When the Emirati authorities began their repressive campaign against activists and human rights defenders in 2011, Ahmed Mansour was one of the first victims of this crackdown. He was arrested along with 4 others and charged with "insulting state symbols" and received the highest sentence among his comrades at the time, 3 years in prison.
Abu Dhabi's decision to place Mansour at the forefront of the victims of its repressive campaign and impose the highest sentence on him was not absurd. The authorities considered him one of the masterminds of the March 3 petition calling for democratic and constitutional reforms, signed by dozens of academics, professors, lawyers and human rights activists.
Although Mansoor was not detained for long at the time, as he was released on a presidential pardon, the authorities' harassment of him did not stop after intense pressure from human rights organizations. He was fired from his job and the severance pay he had received at the end of his service was confiscated. He was surprised when nearly $140,000 disappeared from his bank account and when he went to court to complain that, his $60,000 car had been stolen from the court parking lot.
After a series of non-stop harassment, including physical assault, spying on his electronic devices and constantly threatening him by unknown people, Mansour was arrested again in 2017, and the UAE authorities charged him with 7 charges related to exercising freedom of expression and his communication with human rights organizations, but this time the ruling was passed with a sentence of 10 years and placed in a solitary cell, isolated from the outside world, till this moment.
Who is Ahmed Mansour? And why Emirati authorities put him as a target?
Ahmed Mansoor is a 52-year-old Emirati engineer, poet, and father of four. He is also the most well-known human rights defender in his country.
Prior to his arrest, Mansour had devoted more than a decade of his life to defending human rights in his homeland and in the countries of the Middle East, and was not deterred by previous government attempts aimed at silencing him.
Mansour graduated from the University of Colorado Boulder in the United States in 1999, then worked in Maryland until 2001, before returning to the United Arab Emirates where he began his human rights activism in 2006. Soon, Mansour attracted attention when his campaign to release two Emiratis imprisoned for online comments.
In 2009, Mansour led efforts to oppose a media bill that threatened freedom of expression and organized a petition calling on the UAE's president not to approve the bill. Those efforts paid off, as the president blocked the bill.
Along with a number of citizens, Mansour established the Al-Hiwar al-Emarati (the Emirati Dialogue) on the Internet. The forum focused on issues of politics, society and development in the UAE, and has long witnessed heated discussions on topics that were once considered red lines, including the growing personal wealth of the various sheikhs of the country.
Mansour was a believer in the importance of freedom in general, and freedom of expression in particular, as he believed that freedom is the basic value of existence, and if you do not have freedom, you do not have anything else, so he tried, through the establishment of this forum, to create an atmosphere that allows citizens to express themselves.
Mansour believes that the biggest human rights issue in the UAE today is the lack of freedom of expression. "The problem is not just that the ceiling is low, but it does not exist, it has been completely destroyed by state-imposed laws and actual practice," he says.
Ideologically, Mansour belonged to the liberal movement in the UAE, and despite that, he rejected the crackdown by the authorities against the Islamists (the reform movement), and said that they are from the elite of society, and do not pose any threat to the country, and it cannot be believed that they wanted to overthrow the government.
Mansour believed in the necessity of having full parliamentary representation, and implementing what the founders of the state had stated in the preamble to the constitution, and believed that what was happening was a deviation from the basic values on which the country was based. Therefore, he was one of the main initiators of the March 3 petition.
Mansour asserted in many of his articles that the best political structure for the UAE, is to move from the federal concept, because it is an obstacle for many things, and to move to a constitutional monarchy, such as the United Kingdom, where the ruling family owns the state but does not actually rule it.
He also indicated in one in an interview that the UAE is living in the worst time in its human rights history, saying that "it is the darkest era for the country, we have not been in such a situation before, or anywhere close to it, throughout the history of the UAE, and even before that, so we are moving quickly in One lane, we go forward, we go backward, we move quickly in the other direction as well.”
These ideas made the UAE authorities consider Ahmed Mansour an exceptional danger, and always made him the target of their repression. Mansour is not just a human rights activist, but a person with a project and an initiative, which no repressive authority can tolerate.