Alternative Human Rights Expo
Through events like the Dubai Expo, taking place from October 2021 to March 2022, the UAE government exercises cultural diplomacy that attempts to solidify a narrative about UAE’s “tolerance” and “openness” which contrast its actions on the ground of systemic targeting and repression of human rights defenders and activists. The Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR), working with many partners, is organising campaigns and events to counter the narrative of “tolerance” that the UAE claims to uphold, and the importance of highlighting the freedom of expression violations in the country where every single activist has been exiled or imprisoned. This includes Ahmed Mansoor, a board member of GCHR and Human Rights Watch, who is currently serving an unjust 10-year prison sentence in Dubai’s Al-Sadr prison.
On 22 October 2020, Ahmed’s birthday, GCHR and Amnesty Westminster Bayswater organised the Prisoner and the Pen, an online cultural event to feature the writing, songs and poetry of prisoners who are human rights defenders, and also writers/artists/singers from the MENA region (Bahrain, Egypt, Iran, Palestine, Saudi Arabia, Syria, UAE, Turkey & Yemen). The event video is at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AGsiHqiCYO0
On 14 October 2021, GCHR, along with over 20 HR partners, is organising an Alternative Human Rights Expo, a cultural event with a human rights focus similar to the Prisoner and the Pen event held in October 2020, to showcase the work of activists and artists from the MENA region and elsewhere. While the previous event focused on imprisoned activists/writers/poets/artists, this event will also include work from those in the region who would not have the chance to attend or feature their work at the Dubai Expo.
Human rights defenders in prison:
The campaign will highlight detained human rights defenders whose work will be read at the Alternative Human Rights Expo on 14 October:
Objective: To highlight human rights violations in the UAE and the wider MENA region, including the detention and travel bans on human rights defenders (HRDs), women’s rights violations, and repression of freedom of expression, assembly and association.
Coming together for a better tomorrow?
Introduction: This year the UAE is hosting the Dubai Expo, an event that claims that “when the world comes together, we create a better tomorrow.”
But “coming together to hear diverse voices” and “create a better world” isn’t possible when you lock up people for speaking their minds. In the UAE, every single human rights defender has been exiled or imprisoned in violation of their right to freedom of expression. Not one of them has been invited to the Dubai Expo.
People who defend human rights are fundamental agents of change in our societies who call out the injustices and the abuses of power and seek out health, housing and food for everyone. The governments in the whole Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region must work hand in hand with them to jointly find solutions to the world’s most critical challenges and opportunities.
We call on the UAE and all MENA governments to be coherent and preach by example. It’s time to release activists from arbitrary detention, end reprisals against them and their families, and remove travel bans.
Call to action:
Read the open letter and sign the petition by the International Campaign for Freedom in the UAE. Join the discussion and promote the campaign on social media using the campaign's official hashtags: #FreeEmiratiActivists and #AltExpoHumanRights alongside the Dubai Expo main hashtag #Expo2020