Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Chronicle of Higher Education turns spotlight on UAE political detentions

Lecturer's Arrest in the Emirates Stirs Debate Over Academic Freedom in the Middle East
The arrest of Nasser bin Ghaith, a lecturer at the Abu Dhabi branch of the University of Paris IV (Paris-Sorbonne) who has participated in the Doha Debates, a respected regional political forum, leaves observers asking what freedoms the academics working at new Western branch campuses in the emirates will enjoy. "Are professors only protected in the 90 minutes when they are giving seminars, and after that they are fair game?" asks Samer Muscati, a researcher on the United Arab Emirates for Human Rights Watch.
Josh Taylor, a spokesman for NYU Abu Dhabi, said in an e-mail message that the administration will stay silent on the arrests. "We believe that we can have a far greater impact on creating a more informed, responsible, and just world, by creating powerful centers of ideas, discourse, and critical thinking, than by simply firing off a press release," Mr. Taylor wrote.
As is often the case in the United Arab Emirates, who is doing what, and why, can be difficult to discern. Little can be found out about the detention of Mr. bin Ghaith, including whether the government has filed specific charges, what kind of due process will be followed, and if he will be allowed legal representation.
The Sorbonne's Web sites are silent about the arrest, and e-mail messages from The Chronicle to communication offices at the Paris and the Abu Dhabi campuses of the Sorbonne were not answered.
In the emirates, Mr. Ross of NYU notes that "faculty and students at NYU Abu Dhabi have immeasurably more rights than longtime citizens of Abu Dhabi." Even arguments for academic freedom, he said, risk straying into illogical territory. The idea, for instance, that only academics should be protected, he says, is "not a very desirable argument for universities to be making."
This tweet sums it up well:
Blake Hounshell
Arresting Nasser bin Ghaith was a huge own-goal for the UAE. Exhibit A:

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

UAE is a peace-loving and a steady country. The rulers are doing very well for this country and this helps us expats & nationals get on with business & life with peace of mind. What more can one ask for? Believe me when I say that there is far more law & justice in the UAE than there is back in my country where I come from.

6:31 PM  
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Blogger Sumit Shah said...

The only thing that concerns me is that there should be a strong board controlling all the human rights affairs. The expat laborers are not paid that well and they are slogged day and night in the construction sector. The education is taking up pace which is a good thing. Even this could only take place because of some powerful personalities like Dr P Mohamed Ali from Oman took the initiative of developing education in his own country as well as neighboring countries.

10:33 AM  

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