ICFUAE Statement on UAE’s World Tolerance Summit
Over the next two days the UAE will host its very first World Tolerance Summit.
Bringing together diplomats, government leaders and academics, the Dubai summit promises to “celebrate diversity among people from all walks of life, regardless of varying political views, cultural and religious backgrounds”
Tell that, however, to Ahmed Mansoor, an award-winning rights activist serving a ten-year sentence for supposedly ‘defaming’ the UAE on social media. Or to Tayseer al-Najjar, a Jordanian journalist who was disappeared for over a year before being sentenced to three years in prison for “spreading false information” after criticising Emirati foreign policy on Facebook.
And what about Matthew Hedges? For daring to conduct basic academic fieldwork in the country, the Durham University PhD student is standing trial in Abu Dhabi on spying charges. Prior to being released on bail a couple of weeks ago, Hedges was held in solitary confinement for nearly six months, where he was denied access to a lawyer and regular contact with his family. His case will surely come as no surprise to the scores of other academics locked up in the UAE, such as Dr Nasser bin Gaith - the distinguished Emirati economist serving ten years for Tweets critical of the authorities.
To paint the UAE as tolerant, as this summit seeks to do, is to fundamentally ignore these basic facts on the ground. It is quite simply to turn reality on its head, and in the process erase the plight of the hundreds of prisoners of conscience languishing in Emirati jails.
It is, on the contrary, intolerance which guides UAE policy today. This summit is nothing more than a PR exercise for a regime intent on washing away the stain of its appalling human rights record. For tragically, the real defenders of tolerance and freedom in the UAE have long been silenced.
Bill Law expands upon this issue in a recent article for Middle East Eye.
Read the full piece here: