ICFUAE open letter to UK authors attending the Emirates Festival of Literature
On March 1-9 2019, the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature returns to Dubai. The Festival claims to promote an environment of “education and debate”. While in no way wishing to detract from the role literature plays in nurturing cultural exchange, we believe that it is necessary to describe the context in which this festival takes place.
In order to maintain its carefully cultivated global image of tolerance, cosmopolitanism and wealth, the Emirati government has responded brutally to any attempts of peaceful dissent.
Since 2011, hundreds of Emirati citizens have been detained for speaking out against repression; human rights organisations, including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, have documented systematic practises of arbitrary detentions, 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 aren’t so lucky. The UAE is an absolute monarchy. Severe punishments are given to those who speak out against the ruling regime; any political dissent is immediately, and brutally, silenced.
We, therefore, urge you to boycott this year’s festival and speak out for human rights. By remaining silent you help to normalise the regime’s systematic abuses: the ten year prison sentence handed down to Ahmed Mansoor for Tweets critical of the government; or, indeed, the detention of Matthew Hedges, a young British academic who was arrested after conducting research in the country for his PhD thesis.
You now have the opportunity to stand alongside those who bravely fought for fundamental freedoms in the country . We ask you to use your platform to raise these issues, to say the names of those languishing in prison. Talk about them, as you know how to do so well. It is of vital importance.
Additionally, we ask you to consider taking a moment to raise these issues on social media. Even a simple Tweet can go a long way to secure the release of a political prisoner.
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.
Thank you for taking the time to read this, and for considering our request.
The International Campaign for Freedom in the UAE