The Middle East Eye website highlighted the UAE’s exploitation of hosting international events, the latest COP28 climate conference in 2023, as a convenient cover for state repression and a ban on freedoms.
Journalist and analyst on Gulf affairs Bill Law wrote that climate change is a tool that provides a convenient cover for authoritarian regimes to hide human rights violations while presenting a facade of concern and commitment to addressing global environmental crises.
Law began his article by asking: Will western media and politicians fail to stand up for human rights in the UAE, just as they did in Egypt?
Law says that one of the oddities of the COP27 climate conference this month was the scarcity of Western media coverage of Egypt’s brutal human rights record.
He adds: By virtue of his being a UK citizen, the cause of jailed activist Alaa Abd el-Fattah secured a certain level of awareness, and that is a good thing. He is a hugely courageous fighter who deserves far more than the tepid support he and his family have received from the British government.
But Abdel-Fattah is just one among an estimated 60,000 political prisoners held in appalling conditions in the prison complexes the Egyptian regime uses to crush dissent, while his hunger strike and decision to stop drinking water – which could have led to his death – To the attention of the media, there was no mention of the thousands more prisoners whose names have not been released, or the millions more being denied basic liberties in one of the world’s most repressive countries.
He compares the lack of media coverage on the issue of human rights in Egypt during the COP27 with the “storm of criticism” that Qatar has been subjected to during the past weeks in conjunction with the approaching hosting of the 2022 World Cup. However, it will inevitably attract one of the most significant sporting events in the world, which will be held in the country. For the first time, a Muslim woman in the Middle East rigorous attention, some of it fair, some of it not.
Next year, Dubai will host COP28, and the UAE knows by now that the issue of climate change is a convenient cover tool for authoritarian regimes to hide human rights abuses while presenting a facade of concern and commitment to addressing global environmental crises.
The writer believes that the UAE will be able to create more momentum on the climate issue than Egypt, as the UAE Foreign Minister confirmed, during statements at the Sharm el-Sheikh conference, that his country will lead next year an ambitious, comprehensive and solution-oriented approach at the 2023 World Climate Summit.
The article returns to the original question, where the writer says: “Will the traditional Western media, which worked to make soap lather around Qatar and the World Cup, pay much attention to human rights violations in the Emirates?” And he answers: “I am not a man betting, but if you Also, I wouldn’t put any money into that possibility.”
The UAE is one of the most heavily surveilled states on earth. Dubai alone boasts tens of thousands of highly sophisticated cameras that constantly monitor its citizens in the public domain. Rigorously enforced cybercrime laws are used to police the internet to safeguard against anti-regime sentiments.
And then there are those who have been jailed: human rights activist Ahmed Mansoor, economist Nasser bin Ghaith, dozens of dissidents in the “UAE 94” case, and many more, including Alia Abdulnoor, who was imprisoned over raising funds for women and children caught in the Syrian civil war.
“As we emerge from Cop27, where international protesters were hidden away in Sharm el-Sheikh and elsewhere in the country, and climate activists were arrested, we can look ahead to the next incarnation of this event in the UAE – where we are told, tolerance flourishes.”
“Will Dubai allow climate protests in city streets, or virtual protests online? Will the Emirati claim of tolerance be tested in any meaningful way? We know the answer, just as we know that all those held in prisons, serving long and politically-motivated sentences, will not receive anything approximating justice.”
Law conclodes: “will western media and politicians go along with this game, buying the line that was so easily accepted at Sharm el-Sheikh? Will they allow the climate-change agenda to become, yet again, a convenient cover for viciously repressive authoritarian regimes? I fear I already know the answer.”