Forum ridiculed as nation mourns attack victims

Egyptian President Sisi has been reprimanded over the conference while attack on Coptic community took place on the same day
Social media users have compared images from the forum to the attacks in Minya on the same day (AFP)

A major state-sponsored conference in Egypt has come in for ridicule on social media after users contrasted the wide coverage of the lavish event to the lack of coverage of a number of terror attacks simultaneously taking place in the country.

The World Youth Forum was held from 3 to 6 November in the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh and hosted hundreds of young people, public figures and officials from around the world.

The conference says it aims to "send a message of peace" by uniting youth internationally, and provide the opportunity for participants to exchange ideas from their different fields.

However, social media users denounced the forum for the large sums of money spent, which they said could have been better used elsewhere. 

Translation: why not direct the huge sums of money spent on such conferences on building classrooms instead of stopping the annual raise for civil servants? Are these conferences a priority over the salaries of civil servants?

At the conference, Egypt's President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi suggested that Egypt’s civil servants may not get a wage increase this year as the government needs money to build new classrooms in overcrowded schools.

“I’m going to say something difficult. [We will] make cuts in all the ministries. I’m going to say something even more difficult. We’re not going to give raises this year to employees in Egypt,” Sisi said at the conference. 

Translation: “The ruler of Egypt and the people of Egypt on the same day”

Some users have called the forum a “propaganda show” suggesting that the president is using it as a publicity stunt to improve the image of the country which has recently come under scrutiny for the increased crackdown on activists, political figures and journalists.

Others have suggested that the World Youth Forum is an effort to distract people from the worsening economy in Egypt.

Translation: Sorry Mr President, you haven’t convinced me by defending your stance on the economic situation that is deadly for citizens

Other also criticised the lack of media coverage on the attacks on Christians in Egypt compared to the extensive media coverage of the forum.

The attack in Minya, Egypt, which killed seven and injured 18, targeted a bus which was on the way to the monastery of St Samuel the Confessor on the 3November.

It followed a similar sectarian attack which occurred in May 2017, killing 28 Coptic Christians from the same community, on the same route.

"The police and the security forces obviously fell short in securing the same site of an attack in the same style against church buses," said Remon, one of the mourners at a mass in the church, angered by how their community had been attacked on the same route twice.

I saw all TV channels airing the [al-Ahly] match and the youth conference, but nobody broadcast the tragedy that happened

- Remon, mourner at Minya church mass

"Do we have to be diplomats or foreigners in order for police to secure the buildings?" he said.

A Coptic cleric who asked not to be named told MEE that the lack of coverage, in comparison to even a football match, was appalling.

"I saw all TV channels airing the [al-Ahly] match and the youth conference, but nobody broadcast the tragedy that happened," he said.

"When they did, all stations made excuses for the police, saying that the buses 'took a side road not the main [road] only leading to the monastery'".

The forum comes amidst a crackdown in Egypt in recent weeks with security forces arresting at least 19 human rights lawyers and activists in early morning raids, according to Amnesty International.

“Today’s chilling wave of arrests targeting the human rights community is yet another appalling setback for human rights in Egypt," said Najia Bounaim, Amnesty International's campaigns director.

"With these arrests the Egyptian authorities have once more demonstrated their ruthless determination to crush all activism and dismantle the human rights movement in the country. Anyone who dares to speak out about human rights violations in Egypt today is in danger."

The World Youth Forum also came under fire last year, when Sisi was reprimanded for continued human rights violations.

The official conference hashtag that was used at the time, #WeNeedToTalk, backfired as Egyptians took to social media to criticise Sisi, highlighting human rights abuses in Egypt under his leadership.

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