Tolerance Summit, Intolerant Nation
Tomorrow, on November 13th 2019, the UAE will host the World Tolerance Summit. Whilst Khalifa bin Zayed al Nahyan claims that tolerance ‘is one of the most important attributes that we can impact on our people’, his actions prove otherwise.
In recent years, the UAE has embarked on an industrious diplomatic mission that has tacitly used sport and tourism to convey an image of itself as a Western enclave on the Arab peninsula. But these efforts cannot whitewash the truth. The UAE is not a tolerant nation. The UAE is a nation that routinely and systematically suppresses freedom of expression in order to maintain absolute control over the government apparatus.
At home and abroad, the UAE have quashed any challenge to its hegemony. In 2013, 69 academics, journalists and lawyers were sentenced in the infamous case of the ‘UAE 94’ for ‘plotting to overthrow the government.’ In truth, they only sought small democratic reform. Despite this, only one of the prisoners has since been released.
Meanwhile, in Yemen, the Saudi-UAE led coalition has targeted civilians in a ‘widespread and systematic manner’, according to a UN report. The UN's experts documented 119 incidents perpetrated by the coalition that violated international law, many of which involved multiple strikes on civilians. It was also estimated in 2018 that up to 85,000 children under the age of 5 have died from starvation since the intervention of the coalition powers.
To proclaim 2019 as a ‘Year of Tolerance’ and to hold a ‘World Tolerance Summit’ in this context is a clear dereliction of duty. Whilst nine representatives from the UK were set to partake in this summit, three have since decided not to. Unfortunately, however, the Telegraph will be represented by their Head of Diversity, Inclusion & Belonging, Asif Sadiq.
The ICFUAE calls on Asif Sadiq and all participants to reconsider their participation at the Summit. The World Tolerance Summit is not an open forum to engage the Emirati government in an ethical discussion on its approach towards tolerance. Instead, it is a diplomatic advertisement for a country that systematically silences any form of peaceful dissent. Participation simply gives legitimacy to the idea that the UAE is a nation of tolerance.