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  • Writer's pictureDetained in Dubai

Caitlin McNamara sexual assault in the UAE

"Assault" on Hay Festival employee highlights archaic and dangerous UAE attitudes towards women and Sheikh Nayan is a known abuser.  Radha Stirling, founder Detained in Dubai issued the following statement today on the incident:

"32 year old Caitlin McNamara has spoken to media about her allegations of sexual harassment by Sheikh Nayan bin Mubarak Al Nayan, Minister of Tolerance in the UAE and a member of Abu Dhabi’s ruling family.

"McNamara has vowed never to return to the Gulf again after reporting her sexual assault to Scotland Yard, who have also been investigating the kidnapping of Sheikh Shamsa, daughter of the ruler of Dubai, from UK soil. Since the Times on Sunday article this morning, Detained in Dubai has become aware of other incidences of sexual assault by Sheikh Nayan while in the UK and we encourage other victims to cooperate with Scotland Yard.

"McNamara had been employed by the Hay Festival of Literature and Arts in Abu Dhabi for six months before the attack.  It was the Festival’s first collaboration with the UAE who has spent millions in public relations efforts to attract talent in the arts and literature sectors to the country. Women speakers and promoters were particularly targeted to help the country overturn its misogynistic appearance, particularly in light of Princess Haya’s allegations that her young daughter had been promised to MBS, and the guardianship laws which have been under public discussion.

"But the arts and literary sectors, as well as education, have been lobbied by human rights activists and advised to avoid the region until changes are made and certainly, until Princess Latifa is free.  It is inappropriate for the Hay Festival, who supports freedom of speech, to be collaborating with Abu Dhabi in a joint event in a country that jails people for a tweet, for sharing a facebook post, a charity post, for offending the government or speaking about the kidnapping and imprisonment of Princess Latifa.  It is just as contradictory as perhaps Ricky Martin putting on a concert in a country that condemns, persecutes, jails and even executes homosexuals, or even people who wear skinny jeans. Given LGBTQ representation in the arts and literary sectors of the UK, again, it seems inappropriate that the Hay Festival would collaborate with a country who has jailed a British man for wearing skinny jeans and who still holds the death penalty for homosexuality.

"The sexual assault of McNamara is not an isolated incident but something that Detained in Dubai receives reports about on a regular basis.  While many female royals are locked up or hidden away under strict guardianship rules, their male counterparts live a decadent life. The ruler of the Emirate of Ras Al Khaimah, Sheikh Saud, was charged with the sexual assault of a hotel maid in the United States.  The Sheikhs are accustomed to getting their way.  They literally own the police and the judiciary and have the power to put any complainant in jail with the click of a finger.  If McNamara had reported the incident to police in Abu Dhabi, she herself would likely have faced charges that could have resulted in life in prison.  It is the same for rape victims.  We only need to look at the case of Australian Alicia Gali who spoke publicly about being charged with “sex outside marriage” after reporting rape.  Reporting sexual assault or rape in the UAE is a highly risky affair and the Australian Embassy came under fire for not warning Miss Gali of the potential consequences of filing a report against her assailants.

"A French teenage boy was charged with homosexuality after reporting his gang rape. McNamara will not go back to the Gulf.  In speaking out about her assault, she could be jailed for life for insulting the Sheikh, for defaming the country or for being in the company of a man to whom she was not married.  Roxanne Hillier was jailed for seven months for being in the same room alone with her employer, even though invasive medical tests showed she had not had sex.  This is the real UAE and it is not a UAE that the Hay Festival should be collaborating with.


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