ICFUAE call on authors attending Emirates Festival of Literature to speak out on human rights abuses
“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 Mansoor, Emirati Human Rights defender, imprisoned since March 2017
In March 2018, you will fly to Dubai for the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature. The Festival proclaims itself as “Middle East’s largest celebration of the written and spoken word”. While not wishing to detract from the significant value that the written and spoken word holds in nurturing cultural celebration, diversity and tolerance, we believe that it is necessary to consider some important points about the context in which this festival takes place.
The Emirates Airline Festival of Literature is held under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai. As a high ranking government figure, Sheikh Maktoum is complicit in a myriad of systematic human rights violations carried out by the Emirati authorities.
In order to maintain the UAE’s carefully cultivated global image of tolerance, cosmopolitanism and wealth, the UAE government has responded brutally to any attempts of peaceful dissent. Since 2011, hundreds of Emirati citizens have been detained for peacefully campaigning for adherence to international human rights laws and treaties; human rights organisations, including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, have documented the systematic cases of arbitrary detention, torture and enforced disappearances carried out by state forces.
As an author, we believe that you treasure your right to speak freely, without fear of governmental reprisal. By way of your writing, you give a voice to those who cannot be heard and exercise your right of freedom of expression towards a noble goal. Emirati citizens do not have this chance. The Emirati government is an absolute monarchy, meaning that the rulers are not democratically elected. While many UAE citizens are very unhappy with the way their country is run, the severe punishments given to any who speak out against the ruling regime means that any political dissent is immediately, and brutally, silenced.
Since the festival started in 2008, the situation has become much worse. Last year, the prominent Emirati academic Dr Nasser Bin Ghaith received a sentence of ten years for comments made on social media. Similarly, the award-winning human rights lawyer Ahmed Mansoor has been arbitrarily detained for nearly a year due to his online activities.
You now have the opportunity to raise your voice and stand alongside those who were brave enough to take the floor to defend these fundamental human rights. We believe we can affect change for the better, if we work together. We ask you to use the platform granted to you at this festival to raise these issues, to say the names of those languishing in prison for simply speaking out against atrocities such as torture and arbitrary detention. Talk about them, as you know how to do so well. It is of vital importance.
Additionally, you could also consider taking a moment to raise these issues on your personal blog or social media accounts. Even a simple post on social media can truly help in the campaign to secure their release.
If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact the International Campaign for Freedom in the UAE. Please see the links pasted below for more information about the cases mentioned in this letter.
We wish to thank you for taking the time to read this and to consider our request,
The International Campaign for Freedom in the UAE