The bitter irony of the World Tolerance Summit
Today marks the beginning of the UAE’s ‘World Tolerance Summit’, supposedly intended to ‘focus on how education and knowledge-sharing can be a powerful tool to raise awareness on tolerance in diversity.’
However, it is clear that the UAE is less concerned with the principle of tolerance than it is with its carefully manipulated image as a global touristic and economic hub. As stated in our open letter calling for a boycott of the Summit, ‘the UAE Government devotes more effort to concealing its human rights abuses than to addressing them.’
In fact, it is clear that the UAE has devoted even more time to opposing tolerance entirely, with a report in The New York Times showing how the UAE attempted to install spyware on the computers of 1,100 dissidents and journalists.
A prescient example of this intolerance can be seen in award-winning human rights defender Ahmed Mansoor, currently serving a 10 year sentence for ‘insulting the UAE, its status and prestige’ on social media. Detained simply for a series of tweets critical of the regime, his imprisonment has drawn international condemnation, and in October 2019 a total of 142 NGOs joined forces in calling for his immediate release from al-Sadr prison.
The UAE’s systematic quelling of freedom of expression, and its role in the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen, should leave no doubt that the World Tolerance Summit is little more than a thin veneer intended to obscure the reality of Emirati life.
The notion of tolerance is essential in any egalitarian society. The UAE, however, is not this; one need only look at their treatment of political dissidents, of the ‘bidoon’ population, of the LGBTQ+ community, and of Yemeni civilians.
The UAE is not a nation that respects tolerance, but one whose global standing relies on the appearance of having Western values. If we are to see real, tangible change in the UAE than we must make clear the reality of life in the Arab state.
As such, we call for a boycott of the World Tolerance Summit, as well as the Expo 2020 in Dubai and 2020 Emirates Airline Festival of Literature, to demonstrate that the UAE cannot simply gloss over their crimes through extravagant illusions. So far, three British representatives at the Summit have pulled out. However, it is imperative that more take a stand against the UAE’s continued violation of human rights.
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