Open letter to Trevor Noah – Don’t be part of the UAE’s campaign to “whitewash” its human rights record
Dear Trevor Noah,
We are writing regarding your upcoming performance of “Loud and Clear” in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) on October 25 and 26. We feel obliged to inform you that your willingness to perform in this country under current socio-political circumstances will serve to benefit the UAE’s fastidious campaign to conceal its widespread and systematic human rights abuses.
At the time of the Arab Spring in 2011, the UAE government launched a violent crackdown on peaceful dissent - since then, arbitrary arrests, enforced disappearances, torture and unfair trials have become the daily reality of free voices in the country. Lawyers, judges, bloggers, journalists, activists, and all persons who express criticism of the regime have been systematically silenced to such an extent that there is now no civil society left in the UAE.
In 2013, a disparate group of 94 academics were arrested en masse in a case known as the UAE 94. This group were subject to secret detention, torture and an unfair mass trial for “plotting to overthrow the government.” In truth, their only crime was signing an online petition calling for democratic reform.
Members of AVTUAE themselves have been tortured and arbitrarily detained in the UAE. Naji Hamdan and Mahmood Al-Jaidah were both severely tortured and sentenced to lengthy prison terms on the basis of forced confessions, while David Haigh was subject to sexual abuse during his 22 month stint in prison for a commercial dispute with his well-connected Emirati business partner. Khaled Ahmad was also subjected to torture whilst in prison for allegedly leaking documents of his company, owned by a member of the ruling family. Khaled was abducted and detained incommunicado for months where he was put through severe beatings, electroshocks, waterboarding, sleep deprivation and other forms of torture and inhumane treatment.
This year, Alya Abdulnoor, a female social worker, died in detention in the UAE. She was arrested in 2015 and charged with financing terrorism after making donations to war-affected Syrian families; Alya was kept in secret detention and tortured for months, despite having been diagnosed with breast cancer shortly after her arrest. For almost 4 years, she was denied adequate medical treatment until the tumour spread throughout her body. Despite calls from UN Experts and EU Parliament for her release, the authorities kept Alya shackled to her bed in solitary confinement at Tawam hospital until she eventually died on May 4, 2019.
While hundreds have been victims of enforced disappearance, torture, and unfair trials within the UAE’s own territory, the country has also been one of the main warring parties in Yemen, where armed clashes have caused almost 100,000 casualties. In a report issued in September, a group of UN Experts highlighted the responsibility of Emirati forces and UAE-backed militias for massive indiscriminate attacks and airstrikes on civilian facilities, one of which resulted in 51 deaths, including the death of forty children. The experts further condemned the UAE for blocking the arrival of humanitarian aid and the use of starvation as a weapon of war, which amount to war crimes. Save the Children estimates that 85,000 children under the age of five have starved to death as a result while a total of 14 million Yemenis are on the brink of famine.
This is only a small overview of the mass violations perpetrated by the Emirati authorities. Yet we are concerned to note that, in recent years, the situation has steadily deteriorated. The Emirati authorities, emboldened by the support of Western democracies and prominent public figures, such as yourself, continue to violate human rights without fearing the pressure of international public opinion.
We therefore urge you to cancel your show in Abu Dhabi next week and take a stand against the UAE’s appalling record of mass human rights violations and war crimes. As a man who routinely condemns authoritarianism and dictatorships, we implore you to not let your reputation and celebrity be used to “whitewash” these crimes.
- The International Campaign for Freedom in the UAE
- Association for Victims of Torture in UAE