Khalid Ibrahim, executive director of the Gulf Center for Human Rights (GC4HR), said human rights violations continue in the UAE, public freedoms are seized and prisons are full of intellectuals, academics, reformers and human rights defenders (HRDs).
Ibrahim, in an exclusive interview with the Emirates Detainees Advocacy Centre (EDAC), pointed out that it is difficult to change the reality through the United Nations mechanisms alone, as they are slow and sometimes weak. This prompts him to participate in most activities and dialogues, "to try to change this bad situation," Ibrahim said.
The virtual event "the Alternative Human Rights Expo" organized last Thursday through the "ZOOM" platform, was the last event in which GC4HR participated as one of the most prominent organizers. Ibrahim read some of the poems of his detained friend in UAE prisons, Ahmed Mansour.
Ibrahim is a well-known HRD in the Gulf region. He has done outstanding work in support of detainees of conscience in the UAE and has participated in numerous conferences and events to highlight the increasing oppression in these countries, which prompted EDAC to conduct a special interview with him about the human rights situation in these countries.
- EDAC: GC4HR has clear efforts in the field of advocacy for detainees of conscience in the Arab world in general and the UAE in particular. What are the most prominent issues that the GC4HR has worked on?Ibrahim: GC4HR has worked on many cases of HRDs since 2011 until now in the Arab world, but when we talk about the UAE, GC4HR focuses its efforts on the cause of detainees of conscience, and works diligently for the release of our fellow HRDs Ahmed Mansour, Dr. Muhammad Al-Roken, Dr. Muhammad Al-Mansoori, and others.
- EDAC: What is your assessment of the reality of human rights in the UAE?
Ibrahim: its too bad, human rights violations continue, public freedoms are confiscated, prisons are full of intellectuals, academics, reformers and HRDs, and what makes matters worse is the willingness of the ruling family to do everything unthinkable to perpetuate its repressive power.
- EDAC: Why do you think that the UAE adopts a zero-tolerance policy with detainees of conscience? is there anything that the UAE authorities fear?
Ibrahim: There is no doubt that the first motive is to terrorize everyone who thinks of raising the banner of human rights within the UAE. The mentality of the UAE rulers considers the other opinion a threat to its power, and that the only solution to deal with those with other opinions is not respecting them or celebrating them, but rather suppressing them so that they are not a model to others. Therefore, the UAE regime treats detainees of conscience worse than criminals. While the UAE authorities release criminals in amnesty decrees regularly, and allow them to travel anywhere they want on the day of their release, they deprive detainees of conscience from annual amnesty decrees or even the choice of countries to travel to when they are deported outside the country.
In fact, HRDs in the UAE face all forms of oppression, repression and intimidation, so they either left the country or languish in prisons facing unparalleled injustice, and after the imprisonment of my dear colleague Ahmed Mansour, there is not even one HRD publicly left in the UAE.
- EDAC: Due to your long work in the field of human rights, what do countries lose which confiscate the right to opinion and arrest those with other opinions?
Ibrahim: It loses its reputation, and becomes an example of injustice and oppression that is referred to on all international occasions, and its bad human rights record makes it easy to interfere in its internal affairs and impose international sanctions on it.
- EDAC: The name of the detained Emirati activist Ahmed Mansour has been repeated a lot in the recent European Parliament decisions on the UAE, and in the statements of human rights organizations and recent press statements, but many people does not know who is Ahmed Mansour and what his story, as an old friend of Mansour, can you tell us more about him?
Ibrahim: My dear colleague Ahmed Mansour, the last HRD in the UAE, a prominent blogger and one of the poets of the UAE, was born in 1969 in the Emirate of Ras Al Khaimah.
He studied electrical engineering at the University of Colorado in the USA, where he obtained a bachelor's degree, and then at the same university, he completed a master's degree specializing in communications engineering, so he is a poet came from the world of communications engineering.
He was imprisoned for his peaceful and legitimate work in the field of human rights on March 20, 2017, and has been placed in solitary confinement since that day until this moment, in deliberate torture by the State Security Apparatus (SSA) for him and other detainees of conscience.
- EDAC: Ahmed Mansour was an advisory member of the GC4HR, how was your relationship with him from a professional point of view? and what roles did he play to win the title of "brave human rights defender', as he was described by the former UN human rights commissioner, Mary Robinson?
Ibrahim: Because he knew that the fate of those working in the field of human rights in the UAE is jail, and despite this, he continued his work in monitoring and documenting human rights violations. Ahmed was targeted by the Emirati authorities by all means, on-line, financially and physically, but he never cared about that, and he continued to work with determination and honesty to defend human rights in the UAE, and this is not only a courage, but rare and peerless courage.
- EDAC: Many knew Ahmed Mansour as a "human rights defender", but few knew him the poet and friend. Can you tell us about Ahmed as a friend?
Ahmed Mansour was a dear colleague, a sincere friend, a generous brother, and a loyal person in whom all the good qualities were manifested. He was distinguished by his keenness to accomplish all his tasks with high accuracy and at time. He respected time a lot, in addition to being a successful head of a family. I know a lot about his kindness, generosity, and loyalty to his friends, sometimes sharing his resources with those in need. I have the honor that Ahmed is my friend and my brother, he is the one who gave his life for the rights of his citizens and self-sufficiency is the ultimate goal of generosity.
- EDAC: Do you think that the international community failed to help Ahmed Mansour and the rest of the detainees of conscience in the UAE, and why?
Ibrahim: We do not have any local mechanisms to address violations and keep us and our colleagues away from harm. Therefore, international mechanisms, including those of the United Nations, are the only recourse that we must always use. There is no doubt that these mechanisms are slow and sometimes weak, but we have no choice but to continue working with them, and therefore we must devise new ways of working to achieve our dreams of building societies in which social justice and respect for public freedoms prevail.
- EDAC: If Ahmed Mansour could hear you now, what would you say to him?
Ibrahim: Greetings, dear brother, who is always smiling despite the difficulties and challenges. We will never forget you and how can we forget who lives in our hearts. We will do everything we can do to release you and the rest of the detainees of conscience in the UAE.
- EDAC: The Arab human rights community in general and the UAE in particular lost the human rights activist Alaa Al-Siddiq, who died in a tragic accident in London last summer. What can you tell us about her and her?
Ibrahim: Her loss was a shock to me and to everyone who worked with her or knew her, and there is no doubt that her passing has left a great void that no one will fill. A wonderful, honest, cultured, multi-skilled, and courageous HRD who faced with her honest word and her voice always singing rights, a repressive government that harnessed the resources of the people in order to silence the other opinion. May God have mercy on her and grant her peace in paradise.
- EDAC: If Alaa could hear you now, what would you say to her?
Ibrahim: Alaa, the wonderful person, the brave HRD and the dear colleague, peace be upon you, we are walking on your path.
- EDAC: What would you say to her father, who has been defending him for 9 years, wishing she would see him?
Ibrahim: Greetings to you, dear Muhammad Abdul-Razzaq Al-Siddiq, and you are a good citizen known for your peaceful community activities. Your imprisonment exposes the torturers, their oppression, their confiscation of public liberties, and their grave violations of the civil and human rights of you and a large group of the elite men and women of the UAE.
- EDAC: any word you can say for the detainees of conscience and their families in the UAE?
Ibrahim:I salute you who have sacrificed your precious sons to preserve rights, and there is no doubt that oppression will be defeated and justice will prevail. History teaches us that injustice may win in a battle, but in the end justice will triumph, and then the executioners will regret what they have committed.
- EDAC: any words for the UAE authorities?
Ibrahim: We independent HRDs are not calling for chaos in the UAE, but we do want the principles of human rights to be respected and for genuine reform to be instituted, starting with the release of all those imprisoned for their peaceful opinions or human rights activities, and the rejection of all laws that restrict public freedoms, first and foremost freedom of the press, freedom of expression and the guarantee of peaceful protests.