UK town denies prestigious title to Dubai ruler after public outcry over human rights abuses in UAE
Shiekh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Matkoum’s bid to be made Freeman of the English town of Newmarket, following a pledge to donate £1m to a local school in the area, has been thrown out after fierce opposition from human rights campaigners.
In a fiery meeting at Newmarket council house, efforts to award bin Rashid the historical title were met with howls of protest from Labour opposition activists and young people in the West Suffolk town who cited the UAE’s poor human rights record.
Ollie Bowen, a Labour activist opposing the motion, said: “Giving the title of Freeman of the Town is a medieval practice which originally granted select citizens freedom from serfdom.
Other medieval practices continue in the UAE, where Sheikh Mohammed is vice-president, including stoning, flogging and the detention of those who criticise authority.”
Although councillors were split down the middle on the decision, the motion was withdrawn before a vote could be taken; they instead resolved to send a letter of thanks to bin Rashid for his investments in the town.
Councillor Michael Jefferies said: “We had a great turnout of younger people at the meeting who felt it was morally wrong.”
This decision is yet a further stain on the international reputation of the Dubai ruler, who in recent months has come under fire from human rights groups who accuse him of holding his daughter Sheikha Latifa captive after thwarting her attempt to flee the UAE earlier this year. In a vlog the Princess had ordered to be made public in the event of her capture, which has now been viewed over a million times on YouTube, Latifa describes a lifetime of abuse and imprisonment at the hands of her father, Sheikh Mohammed.
Despite significant pressure from international organisations such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, who suggest that Latifa is a victim of an ‘enforced disappearance’, the Dubai ruler has refused to reveal his daughter’s whereabouts.