Logo of the Alternative Human Rights Expo

Join the Alternative Human Rights Expo

ISHR, GCHR, OMCT and 20 more partners are campaigning for the release of human rights defenders in the UAE and to counter the narrative of tolerance the country aims to feature at the Dubai Expo. Sign the petition!

From 1st October 2021 to March 2022, the UAE is hosting the Dubai Expo, the first World Expo to be held in the Arab World. The event will explore the issues of sustainability, mobility and opportunity. The country 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.

Over 20 human rights partners are launching the Alternative Human Rights Expo, a campaign to counter the narrative of “tolerance” and “openness” that the UAE claims to uphold and aims to feature at the Dubai Expo, and highlight the repression still happening in the country.

 

What do we want? 

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. 

The campaign calls for the release of human rights defenders Ahmed Mansoor, Nasser Bin-Gaith, and three members of the group of prisoners known as the UAE94: Mohammed Al-Roken, Mohammed Al-Mansoori and Mohammed Abdul Razzaq Al-Siddiq.

 

How do we achieve this? 

We make visible what’s happening in the UAE and show  the Emirati government and the world online and offline that we care about human rights defenders in prison! 

  • On 1 October we are publishing a joint letter signed by more than 75 organisations calling on the UAE to free detained human rights defenders. We are also launching a public petition and a joint website. 
  • On 14 October, the campaign will hold an Alternative Human Rights Expo that will gather online artists, poets, writers, singers, musicians and activists from the wider MENA region to feature their creative talents and pay tribute to the human rights defenders detained or silenced in the UAE. 
  • On 22 October, birthday of human rights defender Ahmed Mansoor, some partners will protest in front of UAE Embassies in several locations around the world. 

 

What you can do?

There are several ways to support the campaign. The easiest one is to sign the petition which calls on the UAE government to release Emirati human rights defenders arbitrarily detained and who are serving lengthy sentences simply for their human rights activities. We will deliver the signatures to the UAE authorities before March 2022. This will be a powerful message that Emirati defenders matter to people around the world. 

Sign the petition

You can also join the discussion and promote the campaign on social media using the campaign’s official hashtag #FreeEmiratiActivists and #AltExpoHumanRights alongside the Dubai Expo official hashtag #Expo2020.

SIGN THE PETITION

Call on the UAE government to free defenders detained for their human rights activities.

Who are the defenders we are campaigning for?

Meet the Emirati activists who believe that everyone should be able to freely speak and associate with others to exchange and defend ideas.

Ahmed Mansoor

Poet and board member of the Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) and Human Rights Watch

Ahmed Mansoor

Poet and board member of the Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) and Human Rights Watch. His wife and four sons live in the UAE. Ahmed Mansoor was detained on 20 March 2017 and is currently serving an unjust 10-year prison sentence for his human rights activities. Mansoor’s poetry will be featured at the Alternative Human Rights Expo.

Nasser Bin Ghaith

Academic and lecturer at the Sorbonne University Abu Dhabi

Nasser Bin Ghaith

Academic and lecturer at the Sorbonne University Abu Dhabi. He was  arrested on 18 August 2015 following his online protests about being tortured during a previous detention in 2011. He was sentenced to 10 years in prison on 29 March 2017 after prolonged pre-trial detention.

Mohammed Al-Roken

Human rights lawyer

Mohammed Al-Roken

Human rights lawyer. He was a member of a group of 94 academics known as the UAE94. They were arrested in 2012 for their online activities calling for democratic reform and  tried in a grossly unfair mass trial which concluded on 2 July 2013.

Mohammed Abdul Razzaq Al-Siddiq

Human rights lawyer

Mohammed Abdul Razzaq Al-Siddiq

Human rights lawyer. He was a member of a group of 94 academics known as the UAE94. They were arrested in 2012 for their online activities calling for democratic reform and  tried in a grossly unfair mass trial which concluded on 2 July 2013. Al-Siddiq’s daughter Alaa Al-Siddiq, Executive Director of AL-QST for human rights, died tragically in June 2021, and her work will be featured at the Alternative Human Rights Expo.

Dr. Mohammed Al-Mansoori

Human rights lawyer

Dr. Mohammed Al-Mansoori

Human rights lawyer. He was a member of a group of 94 academics known as the UAE94. They were arrested in 2012 for their online activities calling for democratic reform and  tried in a grossly unfair mass trial which concluded on 2 July 2013.

Additional questions you might have

The campaign is co-sponsored by the following organisations:

ALQST for Human Rights
Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB)
Amnesty International
Amnesty Westminster Bayswater
Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI)
Bahrain Centre for Human Rights (BCHR)
Bahrain Institute for Rights & Democracy (BIRD)
Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS)
CIVICUS
Emirates Detainees Advocacy Centre (EDAC)
European Centre for Democracy and Human Rights
FIDH
FreeMuse
Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR)
IFEX
Innovation for Change (I4C) MENA Hub
International Campaign for Freedom in the UAE (ICFUAE)
International Service for Human Rights (ISHR)
Kawaakibi Foundation
MENA Rights Group
Project on Middle East Democracy (POMED)
Reporters Without Borders (RSF)
World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT)

On 16 September 2021, the EU Parliament adopted an urgent resolution recognising the systematic persecution of human rights defenders in the UAE and calling for the UAE to release the prisoners mentioned above, stop the harassment of and immediately lift the travel ban against human rights defenders and guarantee they are able to carry out their human rights activities. This situation has been largely documented by numerous NGOs and UN human rights experts.

Despite this international criticism and as the only candidate for the MENA region, the UAE will almost certainly be selected by the United Nations General Assembly to join the UN Human Rights Council for a three-year term. The election is scheduled on 14 October 2021. 

The campaign will hold an Alternative Human Rights Expo that will gather artists, poets, writers, singers, musicians and activists from the wider MENA region to feature their creative talents and pay tribute to the human rights defenders detained or silenced in the UAE and the wider MENA region. 

The event will be hosted online by GCHR’s WHRD Programme Manager Weaam Youssef, Bahraini activist Maryam Al-Khawaja and writer and activist Iyad El-Baghdadi, and livestreamed at 1pm EST/7pm CET/8pm Beirut time.

The event will highlight detained HRDs and their work will be read: 

  • Ahmed Mansoor & Mohammad Al-Siddiq, UAE
  • Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja, Bahrain
  • Golrokh Ebrahimi Iraee, Iran
  • Alaa Abdel Fattah’s and Sana Seif, Egypt

Check out the program of the event! 

For more information you can contact Michael Khambatta (Geneva representative of the Gulf Centre for Human Rights) at  +41794748208 or [email protected] 

Here are some quotes from some of the campaign partners: 

The UAE claims that when the world comes together, we create a better tomorrow,” said Khalid Ibrahim, Executive Director of the Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR). “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,” he added.

The Dubai Expo is a perfect example of how the UAE uses its vast wealth to show beautiful things while they hide the total lack of freedom in the country. I was lucky to be out of the country or I would be with most of the other UAE 94 who have been in prison since 2012. They have now designated me as a terrorist. But for them anyone opposed to them is a terrorist,” said Hamad Mohammed Al-Shamsi, President of the Emirates Detainees Advocacy Center.

The fact that the UAE will ultimately get elected is outrageous. Membership of the UN’s main human rights body should be reserved to States that don’t criminalise, detain and torture those who seek to provide information on the human rights situation in their country. We are calling on all UN States to not vote on this or any candidate that does not uphold the highest human rights standards. Candidates must still secure at least a two-thirds majority of all voting States to obtain a seat at the Human Rights Council,” said Salma El Hosseiny, Human Rights Council Programme Manager at the International Service for Human Rights (ISHR).

UAE: Appeal to release detained human rights activists ahead of Dubai Expo

UAE: Appeal to release detained human rights activists ahead of Dubai Expo

Over 75 NGOs signed a joint letter calling for the release of Ahmed Mansoor, Nasser Bin Gaith, Mohammed Al- Roken, Mohammed Al-Mansoori and Mohammed Abdul Razzaq Al-Siddiq.

Read the appeal

The expo "themes"

The Dubai Expo promotes three important themes for our common humanity: sustainability, mobility, and opportunity. Below we have explained what we envision for each of them. We also list some actions that we believe governments in the MENA region should take to ensure that these themes do not remain empty messages.

Sustainability

When we join forces, small actions can grow into positive global movements that will help communities to protect and preserve the world around us. This can’t be achieved without women. A future in which women still don’t have the right to vote, are told what to wear, and are prevented from travelling, working or participating equally in our society is not a sustainable or better future. We believe that women are essential voices to attain sustainability. Let’s listen to them!

Opportunity

There’s a ripple effect in everything we do. Even one person can be the key to unlocking eight billion opportunities that can help individuals and communities create a better tomorrow, today. For this to happen we need to be connected and we need technology. There’s no opportunity if connectivity is replaced by blackouts and Internet censorship. We believe that each and every one of us can be an agent of change and that is why we advocate for everyone to be able to freely express themselves, connect, and collaborate online.

Mobility

We live in a world of limitless connections. But young people and migrants cannot explore the horizons that drive human progress if their mobility is continuously restricted. Nor is there mobility for human rights defenders locked in prisons past the expiry of their prison sentences, or under travel bans. Governments in the MENA region are denying to all of them the mobility to connect with people, understand different cultures, exchange knowledge and ideas to transform the way we live. We envision a society where human rights activists can work unhindered and where everyone can travel and move freely.

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