Attending the Emirates Festival of Literature? Speak out on the lack of freedom of speech!
“The root cause of so much of the violence in the region is despair. Human rights are being violated on a daily basis and nobody in the outside world seems to care.”
Ahmed Mansour – Human Rights Campaigner
On March 3-11, the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature will return in Dubai for what it should be the “Middle East’s largest celebration of the written and spoken world”.
A claim that heavily clashes with the systematic clampdown on human rights and freedom of expression that has characterised the agenda of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) government. The festival is in fact sponsored by Emirates Airlines, which is wholly owned by the Dubai government, a part of the UAE.
Since 2011, the UAE have arbitrarily detained hundreds of peaceful activists and government critics calling for human rights and democratic reforms. In recent years, vague cybercrime laws have allowed the authorities to monitor online activities and imprison citizens and noncitizens alike for any comments posted on social media that criticize the government or its allies. Human rights organisations have documented regular cases of enforced disappearances, torture and other ill-treatment perpetrated by security forces.
Despite the liberal image that the UAE has acquired abroad, freedoms of speech and the press are severely restricted. Both the press and online content are heavily censored. A Freedom House report declares the country as simply “Not free”. Rights to freedom of expression and association are being constantly eroded by laws empowering courts to disband political associations and imprison their founders and members for a minimum of 10 years.
Women face constant discrimination. The law openly promotes homophobia and is heavily prejudiced against female rape victims, who run the risk of being imprisoned and charged with extramarital sex, so the crime is rarely reported.
Migrant workers are inadequately protected and face constant exploitation, living in a condition that has been described as “close to slavery”. The kafala sponsorship system makes them vulnerable to abuse by their employers, who can dictate the recruitment process and working conditions. Domestic workers, mostly women, are excluded from Labour Law and face physical and moral violence. Collective action and strikes are punishable with arrest and deportation.
The International Campaign for Freedom in the United Arab Emirates (ICFUAE) encourages UK authors and illustrators invited to next month’s festival to take a stand and speak out clearly in favour of human rights, free speech and democracy in the UAE.
Please consider raising awareness by tweeting or writing about the lack of human rights in the UAE.
Please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information about this campaign.