UAE: Climate activists in tears as they stage protest, call for ceasefire in Gaza

COP28: Protestors at UN-controlled Blue Zone read out names of Palestinians who died in Israeli bombing

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Angel Tesorero

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Cross movement action in solidarity for Palestine at COP28 in Expo City Dubai. Photos: Neeraj Murali
Cross movement action in solidarity for Palestine at COP28 in Expo City Dubai. Photos: Neeraj Murali

Published: Sun 3 Dec 2023, 4:23 PM

Last updated: Sun 3 Dec 2023, 10:02 PM

Their call was loud and clear: Ceasefire now! But they were also not able to help but sob and quiver as, one by one, the names of those who tragically died in Gaza were called in a poignant protest calling for justice and respect for humanity.

Wearing keffiyehs and waving watermelon banners, more than 200 environmental activists staged an organised demonstration at the ongoing COP28 in Dubai on Sunday, calling for an 'unconditional and immediate ceasefire in Gaza' as the number of deaths continues to rise following the expiration of a temporary truce.

The protest held inside the UN-controlled Blue Zone commenced by calling the names of those who died in Gaza due to Israeli bombing. "The long list is still being written as we hold this protest," the emcee, Gina Cortes, a climate activist from Colombia and member of COP28 Coalition, said while protesters wept.

A young female environmentalist started calling out the names. Her voice immediately quivered as she uttered the name of a six-year-old victim, followed by more names of infants and toddlers who tragically lost their lives. Despite her evident emotional strain, she persevered, systematically naming more victims — from months-old babies to the elderly.

Listen to the names of some victims in the video below by Angel Tesorero:

Climate justice and human rights

Bringing global attention to one of the world's longstanding conflicts in the Middle East has added another dimension to the UN Climate Summit. There is no climate justice without human rights, the protesters strongly chanted.

"It will be the height of hypocrisy if we call for just transition to clean energy if people are actually dying in refugee camps and hospitals, or we see our lands laid to waste in ashes and painted by blood. People are dying, and whole lineages are being wiped out. This is genocide," US-based Palestinian poet and activist Tariq Luthun said during his protest speech.

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People first

Speaking to Khaleej Times, Luke Espiritu, a labour leader from the Philippines and member of the Asian Peoples' Movement on Debt and Development (APMDD), said: "We are making it clear: Climate advocates stand for victims of genocide. We fight for the oppressed as we stand for the environment."

"There is no climate justice without human rights. We do not simply hug trees or cry 'protect the dolphins and sea turtles'. If preserving other life forms is linked to our survival as a species, then clearly, we see that keeping within 1.5 degrees Celsius to save humanity becomes hollow if we allow the slaughter and degradation of human life not by extreme weather events but by bullets and bombs," Espiritu added.

Luke Espiritu. Photo: Angel Tesorero
Luke Espiritu. Photo: Angel Tesorero

No to oppression

Climate activists added they could never remain neutral when thousands of people die under the yoke of oppression.

Arnold Padilla, coordinator at Food Sovereignty Programme–PAN Asia Pacific and Global Peoples Caravan for Food, Land, & Climate Justice campaign, said: "We strongly stand in solidarity with the Palestinian people, whose lands, including for food production, have been forcibly grabbed by a Zionist regime long before the current bombings.

"We condemn the forced starvation that Israel has wreaked upon Palestine as part of its occupation and genocide campaign. These atrocities have made the Palestinian people even more vulnerable to the impacts of the climate crisis, something that we must also stress as the world gathers for COP28," he added.

Lidy Nacpil, convenor of COP28 Coalition and Global Campaign to Demand Climate Justice, composed of civil society organisations from 75 countries, added: "We condemn the continued killing and destruction in Gaza. It is clear that we cannot let this catastrophe continue.

"We have to speak up in support of Palestinians who are suffering from disaster upon disaster due to longstanding occupation and the climate crisis. We call for a ceasefire, the lifting of the blockade and an end to the occupation of Palestine. We stand in solidarity with all people and communities in their struggle for climate justice and against oppression, exploitation, racism, apartheid and colonialism," she added.

'Please stop – that is too much'

Other climate activists from South America, Europe and Asia gave short but emotionally charged speeches before the one-hour protest ended.

The powerful message resonated with the crowd — observers, passersby, and some in the media were moved by the impassioned plea to halt aggression against Gaza. Attendees at the protest felt the weight as the names of the victims were disclosed, and towards the conclusion of the programme, a few voices were heard urging, "Please stop – that is too much."

Following the speeches, a moment of silence was observed. Protesters raised their arms, fists clenched in a show of defiance. Their silence spoke volumes, mirroring the chants that echoed at the protest's outset: "When human rights are under attack, what do we do? We stand and fight back!"

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