To President John Sexton and Vice-Chancellor Al Bloom,
We are deeply disturbed by the recent news that United Arab Emirates authorities have arrested three leading human rights activists, one of whom is an economics professor at the Abu Dhabi branch of the Sorbonne. On April 8, 2011, Ahmed Mansour, a prominent blogger and vocal human rights advocate who recently called for political freedoms and an elected parliament in the UAE, was arrested in a pre-dawn raid at his home and has been charged with undisclosed crimes. Subsequently, another activist, Fahad Salem al-Shehhy, who has been participating in an online forum calling for free elections and other democratic reforms in the UAE was detained late Saturday in Ajman. Finally, one of the country’s most outspoken academics, Nasser bin Ghaith, who is a financial analyst and an economics professor at the Abu Dhabi branch of the Sorbonne was detained Sunday in Dubai.
These arrests raise deep concerns about the limits of free speech in the Emirates and respect for academic freedoms for those teaching at American and European universities there. We urge the NYU administration in New York and Abu Dhabi to speak out strongly on behalf of the human rights of these three Emirati citizens and to join Human Rights Watch and other international organizations in demanding to know the reasons for their detention and the charges against them.
In accord with the spirit of the AAUP, we hope that NYU administrators will see why it is important to defend the freedoms of faculty of whatever nationality who teach at American and European universities in the UAE. Silence on this serious issue will set a precedent that could also have ominous consequences for the speech protections of NYUAD faculty. As the foreign university with the largest and most visible presence in the UAE, the NYU administration should speak out firmly against these violations of basic rights.
Andrew Ross, president, NYU-AAUP
Mary Nolan, vice-president, NYU-AAUP
Marie Monaco, secretary, NYU-AAUP
Anna McCarthy, treasurer, NYU-AAUP
Rebecca Karl, at-large committee member, NYU-AAUP
Rana Jaleel, graduate representative, NYU-AAUP