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Arrested in the Emirates

To the Editors:

We write to express our concern about the fate of five rights activists who have been arrested and detained by the federal government of the United Arab Emirates.

Ahmed Mansoor is a leading blogger, vocal human rights advocate, artist, and poet who has joined calls for political freedoms and for an elected parliament with legislative powers and who has given numerous media interviews on the issue. He was questioned by police in Dubai in a pre-dawn visit and taken away April 8, the next day, without an arrest warrant. Human Rights Watch warned that this arrest was “aimed at scaring and intimidating others in the UAE who may wish to make public their demands for democratic reforms.”

There have been four further arrests of online activists: Nasser bin Ghaith, an economics lecturer at the Abu Dhabi branch of the Sorbonne, arrested in Dubai on April 10; Fahad Salim Dalk, arrested in Ajman; Hassan Ali al-Khamis; and Ahmed Abdul Khaleq.

All five are detained in al-Wathba prison in Abu Dhabi, publicly accused of “committing crimes of instigation, breaking laws and perpetrating acts that pose threats to state security, undermining the public order, opposing the government system, and insulting the President, the Vice-President and the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi.”

Given the involvement of US and European cultural institutions in the region—notably the Guggenheim Museum,* New York University, the Louvre, and the Sorbonne—we feel a special responsibility to draw attention to these attacks on the political freedoms of local intellectuals.

Ivan Szelenyi
Fellow American Academy of Arts and Sciences

Paula England
Professor of Sociology Stanford University

And the following members of the New York University community:

Steven Lukes, Sociology; Richard Sennett, Sociology; Thomas Nagel, Philosophy; Ronald Dworkin, Law; Linda Gordon, History; David Garland, Law and Sociology; Troy Duster, Sociology; David Levering Lewis, History; Eric Klinenberg, Sociology; Kathleen Gerson, Sociology; Craig Calhoun, Sociology; Thomas Bender, History; Emily Martin, Anthropology; Jeff Manza, Sociology

  1. *

    More than one thousand artists, curators, and writers have signed an open letter to the director of the Guggenheim Museum to protest its failure to protect the rights of migrant laborers working on its new branch museum in Abu Dhabi. The letter is available at gulflabor.wordpress.com. 

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