ICFUAE Statement for International Women’s Day
"We celebrate mothers, sisters, daughters, partners in development and colleagues in the UAE's march".
Thus were the words of Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum, ruler of Dubai and vice-president of the UAE, to mark this year’s International Women's Day.
Spoken without a hint of irony, they come as his very own daughter remains trapped in a gilded cage against her will, hidden away from the rest of the world.
A year ago this month, Princess Sheikha Latifa, 32, attempted to flee the UAE after revealing the torture and abuse she had suffered at the hands of her father.
This, however, was thwarted after Latifa was abducted by Indian and Emirati special forces just off the coast of India, under the instruction of bin Rashid.
Latifa has not spoken in public since. Several international organisations, including the UN and Amnesty International, have called for the Princess’ release.
The last year has also been miserable for female prisoners of conscience in the UAE.
Chained to a hospital bed in a windowless room without ventilation, Alia Abdel Nour lays dying under armed guard with just weeks left to live.
She is currently serving a 10-year prison sentence after being convicted of ‘financing terrorism.’
Her crime? Collecting money for Syrian refugees.
A year after her arrest Alia was diagnosed with terminal breast cancer. Yet her family say that she has been severely mistreated by the authorities and frequently denied access to adequate medical care.
Despite having just a few weeks left to live, the Emirati regime are refusing to allow the cancer-stricken detainee early release on medical grounds.
Human Rights Watch and UN rights experts have called for Alia’s immediate release, urging the UAE to allow her ’to live her last days of life in dignity and with her family at home.’
In a heartbreaking testimony to the UN last week, Alia’s mother pleaded for her daughter’s freedom:
“I am begging them to let her come home to spend her last days among us. But they keep telling me, “she will die in custody”. All of that because she helped needy Syrian refugees.
Now, she is dying, unable to move or talk, and can't breathe without a ventilator… but she is still chained to her bed. I am not even allowed to stay with her at the hospital or come and visit her freely to bring her some support. I have been many times to the hospital to visit her, but the guards refuse to let me enter her room. I just stand there in front of her door, I can hear her crying and moaning in pain, and I can’t do anything to help her.”
This International Women's Day, we urge the UAE authorities to release Alia Abdel Nour and Princess Sheikha Latifa, as well as all other female prisoners of conscience being detained for peacefully expressing their rights to freedom of speech and assembly.