News / Middle East

UAE Detains 3 Activists for Online Pro-Reform Essays

Emirati blogger and human rights activist Ahmed Mansour speaks as the director of Human Rights Watch's Middle East and North Africa division, Sarah Leah Whitson listens on, during a press conference in Dubai, UAE, January 26, 2011
Emirati blogger and human rights activist Ahmed Mansour speaks as the director of Human Rights Watch's Middle East and North Africa division, Sarah Leah Whitson listens on, during a press conference in Dubai, UAE, January 26, 2011

Multimedia

Audio
Davin Hutchins

Three citizens in the United Arab Emirates were arrested this week after writing pro-reform essays on their blogs and other web sites.  The UAE - which is ruled by the monarchy of Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan - makes many forms of dissent illegal.  Ahmed Mansour was taken by ten security officers from his apartment and his computers and passport were confiscated.  Nasser Ghaith, who had been calling for greater democracy on his blog, was arrested in a similar fashion.  A third, Fahad Al-Shehhy had apparently only been posting pro-democracy comments in an online forum.

Christopher Davidson teaches Middle East politics at the School of Government and International Affairs at Durham University in the UK. He’s also a former resident of the UAE, writes frequently about politics there and was corresponding regularly with both Ahmed Mansour and Nasser Ghaith before their detention this week. VOA's Davin Hutchins spoke with Christopher Davidson about their arrest.

Hutchins: Chris, what exactly were Mansour and Ghaith writing about that might have been perceived as objectionable by the UAE authorities?

Davidson: Well, about two years ago Ahmed Mansour launched a web site in the United Arab Emirates called www.uaehewar.net, essentially translating his national dialogue site.  This is the only web site that allows free and fair discussion in the United Arab Emirates.  About a year ago it was closed down and since then a number of attempts were made to keep the web site alive, but essentially it’s remained blocked in the United Arab Emirates.  Most of his correspondence has been about the attempts by the authorities to harass the founders of the web site.

Hutchins: And how about in the case of Ghaith?

Davidson: In Ghaith’s case most of his writing has been on the economic developments of the United Arab Emirates, though more recently some of his articles that have appeared on blogs have taken on a more political tone.  In particular, he wrote a piece recently that questioned the leadership qualities of Gulf rulers especially in the wake of the Arab Spring and elsewhere in the region.

Hutchins: Do you think the UAE authorities are trying to send a signal to would-be dissenters by targeting and detaining three people in one week?

Davidson: Yes, I think so.  I think they’ve taken a cross-section of the UAE’s opposition, ranging from a prominent academic to a blogger to an Internet activist.  These three people have been arrested, detained without charge, yes, and it’s certainly sent a signal to the UAE national population that dissent has been made formally illegal.

Hutchins: Now would you say these writers, at least what they are writing, would be characterized as revolutionary or moderate?  I mean, were they advocating for wider political participation within the context of the present monarchy?

Davidson: Absolutely non-revolutionary and not radical at all.  These were attempts to get dialogues up and running, free and fair discussion to talk about having a properly elected parliament in the United Arab Emirates with some kind of universal suffrage.  Although there had been elections in the past in the UAE, they had been essentially mocked elections where only a few thousands of the national population has been eligible to vote.  Essentially these gentlemen have all been pressing for wider political participation, some kind of proper rule of law to be implemented in the country and also an effort to limit the power of the sheikhs and improve transparency across the board.

Hutchins:
Well, given this level of suppression of political speech and the signal that you’ve described the government trying to send, what do you think the odds are of seeing massive pro-democracy movements in the UAE?

Davidson: Well, I don’t think we’ll see a protest on the street in the same way we’ve seen in Bahrain, Oman or elsewhere in the Arab region.  I think the wealth distribution is too effective to actually lead [to] that ever happening.  I think what we might see a lot more of in the UAE is very intense further activism where petitions do get hoarded around, around thousands of people perhaps, where they do sign up perhaps anonymously at first.  But nonetheless the bubble of impossibility is broken and UAE nationals do start to see there is a way of actually having a voice against the status quo and government that currently rules them.

Follow our Middle East reports on Twitter
and discuss them on our Facebook page.

You May Like

Lion Cecil's Killing Sparks 'Canned Hunting' Debate in S. Africa

Conservationists believe incident, which triggered worldwide outrage, will reshape debate about practice in which hunters are allowed to target animals bred for hunting More

Taliban's New Leader Says Jihad Will Continue

Top US Afghan diplomat also meets with Pakistani, Afghan officials following news of Mullah Omar's death More

Environmentalists Issue Warning on Mekong Biodiversity

Scientists say decades of economic development, hydropower-dam construction, lax law enforcement and trafficking have taken their toll More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Astronauts Train Underwater for Deep Space Missionsi
|| 0:00:00
...    
🔇
X
George Putic
July 30, 2015 8:59 PM
Manned deep space missions are still a long way off, but space agencies are already testing procedures, equipment and human stamina for operations in extreme environment conditions. Small groups of astronauts take turns in spending days in an underwater lab, off Florida’s southern coast, simulating future missions to some remote world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Astronauts Train Underwater for Deep Space Missions

Manned deep space missions are still a long way off, but space agencies are already testing procedures, equipment and human stamina for operations in extreme environment conditions. Small groups of astronauts take turns in spending days in an underwater lab, off Florida’s southern coast, simulating future missions to some remote world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Civil Rights Leaders Struggled to Achieve Voting Rights Act

Fifty years ago, lawmakers approved, and U.S. President Lyndon Johnson signed, the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The measure outlawed racial discrimination in voting, giving millions of blacks in many parts of the southern United States federal enforcement of the right to vote. Correspondent Chris Simkins introduces us to some civil rights leaders who were on the front lines in the struggle for voting rights.
Video

Video Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’

Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Hometown of Boy Scouts of America Founder Reacts to Gay Leader Decision

Ottawa, Illinois, is the hometown of W.D. Boyce, who founded the Boy Scouts of America in 1910. In Ottawa, where Scouting remains an important part of the legacy of the community, the end of the organization's ban on openly gay adult leaders was seen as inevitable. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video 'Metal Muscles' Flex a New Bionic Hand

Artificial limbs, including the most complex of them – the human hand – are getting more life-like and useful due to constant advances in tiny hydraulic, pneumatic and electric motors called actuators. But now, as VOA’s George Putic reports, scientists in Germany say the future of the prosthetic hand may lie not in motors but in wires that can ‘remember’ their shape.
Video

Video Russia Accused of Abusing Interpol to Pursue Opponents

A British pro-democracy group has accused Russia of abusing the global law enforcement agency Interpol by requesting the arrest and extradition of political opponents. A new report by the group notes such requests can mean the accused are unable to travel and are often unable to open bank accounts. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video 'Positive Atmosphere' Points Toward TPP Trade Deal in Hawaii

Talks on a major new trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations are said to be nearing completion in Hawaii. Some trade experts say the "positive atmosphere" at the discussions could mean a deal is within reach, but there is still hard bargaining to be done over many issues and products, including U.S. drugs and Japanese rice. VOA's Jim Randle reports.
Video

Video Genome Initiative Urgently Moves to Freeze DNA Before Species Go Extinct

Earth is in the midst of its sixth mass extinction. The last such event was caused by an asteroid 66 million years ago. It killed off the dinosaurs and practically everything else. So scientists are in a race against time to classify the estimated 11 million species alive today. So far only 2 million are described by science, and researchers are worried many will disappear before they even have a name. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Scientists: One-Dose Malaria Cure is Possible

Scientists have long been trying to develop an effective protection and cure for malaria - one of the deadliest diseases that affects people in tropical areas, especially children. As the World Health Organization announces plans to begin clinical trials of a promising new vaccine, scientists in South Africa report that they too are at an important threshold. George Putic reports, they are testing a compound that could be a single-dose cure for malaria.
Video

Video 'New York' Magazine Features 35 Cosby Accusers

The latest issue of 'New York' magazine features 35 women who say they were drugged and raped by film and television celebrity Bill Cosby. The women are aged from 44 to 80 and come from different walks of life and races. The magazine interviewed each of them separately, but Zlatica Hoke reports their stories are similar.
Video

Video US Calls Fight Against Human Trafficking a Must Win

The United States is promising not to give up its fight against what Secretary of State John Kerry calls the “scourge” of modern slavery. Officials released the country’s annual human trafficking report Monday – a report that’s being met with some criticism. VOA’s National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more from the State Department.
Video

Video Washington DC Underground Streetcar Station to Become Arts Venue

Abandoned more than 50 years ago, the underground streetcar station in Washington D.C.’s historic DuPont Circle district is about to be reborn. The plan calls for turning the spacious underground platforms - once meant to be a transportation hub, - into a unique space for art exhibitions, presentations, concerts and even a film set. Roman Mamonov has more from beneath the streets of the U.S. capital. Joy Wagner narrates his report.
Video

Video Europe’s Twin Crises Collide in Greece as Migrant Numbers Soar

Greece has replaced Italy as the main gateway for migrants into Europe, with more than 100,000 arrivals in the first six months of 2015. Many want to move further into Europe and escape Greece’s economic crisis, but they face widespread dangers on the journey overland through the Balkans. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Stink Intensifies as Lebanon’s Trash Crisis Continues

After the closure of a major rubbish dump a week ago, the streets of Beirut are filling up with trash. Having failed to draw up a plan B, politicians are struggling to deal with the problem. John Owens has more for VOA from Beirut.
Video

Video Paris Rolls Out Blueprint to Fight Climate Change

A U.N. climate conference in December aims to produce an ambitious agreement to fight heat-trapping greenhouse gases. But many local governments are not waiting, and have drafted their own climate action plans. That’s the case with Paris — which is getting special attention, since it’s hosting the climate summit. Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at the transformation of the French capital into an eco-city.

VOA Blogs