When you think of the UAE, you imagine gleaming skyscrapers in your mind, the luxurious shopping malls, 5-star hotels and restaurants that provide you with cuisines prepared by the best chefs in the world. It is a land of dreams to say the least; it is a place where anything is possible. The UAE welcomes tourism with open arms and shows the same excitement for foreign businessmen as well.
A Facade Hides the Truth on Human Rights
If you compare the UAE with other conservative Middle Eastern states, you will soon realize that they are a better bunch than their Arab counterparts, who follow strict codes of Islamic ideology. However, this open oasis of tolerance and liberalism has hidden behind a face for several decades, hiding the human rights violations that take place as a daily occurrence and no one dares to even bat an eye or speak about it. This dark face of the UAE is a facade over the shiny image created by PR campaigns that the country’s dictators spend millions of dollars on.
Enter the Activists
Ahmad Mansoor, who has been a civil rights activist, speaks about the harsh transgression of the UAE law authorities. The 46-year old activist said in a statement, “The authorities want to silence all criticism. They arrest people in the middle of the night, hold them in unknown places, sometimes for months at a time, use physical and psychological torture to extract confessions and then have what international organizations and the UN have called sham trials where they are sentenced to long jail terms.”
His support for human rights and his struggle to draw attention to the violations and abuses was noticed by global platforms for which he was awarded the Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders. Unfortunately, he was unable to make it to Geneva as his travel plans were hindered by the authorities in the UAE. The travel ban on this affable and daring activist didn’t silence his voice and he remains a candid voice of reason for millions of residents of the UAE.
He said in a statement, “If people think of the UAE and other states in the Gulf at all, they don’t think about human rights. They think about oil or wealth or the world’s tallest building; they think that the UAE is an open society. This award will shed light on the daily human rights abuses that go on here and in these other wealthy countries.”
He was jailed in the past for his prerogative to sign the petition for a democratic rule and his forced appeal for economic reforms; his only fault was to bring the residents of the UAE to a realization that they were living without their basic human rights. He was instead cruelly accused of insulting his rulers and received death threats, even after he was pardoned and freed due to global outrage and a cry for his freedom.
Mansoor still has high hopes for bringing about a change in the UAE, but he suspects that the condition has gotten worse. The deterioration of human rights is mainly due to the systematic process of stopping freedom of speech and assembly. Extremism is growing and the chance for peaceful change is evaporating. The region is falling prey to despair due to the hopelessness of being heard or the chance of transformation. The government is actively repressing anyone who is willing to talk or bring global spotlight on the transgressions of the government.