#FreeAlia: UK universities urged to cut ties with UAE over human rights abuses
UK universities were urged to cut ties with Emirati institutions last night as the UAE’s treatment of female detainees came under the spotlight at an event in Imperial College, London.
The meeting centred on the case of Alia Abdel Nour, an Emirati political prisoner who last week was refused early release on health grounds - despite being in the final stages of cancer.
Her plight has now been reenacted in ALISON, a short film produced by ICFUAE.
Premiering last night at Imperial College, the film sets Alia’s story in modern day London, following a western woman collecting money for Syrian refugees in a cafe before being thrown into the back of a police van, then swiftly sentenced in an unfair trial.
Alia was arrested in 2015, and later sentenced to 10 years in prison for allegedly financing international terrorist groups after collecting donations for Syrian women and children online, according to last night’s speakers.
Already suffering from cancer at the time of her arrest, she was disappeared for four months and forced to sign a false confession.
Her family have since alleged that she has been denied adequate medical care to treat her illness and has been tortured by UAE security officials. They last saw her on January 21, where she was under armed guard while chained to a hospital bed in a windowless room without ventilation.
In light Alia’a case and others, yesterday’s panelists called for a review of educational ties with the Gulf state. Citing Matthew Hedges, a British PhD student who was recently detained in the UAE for spying after carrying out academic research in the country, Lyndon Peter’s, a human rights researcher from London, urged UK universities to cut links with the Emirates.
Peter’s argued that the UAE’s decade-long crackdown on freedom of expression is now firmly out of kilter with academic values, saying that ‘there can no longer be any moral justification for UK universities to partner with Emirati institutions’.
Peters extended this call to the British government, who he said had for too long prioritised lucrative trade deals over human rights considerations; not just with the UAE, but in the wider Gulf region as well.
This event comes just days after Liam Fox, the UK state secretary for international trade, approached the Emirati regime in the hope of gaining a post-Brexit trade deal. The UK government is aiming to double bilateral trade with the Emirates to £25bn by 2020.