Category Archives: UAE

Pope in UAE: Reject wars in Yemen, Syria, Iraq and Libya

UAE photoThe pope and the grand imam of Al-Azhar laid the cornerstones for a new church and a mosque to be built side by side [Andrew Medichini/AP]

In the first-ever papal visit to the Arabian Peninsula, Pope Francis has said that faith leaders have a duty to reject war as he called for religious freedom in the majority Muslim region.

“War cannot create anything but misery, weapons bring nothing but death,” the pope said on Monday, addressing an inter-religious meeting attended by hundreds of representatives from different faiths.

“I am thinking in particular of Yemen, Syria, Iraq and Libya,” he added.

He said: “Every form of violence must be condemned without hesitation… No violence can be justified in the name of religion.”

The gathering included imams, muftis, ministers, rabbis, swamis, Zoroastrians and Sikhs.

Francis, who has made outreach to Muslim communities a cornerstone of his papacy, is on an historic three-day visit to the United Arab Emirates.

The UAE is involved in the wars in Yemen, Syria and Libya.

‘Before our eyes’

The United Nations calls Yemen the world’s worst humanitarian crisis. It was triggered by the intervention of Saudi Arabia, the UAE and their allies in a war between the government and Houthi rebels.

More than 10 million Yemenis now risk imminent starvation.

The pope said the consequences of the war in Yemen and elsewhere in the Middle East “are before our eyes”.

Francis warned the future of humanity was at stake unless religions come together to resist the “logic of armed power … the arming of borders, the raising of walls”.

“There is no alternative: we will either build the future together or there will not be a future,” said Francis.

He also called for religious equality in the region.

“I look forward to societies where people of different beliefs have the same right of citizenship and where only in the case of violence in any of its forms is that right removed,” he said.

At the end of the interfaith meeting, Francis and Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayeb – the grand imam of Egypt’s Al-Azhar, the highest seat of learning in Sunni Islam – signed a joint statement on “human fraternity” and their hopes for world peace.

They then laid the cornerstones for a new church and mosque to be built side-by-side in the UAE capital, Abu Dhabi.

Red carpet welcome

The document describes itself as being in the name of “all victims of wars, persecution and injustice; and those tortured in any part of the world, without distinction”. It also decried modern “signs of a ‘third world war being fought piecemeal'”.

“We resolutely declare that religions must never incite war, hateful attitudes, hostility and extremism, nor must they incite violence or the shedding of blood.”

It added countries have a duty to establish a concept of “full citizenship”. The UAE relies heavily on foreign labourers who have no path to naturalisation.

Even for a nation known for excess, the Emiratis’ red-carpet welcome was remarkable, especially for a pope who prides himself on simplicity. It featured horse-mounted guards escorting the pontiff’s motorcade through the palace gardens, while a flyover trailed the yellow-and-white smoke of the Vatican flag.

Advocacy group Human Rights Watch (HRW) had urged the pope to use his visit to the UAE to highlight abuses it said are currently being carried out in the Gulf state.

It sent a letter to Francis before his visit calling on him to lead international pressure to hold the UAE’s leadership accountable.

“Despite its assertions about tolerance, the UAE government has demonstrated no real interest in improving its human rights record,” the HRW said.

The New York-based watchdog said the UAE authorities have targeted critics, political dissidents and human rights activists with arbitrary detention and enforced disappearances.

The pope is scheduled to hold an open-air mass on Tuesday for 135,000 of the Muslim country’s estimated one million Catholic residents, set to be the largest ever public gathering in the Gulf state.

 

 

https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2019/02/pope-uae-reject-wars-yemen-syria-iraq-libya-190204155801553.html

 

UAE activist Mansoor loses final appeal against 10-year sentence

UAE photoAhmed Mansoor was arrested in March 2017 and sentenced in May by Abu Dhabi’s Federal Appeals Court for ‘defaming the UAE through social media channels’ [File: Nikhil Monteiro/Reuters]

A United Arab Emirates (UAE) appeals court has upheld a 10-year prison sentence against prominent pro-democracy activist Ahmed Mansoor for criticising the government on social media, Amnesty International reported.

Mansoor, an electrical engineer and poet, was arrested in March 2017 and sentenced in May by Abu Dhabi’s Federal Appeals Court for “defaming the UAE through social media channels”.

Mansoor was among five activists convicted and later pardoned for insulting the UAE’s rulers in 2011.

He was arrested again in March 2017 at his home in Ajman on charges of publishing false information and rumours, and of promoting a sectarian and hate-incited agenda.

Mansoor was also charged with using social media to “harm national unity and social harmony and damage the country’s reputation”.

Local media reported that the father of four, Mansoor, was handed a fine of one million dirhams ($270,000) for insulting the status and prestige of the UAE and its symbols, including its leader.

Several international rights groups, including the United Nations human rights bodies, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, and the European Union Parliament Subcommittee on Human Rights have condemned the sentencing of Mansoor earlier this year.

‘No space for freedom’

Responding to Monday’s decision by the court to uphold Mansoor’s sentence, Amnesty’s Middle East Research director, Lynn Maalouf said that the decision proves “there is no space for freedom [of] expression in the United Arab Emirates”.

His only ‘crime’ was “to express his peaceful opinion on social media, and it is outrageous that he is being punished with such [a] heavy prison sentence” she said in a statement.

“The authorities must ensure his conviction and sentence are quashed and release him immediately and unconditionally,” the statement read.

Speaking to Al Jazeera in October, Joe Odell, the campaigns manager for the International Campaign for Freedom in the UAE (ICFUAE) said that since the cybercrime law in 2012 came into force, there has yet to be a precedent where a rights activity has successfully appealed their sentence.

“It is unlikely that the process will be a fair and independent one,” he said.

“His continued detention is in clear breach of Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which guarantees the right to freedom of opinion and expression, to which the UAE is a signatory,” Odell added.

In 2015, Mansoor won the Martin Ennals award for human rights defenders for his work in the UAE.

He’s been described by the awarding body as “one of the few voices within the UAE who provide a credible independent assessment of human rights developments in the country.”

An expert told the UN Human rights commision last year that Mansoor’s arrest and detention is a “direct attack on the legitimate work of human rights defenders in the UAE.”

Human Rights Watch in March 2018 said Mansoor is believed to have been held in solitary confinement.

SOURCE: AL JAZEERA AND NEWS AGENCIES