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Exiled Emirati dissident launches campaign to lift travel ban on sick son

Ahmed Al-Nuaimi demands to be reunited with his son, who suffers from cerebral palsy and needs specialist medical attention
The academic has launched a Twitter campaign to be reunited with his son and allow him the medical attention he needs (Screengrab/Twitter)

An Emirati academic and dissident living in self-imposed exile in London has launched an online campaign demanding that Abu Dhabi lifts a travel ban imposed on his sick son so that they can be reunited. 

The academic, Ahmed Al-Nuaimi, has stressed that his son, who suffers from cerebral palsy and needs specialist care, is officially banned from leaving the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

"For everyone asking me about my son Mohammed, he is now living with his grandmother in the Emirates, due to the travel ban imposed by the Emirati authorities, in an attempt to blackmail me into returning and as a form of collective punishment, which the state uses with prisoners of conscience and those with alternative views," Al-Nuaimi said on Twitter.

A campaign calling for his son Mohammed to be reunited with his family has gained momentum online. Many have expressed solidarity with the family, saying they should not be punished by the authorities. 

Using the hashtag #ابني_محمد (My Son Mohammed), Al-Nuaimi expressed his grievances about not being able to see his son for nine years. Hundreds of people have also used the Arabic hashtag to raise awareness on the case.

Al-Nuaimi told the Arabi21 website on Wednesday that his case began in 2012. He was in Britain on private business when the widespread arrests of individuals calling for reform took place. He remained in self-imposed exile in the UK fearing persecution, but a travel ban on his son has separated them indefinitely. 

He said he would pursue international legal action to attempt to lift the ban. 

"This is a humanitarian issue, and what the UAE is doing with a disabled child by depriving him of his family violates all human rights laws, customs and charters," he told the site.

Social media users have expressed concern over the wellbeing of Mohammed, and have called for the family to be reunited. 

Translation: When we talk about injustice and oppression practised by the Emirati authorities, some may not believe it and think that it is exaggeration. But even what we are saying is just a small part of what the authorities exercise against those who hold alternative opinions. This is a clear example of injustice and collective punishment being practised against Ahmed and his son, who suffers from cerebral palsy. 

Translation: This young man with special needs is the son of the well known Emirati professor Ahmed al-Shaibah al-Nuaimi. This young man is banned from travelling and needs healthcare - but the UAE authorities have prevented him from joining his family to blackmail the father. What has Mohammed done to deserve this? 

Crackdown on family

According to the Emirates Centre for Human Rights, al-Nuaimi's brother Khaled was arrested in the UAE by a group of armed state security officers on 16 July 2012, after having his home raided. According to the rights group, no judicial warrant was issued and no explanation was provided for his arrest. 

The rights group also revealed that Khaled al-Nuaimi was denied a bed to sleep on, pens and papers or sunlight while in custody and under interrogation. His family also faced threats during his interrogations, and were forced to sign papers not to speak out on social media networks. 

'The Emirati state has targeted the families of activists and human rights defenders through various measures, including the revocation of nationality, denial of travel and the reunification of families'

- We Record

In a statement posted to Twitter, the rights group We Record said that Abu Dhabi has repeatedly targeted the families of activists and human rights defenders. 

“The Emirati state has targeted the families of activists and human rights defenders through various measures, including the revocation of nationality, denial of travel and the reunification of families,” the statement read. 

According to a report by Human Rights Watch, Emirati authorities have continued to invest in a soft power strategy aimed at painting the country as progressive and tolerant, while continuing to unjustly imprison activists and dissidents.  

“Hundreds of activists, academics, and lawyers are serving lengthy sentences in UAE prisons, in many cases following unfair trials on vague and broad charges that violate their rights to free expression and association,” the report states.  

The report also raised concerns over the Covid-19 outbreak in detention centres, which are worsening already dismal conditions.