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More guests boycott Dubai lit fest, protest human rights abuses in UAE

Former Irish president and former UN human rights commissioner Mary Robinson is the latest guest to pull out of the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature, following concerns about human rights abuses in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), reports the Guardian.

Robinson pulled out of the Dubai festival after the Guardian published an open letter in which authors and prominent public figures, including Stephen Fry and author Jonathan Emmett, call on the UAE government to release imprisoned human rights campaigner Ahmed Mansoor.

According to the letter: ‘In May 2018, [Mansoor] was sentenced to 10 years in prison for “defaming” the UAE on social media. An appeal to overturn this sentence was rejected on 31 December 2018. Mr Mansoor’s arrest and the charges against him relate solely to the peaceful exercise of his right to freedom of expression.’

Emmett told the Guardian: ‘When you attend a festival like this one, you are lending your respectability to it. Many of the same authors have a massive problem with Donald Trump, and I am sure they would not support something in his name, and yet they seem to have no problem with doing it for Sheikh Mohammed.’

In November last year British historian Antony Beevor was one of a number of guests to withdraw from the festival following the imprisonment of British academic Matthew Hedges for alleged espionage. After campaigning and outcry from public figures in the UK, Hedges was eventually pardoned and allowed to return home. At the time, Beevor encouraged authors to boycott the festival, calling Hedges’ life sentence ‘one of the most outrageous attacks on academic freedom we’ve come across in modern times’.

Established by UAE prime minister and ruler of Dubai Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum, the festival is the largest literary festival in the Arab world and is held every March. Australian fashion designer and author Alannah Hill is still scheduled to appear, as well as a number of international guests including Chinese science fiction writer Cixin Liu, US children’s author Jeff Kinney, British novelist Jasper Fforde, Scottish crime writer Ian Rankin and Canadian novelist Douglas Coupland.



Category: International news