Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Bah Humbug!

Now you know me, and you'd trust me never to say anything critical about my august employer, The Hegemon.

So like me, you'll read its annual report with drooling and fervent admiration. You won't mentally footnote every claim, and you certainly wouldn't choke on the proud references to our sterling work on behalf of various repressive dictatorships (for a cynical, carping, nitpicking attitude towards this country - which very sensibly bans academic freedom of speech and the right to free assembly, and allows close relatives of our friends to film themselves torturing and murdering business rivals with impunity - you might like to click here, or here).

The growing profile we enjoy in the United Arab Emirates is apparent from the relationships we have developed there. In February 2010, senior staff from the University visited Abu Dhabi to present an Honorary Degree of Doctor of Social Science to Deputy Prime Minister, His Highness Lieutenant General Sheikh Saif Bin Zayed Al Nahyan.
The award was presented in honour of His Highness’s considerable contribution to urban development, in particular his leading role in designing security and safety measures for the protection of residents of, and visitors to, the UAE.

What do we mean by 'security and safety measures'? Well, we mean sending troops to crush the disenfranchised citizens of Bahrain, and we mean death threats, the state kidnapping of  academics, the closure of civil society groups and a range of oppressive activities.

'And the award for most academics arrested in a term goes to…'

Should a university really be supplying courses to - and giving awards to - people who lock up my colleagues? This is what Human Rights Watch says about NYU and the Sorbonne, who have failed to protest the imprisonment of their employee, Nasser al-Ghaith:
As partners of the UAE government, these non-profit institutions are not only well-placed to condemn these outrageous attacks but have a responsibility to do so. These public institutions claim to be doing more than turning a pretty profit with their glamorous, starchitect-designed outposts in Abu Dhabi. They promised the world that they will serve the public good by creating a powerful UAE center of "ideas, discourse, and critical thinking" and that their branches will serve as a "bridge between civilizations," as the Sorbonne Abu Dhabi motto says.
The Hegemon certainly doesn't have 'star architects', but we do seem to be advising and training the security apparatus, so we're morally culpable for what's going on.

(Mind you, what to expect from an institution whose billionaire tax-avoiding Chancellor was suspended from the House of Lords for fiddling his expenses to the tune of £41,000?).

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