Egyptian political prisoners remembered in unsanctioned performance at British Museum’s ‘Sunken Cities’

Press Release 24 Nov 2016 anna

24 November 2016

Photographs below, credit for all photographs: Mujtaba Ahmed. For further information contact Jo Ram (Platform London) at [email protected]

Today, in an unsanctioned performance at the BP sponsored British Museum, activists remembered political prisoners and friends jailed in Egypt. In particular, the vigil remembered Alaa Abdel Fattah [1], Aya Hejazi, Ahmed Maher, Ahmed Douma, Yousef Shabaan, Mahmoud Shawkan, and Abdullah Al Fakhrani [2], who are amongst the tens of thousands of dissidents imprisoned by Abdel Fattah el-Sisi’s regime. The performance was organised by the groups Platform and Deadline.

Holding larger-than-life photographic images of Egyptian activists jailed for human rights campaigning, the vigil stood in silence in front of the stage while members of the public took their seats for the ‘Curator’s Introduction to the BP Sponsored Exhibition Sunken Cities: Egypt’s Lost Worlds’ . The lecture hall was packed with about 200 attendees.

The vigil took the stage for 10 minutes ahead of the lecture, despite security staff’s attempts to remove the performers. As they proceeded out of the lecture theatre, the audience applauded.






The Sunken Cities exhibition is helping the Egyptian regime and BP cover up human rights and environmental abuses. Between 2011 – 2014, community opposition to fossil fuels in the Nile Delta successfully stalled the North Alexandria Project [3]. Residents blocked roads, held popular street assemblies and occupied building sites. But the military’s crackdown since 2014 has crushed dissent. BP is taking full advantage to push ahead with a massive and highly controversial gas project.

Alaa Abd El Fattah, one of the prisoners we remembered today (and the nephew of a British Museum Trustee, the novelist Ahdaf Soueif), wrote during a hunger strike:

“I do not fight alone to save the foundation of life. My comrades are many, even though their voices have grown faint in the huge noise of the raging battle. But my closest comrades in the fight for the right to life, the dignity of the body and the freedom of the individual have always been my family. I ask for your prayers. I ask for your solidarity. I ask you to continue what I am no longer able to do: to struggle, to dream, to hope”


Jo Ram, a campaigner with Platform (part of the Art Not Oil coalition), said:

“We demand the British Museum cancel its sponsorship deal with BP. And we want to make sure jailed activists, their friends and families are not forgotten. Those jailed in Egypt include many of the young writers and activists that led the January 2011 uprising, and inspired people in the UK and globally. The struggle against fossil fuels is intertwined with the struggle for democracy. Oil sponsorship is meant to buy artists’ and audiences’ approval, and silence the people who live on the frontlines of oil extraction and climate change.

Earlier this year, BP’s 26-year sponsorship of Tate and 34-year sponsorship of Edinburgh International Festival were ended, following years of protests, art interventions and dissent from prominent artists and performers [4]. Following the announcement of a new BP deal for British Musuem, over 200 arts and culture professionals, scientists and campaigners signed a letter in calling for this deal to be cancelled [5].

sunken-cities-1 sunken-cities-2 sunken-cities-3








[4] For more on the end of BP’s sponsorship of Tate, see:

For more on the end of BP’s sponsorship of Edinburgh International Festival, see:



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