Earlier this month Mayor Rahm Emanuel celebrated the opening of the United Arab Emirates-Manchester City Field at Haas Park, praising the facilities paid for and named after the UAE and Manchester City FC, the English soccer club owned by its ruling family. Chicagoans should not let the UAE’s very public association with a child and family-friendly project blind them to the realities of the UAE. This a country where people who attempt to exercise their right to free speech and peaceful dissent are likely to find themselves in arbitrary detention, where lawyers are harassed and even deported for their efforts to defend peaceful dissidents, and where migrant workers, who make up about 95 percent of the work force, face extraordinary exploitation. In the last year the situation has deteriorated so significantly that on October 26 the European Parliament issued an urgent resolution calling on its strategic partner to call a halt to an ongoing campaign of repression and intimidation against its citizenry. On October 13, two days after Mayor Emanuel praised the UAE’s contribution to Chicago, UAE State Security forces arrested Mansoor al-Ahmadi, vice-president of the UAE Student Union, bringing to 64 the total of peaceful activists locked up so far this year in this country with a population a lot smaller than metropolitan Chicago. Worse, the whereabouts of 62 of them is unknown, an invitation to further abuse of their rights.
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