called a great fighter

The conference "Alaa Al-Siddiq" remembers the deceased fighter and upholds her memory

21 Jun 2022
The conference

The human rights organization ALQST organized a conference under the title (Alaa Al-Siddiq: A Struggle for Freedom) to commemorate the first anniversary of the Emirati human rights defender who died in a car accident in the United Kingdom on June 19, 2021.

The conference consisted of three sessions, with the discussion in the first session focusing on Alaa Al-Siddiq's life and struggle. The founder of ALQST Organization for Human Rights, Yahya Asiri, spoke in this session. .

Asiri added that Alaa Al-Siddiq was a staunch advocate of the struggle for political prisoners and worked with sincerity. For this reason, she was unanimously the subject of all those who worked closely with her and she was able to convey her presence through her work, professionalism and struggle.

Asiri pointed out that Alaa Al-Siddiq's work cannot be reduced only to her father's case, as she advocated for prisoners in the UAE and human rights in Saudi Arabia, supported the Palestinian cause, and also defended women's rights.

Asiri called for Alaa to be a role model for the younger generations, as she worked diligently and with dedication, sometimes staying late at the office even though her work was finished and he asked her to go home for a break.

Al-Asiri considered that the presence of a large number of people from abroad who wanted to attend this conference is proof of the great esteem that the late enjoys in the hearts of the people, and that she managed to gain recognition and respect. And she suffered a lot.

After Asiri's speech, the late sister, Duaa Al-Siddiq, took the floor, saying that her sister Alaa was multi-talented and excelled in everything. She was one of the first in the UAE in high school exams and graduated with honors from the College of Sharjah, as well as a master's degree with honors from Hamad Bin Khalifa College.

Doaa Al-Siddiq added that Alaa planed to complete her studies and pursue a PhD in London, describing her sister as the most ambitious in the family who puts a lot of effort into her studies and career.

She also explained that her sister Alaa faced many violations and threats during her human rights work and that she could choose to remain silent, but she chose the difficult path and insisted on her principles and her right to express herself.

And Doaa went on to say that this decision cost Alaa a lot as she took the pain of alienation and distance from family and friends, but she was happy with her decision despite all the consequences and pain, which made her an icon of struggle and a symbol of freedom of expression.

Doaa concluded her speech by saying that if her sister were with us today, she would have written a tweet about her father saying "My father has finished his prison term and has not been released yet. Release my father, Muhammad Al-Siddiq... Freedom for my father... Freedom for the UAE prisoners."

The second session of the conference focused on human rights activism in the Gulf region and solidarity from outside. This session was moderated by activist Lina Al-Hathloul. Al-Hathloul pointed out at the beginning of the session that the late Alaa Al-Siddiq stood in solidarity with all Emiratis and Saudis, especially on the Palestinian issue, and stated that they had formed Alaa Al-Siddiq unit a few months ago to monitor human rights violations in the Gulf region, in honor of their efforts.

At the beginning of the session, Hamad Al Shamsi, Executive Director of the Center for the Advocacy of Emirates Detainees, took the floor and pointed out that all the speakers and participants of the conference currently live outside the Gulf region, which in itself is an indication of the poor human rights situation in the Gulf. He regretted that the human rights situation made it necessary to hold these conferences outside the Gulf countries.

Al Shamsi pointed out in his speech that Alaa Al-Siddiq's human rights activity did not start after the 2011 arrests, as many believe, but much earlier, as the late woman defended the rights of "Bidoon" emiratis at a time when everyone was talking about luxury, and she was one of the few who spoke about these things.

Al Shamsi considered that Alaa was one of the unique Emirati personalities because she, along with other personalities such as Ahmed Mansour and Dr. Mohammed Al-Roken, had a progressive view and spoke about human rights and defended others even though their rights were protected.

Al Shamsi pointed out that most of those who talk about human rights today did not notice the importance of this issue until it started to violate their rights in a personal and direct way, but these three were ahead of everyone else and they paid attention to the importance of the issue.

Al Shamsi also addressed the human rights situation in the Gulf States and the UAE, stating that the level of human rights has been fundamentally low since the establishment of the Gulf States. Even before 2011, the level of freedom of expression in the UAE was very low, and workers' rights were violated.

Al Shamsi believes that the reason for the low level of human rights in the Gulf states is that there is no real guarantor for the protection of human rights, and the only solution to find this guarantor is political participation, as all rights are currently in the hands of the authorities, who only pursue their interests and do not care about rights.

According to Al Shamsi, the human rights situation in the UAE has deteriorated significantly since March 2011. Before that date, there was talk of freedom of expression and political participation, but after that the focus was on serious violations such as torture, disappearances and political trials.

Al-Shamsi stressed that no one could have imagined that the UAE would reach a point where there is talk of torturing detainees to elicit statements from them, stressing that the torture cases he refers to are documented cases and not mere statements or allegations.

Al-Shamsi pointed out that they have documented the case of 100 political prisoners and that these prisoners have gone through several stages, the first stage being enforced disappearance.

Those who were documented were subjected to enforced disappearance, and this confirms that these are not isolated cases, as each detainee disappears over a period of three months to a year.

Al Shamsi added that in this phase, the detainee is placed in secret prisons so that he does not know where he is being held and is prevented from communicating with his family or relatives, as was the case with all detainees in the Emirates 94 group.

As for the second phase, according to Al-Shamsi, it is the trial phase, which are all security trials at the Ministry of State Security and take place under special circumstances, as in many cases the defendants cannot appeal the court's decision.

Al-Shamsi pointed out that a third stage has been added, the so-called counseling centers, where the detention of the prisoner is extended indefinitely, stressing that in reality there are no counseling centers and they are only a pretext to hold prisoners indefinitely.

Al-Shamsi summarized these stages by saying that they begin with disappearance and end in the counseling centers, pointing out that some detainees are still detained since 2017, although their sentence has already ended, more than five years, which is unimaginable, he said.

Al-Shamsi concluded his speech by noting that the UAE authorities spend millions to polish their image to the outside world, but the human rights reality in the Emirates is completely different from the picture they try to paint of reality.

Al-Shamsi stressed the importance of the role of human rights organizations and United Nations mechanisms in exposing this reality, and called for increased cooperation among human rights organizations in the Arab world and the formation of a "coordination" to help political prisoners in the Arab world.

In the second session, Khalid Ibrahim, Executive Director of the Gulf Center for Human Rights, and Habiba Al Hinai, Executive Director of the Omani Society for Human Rights, also spoke about the human rights situation in the Gulf region and the problems there.

The third session was held in English and moderated by Julia Legner, ALQST's Director of Legal Affairs. Leger described Alaa Al-Siddiq as a great fighter for human rights, not only in the UAE but in all Gulf countries.

Emirati activist Jenan Al Marzouki, daughter of detainee of conscience Abdul Salam Dureesh Al Marzouqi, spoke at the beginning of this session.

Al Marzouki addressed the human rights situation in the UAE, pointing out that the UAE has experienced the darkest times in human rights history over the past decade, as UAE authorities undermined freedom of expression and passed laws that restricted freedoms and escalated human rights violations.

According to Al-Marzouki, human rights violations such as enforced disappearances, torture, and revocation of citizenship were committed during this period for the first time in UAE history, and these violations began after the signing of the March 3, 2011 petition calling for constitutional and legal reforms.

Al-Marzouki spoke about the violations her father, Abdul Salam Al-Marzouki, faced. She said that he was arrested in the middle of the night without charge or judicial warrant, having been subjected to enforced disappearance and psychological and physical torture for eight months.

She added that on July 2, 2013, her father was sentenced by the Supreme Court to ten years of imprisonment and three years of probation, and that he was prevented from communicating with his lawyer or viewing the trial file during the trial.

Al-Marzouki described the proceedings as a process that does not meet the slightest requirements for a fair trial. She also pointed out that the UAE's laws do not comply with international standards and that the laws contain broad and vague texts, which the UAE authorities exploit to detain and imprison detainees.

Al-Marzouki recounted that she was threatened several times by the UAE authorities for speaking about the issue of detainees of conscience and was threatened to be sent back to the UAE, pointing out that what her family and the family of Alaa Al-Siddiq have had to suffer from deprivation of citizenship, work, and studies are just examples of what Emirati families have to suffer.

Al-Marzouki confirmed that these two families are not the only examples and that there are many families of detainees who are constantly harassed by the Emirati authorities, and that these families rely on their voices to convey the truth.

British academic Matthew Hedges spoke about the broad powers of the UAE's state security apparatus, pointing out that in cases involving state security, the detainee has no access to the files and only a limited number of judges can see them.

Hedges, a British academic who was arrested and then released in the UAE, said that while the broad powers of the state security apparatus are enshrined in law, the state security apparatus nevertheless exceeds those powers and commits systematic human rights violations.

In this session, journalist and filmmaker Safaa Al-Ahmad spoke about human rights violations in Yemen under the auspices of the UAE authorities. The third session, titled "Emirati Repression at Home and Abroad," concluded with a speech by Brian Dooley, Senior Adviser to the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders.

Dooley stressed the need to hold the UAE authorities accountable in every way possible for the actions they commit and to draw attention to human rights violations everywhere on social media, acknowledging that the United Nations mechanisms do not have many ways to deal with a strong dictatorial regime like the UAE.