Louvre museum, workers abused in Abu Dhabi

This video says about itself:

The Dirty Secret Behind the NYU, Louvre, Guggenheim Projects in Abu Dhabi

(New York, February 10, 2015) – Serious concerns about workers’ rights have not been resolved for a high-profile project in Abu Dhabi that will host branches of the Louvre and Guggenheim museums and a campus of New York University (NYU). These institutions should make their continued engagement with the Saadiyat Island project contingent on the developers’ commitment to more serious enforcement of worker protections and the compensation of workers who suffered abuses, including those arbitrarily deported after they went on strike.

If the United Arab Emirates, including Abu Dhabi, would not participate in the Saudi absolute monarchy’s genocidal war against the people of Yemen, as they do now: then the money for that bloodshed and torture might instead have been spent on wages and working conditions worthy of human beings for the workers building the Louvre museum and other construction in Abu Dhabi.

If the Abu Dhabi government really likes art, then they should not ban books by Tunisian authors about dictatorship and opposition to it in Tunisia (not in Abu Dhabi, but absolute monarchs are afraid of people seeing parallels). They should not ban George Orwell’s 1984 like they do now. They should not ban the Harry Potter books like they do now.

Translated from Dutch NOS TV today:

The French President Emmanuel Macron opens this week in the United Arab Emirates one of the world’s most spectacular museums: the Louvre Abu Dhabi. …

Van Gogh, Renoir, Mondriaan and Monet are featured.

According to a former landlady of Vincent van Gogh, the artist cried night after night about how the bosses treated workers. What a clear sign (though impossible according to the laws of nature) would it be, if Van Gogh’s paintings (sold for so many millions of dollars after their maker had died in poverty) now in the Abu Dhabi museum would start crying about how the absolute monarchy and bosses in Abu Dhabi treat workers.

Bronze and porcelain from all corners of the world are exhibited. A sarcophagus from ancient Egypt is a showpiece, as well as a great contemporary work by Ai Wei Wei. …

Ai Wei Wei fights for the human rights of refugees. While the UAE regime makes more and more human beings into refugees by participating in the Saudi war on Yemen.

The cost of construction was initially estimated at 83 million euros. According to the latest estimates, the bill is 561 million euros: almost 7 times as much.

And that is only for the empty building. …

In the French press, the Louvre Abu Dhabi has already been depicted as a megalomaniac project. …

Art is not merchandise and does not belong in an amusement park”, wrote a prominent Parisian director of museums some time ago in Le Monde. She qualified the Louvre Abu Dhabi sarcastically as ‘Las Vegas on a sandy plain’.

British police training UAE torturers

This video says about itself:

Torturing in deportation jail in Abu Dhabi (English subtitles)

10 November 2013

By Paddy McGuffin in Britain:

Questions raised as Met admits training notorious UAE force

Friday 4th September 2015

Legal action charity Reprieve has demanded urgent answers after British cops admitted yesterday to spending weeks training United Arab Emirates (UAE) police officers — notorious torturers and human rights abusers.

The Metropolitan Police revealed it recently hosted a delegation of the Security Support Department of the Abu Dhabi Police, who took part in “daily patrol field tasks and various training activities.”

In a statement, the Met lauded the officers as “on par with the best international experts in this field.”

Reprieve has demanded urgent answers from the Home Office over the exchange.

Police in UAE routinely use torture — including electrocution, beatings, solitary confinement and threats of rape — to extract “confessions.”

It demanded to know what human rights considerations were made by the British government before the exercise was agreed.

The joint training is understood to have included the use of “advanced equipment and devices to handle moderate and high-risk security incidents.”

The exercise also included “drills and methods for tactical firearm use and marksmanship, alongside implementing various security scenarios.”

Reprieve death penalty team director Maya Foa told the Star: “The Abu Dhabi police’s victims include Indian citizen Ezhur Gangadharan, whose bogus statements under torture led to a death sentence, while Brits such as Ahmad Zeidan, who remains unjustly locked up, have also been brutally tortured in the UAE.

“It’s alarming, therefore, to see British officers training alongside UAE police in vaguely drawn ‘security scenarios’ — apparently including ‘the use of weapons to apprehend suspects’.”

Reprieve has in the past represented a number of people challenging alleged UAE police brutality, including several Britons who say they were tortured into giving false confessions.

Met chief of operations Dave Moss expressed his admiration for the Abu Dhabi Police delegation’s “professionalism and sophistication in carrying out difficult and dangerous tasks.”

He also praised their “expertise, physical fitness, and their intellect; placing them among the most effective security members worldwide.”

Arabic prize-winning novel banned in Emirates

This video says about itself:

The Dirty Secret Behind the NYU, Louvre, Guggenheim Projects in Abu Dhabi

(New York, February 10, 2015) – Serious concerns about workers’ rights have not been resolved for a high-profile project in Abu Dhabi that will host branches of the Louvre and Guggenheim museums and a campus of New York University (NYU). These institutions should make their continued engagement with the Saadiyat Island project contingent on the developers’ commitment to more serious enforcement of worker protections and the compensation of workers who suffered abuses, including those arbitrarily deported after they went on strike.

From daily The Guardian in Britain:

Tunisian novel wins ‘Arabic Booker’ in Abu Dhabi despite UAE ban

The Italian by Shukri al-Mabkhout takes International prize for Arabic fiction for story written in the aftermath of the Arab spring

M Lynx Qualey

Wednesday 6 May 2015 17.29 BST

A Tunisian university administrator has won the International prize for Arabic fiction (IPAF) for his debut novel, The Italian, at a ceremony in Abu Dhabi, the United Arab Emirates’ capital city. Shukri al-Mabkhout’s award comes just a week after his publishers learned from an Abu Dhabi bookshop that the novel was banned from bookshops across the Emirates.

The Italian is the eighth winner of the $50,000 (£33,000) prize known as the “Arabic Booker”. While the award is funded by the Abu Dhabi Tourism and Culture Authority, its longlist, shortlist and winner are decided by a panel of independent judges, this year chaired by Palestinian poet Mourid Barghouti.

Even before the announcement, there was wide interest in al-Mabkhout’s historical novel, whose protagonist is nicknamed “the Italian” for his slick good looks. The novel is set in Tunisia during the tumultuous crossover between Habib Bourguiba’s 30-year rule (1957-1987) and Zine El Abidine Ben Ali’s 24 years in power (1987-2011) and follows the central character’s political and romantic adventures while also critically examining Tunisia under two dictatorships.

When it was released last year, 53-year-old al-Mabkhout’s novel came as something of a shock to the Tunisian literary community. Al-Mabkhout is current president of the country’s University of Manouba and a well-known cultural figure, respected for his translations, literary criticism, and a weekly newspaper column, but his arrival as a novelist had not been expected. After the initial surprise, his debut received an enthusiastic reception, last month winning Tunisia’s top literary prize.

Al-Mabkhout said in an email interview with IPAF organisers that he was inspired by the backlash that came after the 2010-2011 Tunisian uprising that ousted Ben Ali.

“In a short period of time, we experienced what is equivalent to many years’ worth of unbelievable confusion and changes,” the novelist wrote. He could have addressed his feelings in a newspaper column, he said, but instead it was the novel form, “with its ability to grasp the contradictions, conflicts, changes, and hesitations,” that drew him in. This year he plans to publish a second novel as well as a collection of poems.

IPAF judging chair Mourid Barghouti said The Italian “brilliantly depicts the unrest both of the small world of its characters and the larger one of the nation”. Although it’s about Tunisian society, he said, “the book may also surprise many of its Arab readers who may recognise aspects of their societies in its pages”.

This recognition is perhaps what led to its banning in the Emirates, although no official reason has been given. Last week, al-Mabkhout’s publisher found out from Maktabet al Jamea (University Bookshop) in Abu Dhabi that the “authorities informed him it’s banned and that he therefore can’t stock it,” according to Sherif Joseph Rizk, the Cairo manager of Dar al-Tanweer, the book’s publisher.

Rizk said that Dar al-Tanweer did bring copies to the Abu Dhabi international book fair, which opens on Thursday, saying that “the fairs always get more lenient procedures”. IPAF organisers also issued a statement that copies would be available at the fair and that, “As a prize, we promote literature across borders but cannot influence the availability of our titles.”

Rizk wasn’t sure why the book was being singled out. Other books on the shortlist also cross traditional red lines, particularly Syrian novelist Lina Hawyan Elhassan’s Diamonds and Women, which has a number of sex scenes.

Thus far, Rizk said, al-Mabkhout’s novel remained available elsewhere. “We sold it in Riyadh. Now of course that’s threatened.”

An ebook version isn’t yet out, but Rizk said one should be available soon through Diwan Bookstores.

An eventual English translation is more or less guaranteed by the IPAF, the highest-profile Arabic novel prize. Six of the previous seven winners are already available in English. The most recent is Saud al-Sanoussi’s The Bamboo Stalk, published at the end of last month. English rights to last year’s winner, Ahmed Saadawi’s Frankenstein in Baghdad, have been picked up by Oneworld, and it is tentatively scheduled for a 2016 release.

A comment at the Guardian site on this:

Don’t suppose George Orwell‘s ever topped the bestseller list in UAE, then?

I actually just googled that for a laugh – and lo and behold Orwell is indeed banned there together with … Harry Potter, FFS.

War profiteers’ re-started Iraq, Syria war profits

This video from Britain says about itself:

Campaign Against Arms Trade: Right Livelihood Award Laureate 2012

For almost 40 years, Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) has been exposing, challenging and impeding the international arms trade. In recognition of this work, CAAT was awarded the Right Livelihood Award in 2012. This short documentary was produced during the week of the awards by Take Part Media on behalf of the Right Livelihood Award Foundation.

Translated from NOS TV in the Netherlands:

Arms trade still more lucrative because of ISIS conflict

Today, 10:59

There’s more than one trillion euros per year of business in the arms industry. It is a lucrative market which is still growing because of the ISIS conflict, especially in the Middle East. And right there, in Abu Dhabi, this week is the biggest arms fair in the world. Correspondent Sander van Hoorn visited the exhibition and saw that in the fight against ISIS there are certain trends. …

The United Arab Emirates, where the fair is held, are there, of course, but so are Morocco, Libya, Egypt and Saudi Arabia.

No soldier wants to be interviewed. …

And does not that German company ultimately sell those shiny tear gas grenades in its showcase to Egypt or Bahrain, where they are used against protesters on a large scale? …

Euphemistic language abounds. “Ordnance” is the word used for everything which explodes. And some Dutch entrepreneurs tried to convince me that it’s actually not ‘arms industry’, but ‘defense industry’.

Canadian soldier killed by friendly fire in Iraq: here.

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper presented a motion to parliament Tuesday endorsing the extension of Canadian military operations in Iraq for a further twelve months, and their expansion into Syria: here.

U.S. ADOPTS NEW ISIS STRATEGY IN IRAQ “In a major shift of focus in the battle against the Islamic State, the Obama administration is planning to establish a new military base in Anbar Province and send 400 American military trainers to help Iraqi forces retake the city of Ramadi.” [NYT]

President Obama ended the G7 summit in Bavaria Monday with a press conference where he took several questions on the deepening crisis in the Middle East and North Africa, and dropped hints of an impending US escalation of the war against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS): here.

The Pentagon is preparing to develop a network of new US military bases in strategic areas of Iraq, General Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters Thursday: here.

The US war against Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) will require a “generational” and “trans-regional” commitment of US forces, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin Dempsey said Tuesday, at a hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee. According to Dempsey, the threat of ISIS requires sustained US military pressure not just in Iraq and Syria but in the Sinai peninsula, Afghanistan, Libya and elsewhere: here.

A lawsuit filed last week by Army Captain Nathan Michael Smith alleges that the Obama administration’s unilateral decision to launch a war against ISIS in Syria and Iraq violates the Constitution and the 1973 War Powers Resolution, since only Congress has the power to declare war: here.

UAE museum construction workers exploited and oppressed

This video says about itself:

The dark side of Abu Dhabi’s cultural revolution, United Arab Emirates (UAE)

22 December 2013

Conditions for Abu Dhabi’s migrant workers ‘shame the west’; The Observer, Sunday 22 December 2013. Calls for urgent labour reform after Observer reveals construction workers face destitution, internment and deportation.

As Abu Dhabi gets a multibillion-pound cultural facelift, many of the migrant workers from Bangladesh and Pakistan complain of appalling conditions after paying large fees to agents, an Observer investigation has found. Glenn Carrick visits Abu Dhabi’s exclusive Saadiyat island, where the Guggenheim and the Louvre museums are preparing to open stunning new premises — built by workers who go months earning less than £100 a month. Read report here.

From daily The Guardian in Britain:

Migrants building UAE cultural hub ‘risk abuse if they complain’

Human Rights Watch says workers subject to destitution, arrest and deportation if they complain about unsafe conditions in Abu Dhabi

Modern-day slavery in focus

David Batty

Tuesday 10 February 2015 07.19 GMT

Migrant workers building a multibillion-pound cultural hub in the United Arab Emirates, which includes new Guggenheim and Louvre museums, are subject to destitution, summary arrest and deportation if they complain about their squalid and unsafe conditions, an investigation by Human Rights Watch (HRW) has found.

Its new report on Saadiyat Island in Abu Dhabi found that some workers were subjected to conditions amounting to forced labour, having had their passports confiscated and been so poorly paid they struggled to pay off recruitment fees which were supposed to have been banned. Attempts to raise concerns about the workers’ mistreatment led to their wages being withheld, arbitrary police intimidation and their forcible removal from the country.

Although it acknowledged some progress had been made, the report, published on Tuesday, disputes claims by the UAE authorities and western organisations involved in the cultural hub – which includes New York University (NYU) and the British Museum – that effective measures have been put in place to safeguard workers’ rights. Researchers found that legal reforms to allow workers to change employers without their consent and to revoke the licences of agents who charge workers recruitment fees were not enforced, and that workers were unable to file grievances or were threatened into staying silent.

Interviews with more than 100 workers in 2013 and 2014 revealed endemic abuse of workers’ rights consistent with HRW reports in 2012 and 2009, and investigations by the Observer and campaign group Gulf Labour. Contractors failed to pay wages for months at a time, did not renew work permits and residence visas, and refused to pay the end-of-service benefits to which workers were entitled, leaving them destitute. All of those interviewed said employers had withheld their passports and had failed to reimburse the recruitment fees they were forced to pay to secure their jobs.

The report comes as the UN investigates the abuse of migrant workers in the UAE. The investigation by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) comes after a complaint brought by the International Trade Union Confederation, which highlighted poor conditions on Saadiyat.

HRW suggests that the UAE is complicit with the exploitation of workers on Saadiyat. Fifteen former workers on the NYU and Louvre construction sites, who were deported in 2013 and 2014 following strikes over low pay, said the contractors who employed them acted “in concert with the authorities, who arbitrarily detained and deported scores of workers”. Two former workers on the NYU site said police officers had slapped their faces during interrogations in a bid to force them to name strike leaders. A worker at the Saadiyat accommodation village, where all the migrant workers building the flagship museums are supposed to live, said about 500 men living there had been deported or had their work visas cancelled after one of the strikes.

One worker on the Louvre site said he was owed more than £1,250 ($1,900) in unpaid wages and end-of-service benefits, dating back to 2005. Neither he nor a colleague in a similar situation had filed a complaint after being threatened by their employer. A group of 12 Louvre site workers had filed a complaint for unpaid wages against the same contractor in a Dubai court in February, but the case had been adjourned twice and remained unresolved. Meanwhile, three Bangladeshi workers on the NYU site said they were on a basic salary of £125 per month – half the amount they had been promised – but they could not leave the country as they were still paying off the debts they had accrued to gain their employment, including £1,690 in recruitment fees.

Many workers were found to be living in slum-like accommodation. In Abu Dhabi city centre, a researcher found 27 men crammed into two small rooms, including 11 who worked as painters at the NYU campus. Fifteen men lived in one room and 12 in the other. Video footage shows insects crawling around the kitchen, exposed electrical wires wrapped around a showerhead, and a hole punched in the fire escape door, which was locked.

The report calls on the UAE to pass legislation that expressly criminalises passport confiscation and stops striking workers being deported. It also urges the western institutions involved in the project to ensure that safeguards to protect workers are enforced, as well as to compensate mistreated workers.

Nicholas McGeehan, HRW Gulf researcher, said hundreds, if not thousands, of workers had been scammed into accruing debts they cannot repay and those who protested were “deported like cattle back home, some of them without their shoes”. He added that those who remain in the UAE were now “working under the menace of penalty – in the knowledge that if they withdraw their labour, they could be beaten up by special police in balaclavas. Why haven’t the French government or New York University condemned that?”

The UAE government has not responded to the report. Two HRW researchers were blacklisted last year and told they could never return to the country while another was barred from re-entering. Abu Dhabi’s Tourism Development and Investment Company (TDIC), which oversees the construction of Guggenheim and Louvre museums, and the Zayed National Museum, to which the British Museum is a cultural adviser, said the findings did not “truly reflect the reality on the ground”.

The most recent audit of Saadiyat Island by PricewaterhouseCoopers, which was appointed by TDIC to monitor workers’ welfare, found that the company had not consistently enforced its labour policies. According to the audit, TDIC imposed financial penalties against only three of the six contractors who were found to be in breach of its employment policies in 2014.

“‘MoMA, don’t cut our health care,’ a large, red banner read. ‘Modern art, ancient wages'” the crowd chanted. Like a scene out of ‘House of Cards,’ around 100 members of Local 2110, the union chapter that represents MoMA’s technical and office workers, organized a timely protest in response to stalled negotiations between union members and the museum management.” (Read more here)

Abu Dhabi dolphins research

This video says about itself:

Indo-Pacific Humpback Dolphins at Tin Can Bay, Queensland, Australia

Indo-Pacific humpback dolphins, also known as Chinese white dolphins, are a common sight around the northern parts of Australia. In Australia, you can interact with these cool cetaceans at Tin Can Bay, and if you want, you can even feed them for $5.

In Abu Dhabi, like in Bahrain, there are human rights violations.

However, like beautiful dolphins swim off Bahrain, dolphins swim off Abu Dhabi as well.

From Wildlife Extra:

Results from Abu Dhabi dolphin survey revealed

The Environment Agency – Abu Dhabi (EAD) recently undertook the first vessel-based survey of dolphins in coastal waters of the Emirate of Abu Dhabi as part of its new Dolphin Conservation Programme, which has the goal of monitoring the Emirate’s dolphin population and supporting their long-term conservation.

The survey identified two species; the Indo-Pacific Bottlenose dolphin, and the Indo-Pacific Humpback dolphin. In total, 77 bottlenose were recorded, of which 19 were calves, and 61 humpback, of which 10 were calves. The team also sighted two new born calves, which could indicate that dolphin calving season might occur late spring to early summer in Abu Dhabi.

The 15-day survey – which was conducted in partnership with the Bottlenose Dolphin Research Institute in Spain – was carried out using a custom-made 45-foot boat fitted with an observation platform, and covered 2,000km of Abu Dhabi’s coastal waters, extending from Sila Peninsula in the west to the border of Dubai in east.

The team used photo-identification, taking high-definition images from cameras mounted on drones, in order to identify and track individual dolphins by looking at the unique markings on their dorsal fins. From this they were able to determine the population size.

Results revealed that there were regional differences in which species of dolphin was most dominant: around EAD’s Marawah Marine Biosphere Reserve, Indo-Pacific humpback dolphins were more prevalent, while bottlenose were the most common from Al Dhabbaiya to Ras Ghanadah, and between Al Sila and Sir Bani Yas Island.

Commenting on the survey, Director of Marine Biodiversity at EAD Ayesha Yousef Al Blooshi said: “The data collected from the survey will support us in further developing our conservation initiatives for our marine biodiversity, as well as helping us conserve the natural heritage of Abu Dhabi for future generations.”

Dolphin populations might be seeing better days ahead in Jamaica as the Government aims to implement new regulations on the use of the animals for tourism purposes, addressing the trading of dolphins and their use for attractions: here.

New nature reserves in Abu Dhabi

This is a greater flamingo video from France.

From Wildlife Extra:

Abu Dhabi opens new wetland reserve and national park

The Environment Agency Abu Dhabi (EAD) has recently opened two new nature reserves, with a third to follow.

Through the Eco-reserve Programme, the community will be able to explore Abu Dhabi’s natural heritage at three ecosystems that are immensely important for local biodiversity: Al Wathba Wetland Reserve, Mangrove National Park, and Qasr Al Sarab Protected Area.

“As city life increasingly insulates us from our natural world, we need to seek out experiences to reconnect with it,” said HE Razan Khalifa Al Mubarak, Secretary General of EAD.

“The Eco-Reserve Programme offers residents of Abu Dhabi nearby opportunities to re-establish their relationship with nature.

“We want visitors to experience the flight of migrating flamingos, see the mangrove forests, and set foot on the same land as the Arabian oryx.”

The openings are timed so that the public will be able to welcome home more than 4,000 migrating greater flamingos to Al Wathba Wetland Reserve after their summer in Kazakhstan. They first successfully bred on the wetlands in 1998.

It was during the flamingos’ absence, that EAD developed public walking trails, wildlife viewing areas, and visitor infrastructure.

“The landscape around Al Wathba has changed considerably over the past decade and we are making sure that the necessary resources are allocated to the reserve to ensure its proper protection,” said Dr Al Dhaheri, executive director at the agency’s terrestrial and marine biodiversity sector.

“Protecting such an area is crucial in the preservation of Abu Dhabi’s biodiversity.”

Al Wathba is also home to 237 species of invertebrates, 11 of mammals, 10 of reptiles and more than 250 species of birds.

Visitors to the reserve, located 45km from central Abu Dhabi, will be able to enjoy activities such as bird watching, hiking and educational tours, and learn more about EAD’s Flamingo Monitoring Programme, which enlists flying drones and satellite technology to study Abu Dhabi’s flamingo population, track their numbers, migration and breeding patterns and foraging habits.

The second eco-reserve, the Mangrove National Park, is located on the city’s east coast and is primarily accessible by kayak trips through tour operators.

It encompasses 19 sq km of mangrove forest which provides a rich habitat for various marine and bird species.

In addition to providing kayak landing zones, designated walkways and waterways, and educational experiences, EAD will carefully monitor activities within the park to ensure the safety of both wildlife and visitors.

Qasr Al Sarab Protected Area, EAD’s third eco-reserve, is home to Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed’s Arabian Oryx Reintroduction Programme, which is helping the oryx recover from the brink of extinction.

Visitors to the reserve will learn about EAD’s programmes to protect Abu Dhabi’s indigenous species, including the oryx, gazelle, reptiles and plants.

The area will open to the public at a later date.

Dr Shaikha Salem Al Dhaheri, Executive Director, Terrestrial and Marine Biodiversity Sector at EAD said: “EAD manages several protected areas on land, sea, and air that cover more than 13 per cent of Abu Dhabi’s total area.

“While EAD maintains many protected areas; our three new eco-reserves are being opened to promote greater appreciation for our natural heritage.”

Migrant workers treated cruelly in Abu Dhabi

This 2 April 2015 video from the USA says about itself:

The United Arab Emirates has barred New York University professor Andrew Ross from entering the country after he published research about migrant workers and labor abuse in the Gulf State. Ross learned of the ban after arriving at the airport in New York, where he was set to board a flight to continue his research in the UAE, a close U.S. ally. Now it has emerged that a private investigator was also hired to target him and a New York Times reporter who wrote the expose on workers at NYU’s Abu Dhabi campus facing harsh conditions. Ross, who serves as president of NYU’s chapter of the American Association of University Professors, joins us to discuss the case.

Another video from the USA which used to be on YouTube used to say about itself:

19 May 2014

NYU Issues Apology for Mistreatment of Workers on Abu Dhabi Campus.

By Isaac Finn and Fred Mazelis:

Migrant workers face brutal conditions at NYU’s Abu Dhabi campus

3 June 2014

Controversy and opposition continue to swirl around the construction of the main campus of New York University Abu Dhabi (NYUAD), which is scheduled to open this year. An article in the New York Times several weeks ago exposed brutal working conditions for roughly 6,000 migrant construction workers who are building the campus in the capital city of the United Arab Emirates (UAE). The report detailed instances of beatings, arrests, deportations and other abuses.

The university immediately went into damage control mode, issuing an apology to the workers and promising an investigation. NYU President John Sexton said the reports were “troubling and unacceptable … They are out of line with the labor standards we deliberately set.”

With former US President Bill Clinton already scheduled to give this year’s commencement speech to the first graduating class at NYU Abu Dhabi, the timing was appropriate for this master of glib empathy to come to the rescue of his good friend Mr. Sexton. Instead of discussing the significance of the appalling exploitation of the migrant workers, he used his remarks to praise the university.

“When this story came out,” said Clinton, “instead of going into immediate denial, the university did something which reflects the values you have been taught here … The university, and the government, promised to look into the charges, to do it quickly, to do it honestly … and if the charges were well founded, to take appropriate, remedial action promptly.”

Many if not most observers will find it hard to believe that NYU knew nothing about the conditions facing these workers. It is also possible that it did not want to know. Just as giant US-based retailers often claim one or more degrees of separation from their subcontractors in countries where starvation wages and deaths and on-the-job injuries are common. Sexton wrote, according to the Times, that the campus “was built with the construction contractors working for the Abu Dhabi development entity building it, not directly for NYU.”

NYU started construction of the main campus, on Saadiyat Island just off the coast of Abu Dhabi, in June 2010 and announced its completion just last month. NYU also expects the completion of other academic buildings, a library, a theater, and indoor and outdoor sports facilities by mid-July.

The NYU administration, prior to the start of construction, had issued a “statement of labor values,” consisting of setting standards for working conditions and benefits for all workers—including construction workers—at the Abu Dhabi campus. As the Times report makes clear, numerous violations of these “labor values” have occurred over the past four years.

According to the Times, migrant workers—primarily from India, Philippines, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, and Nepal—were forced to pay recruitment fees of up to a year’s wages. Many workers also had to turn over their passports to employers, despite promises that they would be able to hold on to them. Some workers had their bankcards confiscated, and had to ask for cash from the recruiter, whom they referred to as “owner,” who had brought them to the UAE.

Eighty-five percent of the UAE’s population is comprised of foreign residents, many of whom are migrant workers from South Asia who live and work in conditions similar to those of the workers building the university’s campus. Human Rights Watch reports migrant workers frequently have their passports confiscated by employers, an illegal act that is almost always overlooked by the UAE authorities.

Most workers who spoke with the Times said that they had to work for 11 or 12 hours a day, six or seven days a week, in order to earn close to the amount originally agreed on. One painter claimed that he initially agreed to 1,500 dirham a month, or roughly $408, but after arriving found out he would only make 700 dirham, about $191. With overtime, workers can get as much as 1,000 dirham, or about $272.

Ramkumar Rai and Tibendra Kota, two Nepali migrant workers who were hired to build the NYU campus, were not paid for their last six months of work. After a discussion with their former employer, Rai said, “they keep saying, ‘We’ll send the money; we’ll send it,’ but they don’t.” Both Rai and Kota have not been paid in 16 months, their visas have expired, and they cannot afford to fly home.

Despite NYU’s “values” that were supposed to include a limit of four men to a room, workers were crowded into labor camps with as many as a dozen men in rooms as small as 200 square feet. The rooms often had exposed wiring, and workers would have to store their own food in the limited space.

Migrant workers have no means of addressing low wages and poor working conditions under UAE law, however. They have no rights to organize and it is illegal for them to go on strike.

When workers at the BK Gulf corporation, which was involved in the construction of the NYU Abu Dhabi campus, went on strike hundreds of workers were arrested and deported back to their native countries.

Mohammed Amir Waheed Sirkar, an electrician from Bangladesh, told the Times that after his arrest the police “beat me asking me to confess I was involved in starting the strike.”

Recent reports bring out some of the methods by which NYU has evaded responsibility in this whole affair. Mott MacDonald, an engineering firm that interviewed workers to monitor the working conditions at the Abu Dhabi campus, cited only one violation in a report released last month, that of a contractor who fell behind on paying wages for one month. The report also failed to mention the strike of BK Gulf workers.

Margaret Bavuso, the executive director of campus operations for NYU Abu Dhabi, claimed construction workers’ wages “are designed to place workers at the top of the range in their respective categories.” However, in a separate interview she also stated, “we’re not involved in the negotiation of the contracts that the partners are doing, just as they’re not in the negotiations of the contracts that we’re doing.” Bavuso’s statement shows that NYU did not know, or care to know, what the various construction companies were paying their workers.

NYU also ignored a report in the British Observer —released last December—that exposed the same conditions of migrant workers building NYU’s Abu Dhabi campus, as well as at the Louvre Museum’s Abu Dhabi branch, reports that were later expanded upon in the Times article.

The conditions in Abu Dhabi are part of the frenzied expansion drive of NYU, which has plans for up to 14 campuses worldwide, including campuses with complete degree programs in Shanghai as well as Abu Dhabi. The university has been embroiled for years in a battle with its faculty as well as the neighboring community in Manhattan’s Greenwich Village over expansion plans at its main campus in New York City.

The embrace of a corporate model of higher education is part of a much broader trend affecting public as well as private universities in the US. The longtime chairman of NYU’s board of trustees is Martin Lipton, one of the most powerful corporate lawyers in New York. Also on the board are other top Wall Street figures like hedge fund multibillionaire John Paulson and Home Depot founder Kenneth Langone. It goes without saying that these men are not naïve newcomers when it comes to “labor relations.”

According to another recent report in the Times, moreover, NYU’s attempt to distance itself from its Abu Dhabi contractor is complicated by the fact that this contractor is run by a member of the NYU board itself. He is Khaldoon Khalifa Al Mubarak, and when he was placed on the board he brought along a $50 million donation from the Abu Dhabi government.

NYU is not the only institution doing business with the oil-rich UAE. The Guggenheim and Louvre museums also have plans to build branches on Saadiyat Island. Roughly $27 billion has been invested in Saadiyat Island, in museums, villas, and hotels, as the government attempts to turn the island into a destination for global cultural tourism.

According to Gulf Labor, an organization made up of artists and activists advocating for the rights of the migrant workers in the region, workers building the Louvre branch in Abu Dhabi are facing the same brutal conditions as those building the NYU campus.

The Guggenheim has not started construction on its Abu Dhabi branch, but building practices have already been the cause of controversy. Gulf Labor has staged a series of protests over the past few months at and inside the Guggenheim Museum in New York City.

The conditions faced by the migrant workers are a dramatic expression of the massive inequality throughout this region of the world. A tiny minority controls immense wealth, while the great majority live in poverty without legal rights.

These conditions are in no way separate from those in the US and throughout the world. Whatever their pretensions of concern for workers’ rights, the real interest of both NYU and the various museums engaged in UAE ventures is cultivating profitable relationships with the corrupt oligarchy in that country.

NYU’s Abu Dhabi campus puts a liberal gloss on labor abuse and political repression in the UAE: here.

Three women ‘disappeared’ by UAE security services in Abu Dhabi. A UK-based human rights group says three women are being held at an unknown location by Emirati security services in Abu Dhabi: here.

Enhanced by Zemanta

Abu Dhabi’s sea turtle nesting sites

This video is about hawksbill turtles in the Caribbean.

From Wildlife Extra:

Abu Dhabi’s islands could gain global recognition as important marine turtle nesting sites

April 2014: Abu Dhabi’s Bu Tinah and Zirku Islands could soon become recognised around the world as important marine turtle nesting sites. The country’s Environment Agency – Abu Dhabi (EAD) has submitted a proposal to the Indian Ocean and South East Asia (IOSEA) MoU Secretariat to include the two islands in their network.

The critically endangered Hawksbill turtle (Eretmochelys imbricata) and the endangered Green turtle (Chelonia mydas) can be found in Abu Dhabi’s waters and nest on at least 17 offshore islands from mid-March to mid-June. The EAD’s aerial and field survey findings indicate that about 5,750 sea turtles inhabit Abu Dhabi’s waters during the winter season and 6,900 during the summer season.

“Our marine environment is a treasured part of our heritage, our past, our present and our future. Furthermore, marine turtles and their habitats are key indicators of the health of our environment and so this is why, at EAD, we have been closely studying, monitoring and protecting them since 1999,” said Thabit Zahran Al Abdessalaam, EAD’s Senior Advisor on Terrestrial and Marine Biodiversity.

“By having Bu Tinah and Zirku Islands included in the IOSEA Marine Turtle Site Network, this will help ensure their long-term conservation. It will also yield a range of socio-economic benefits for the local community in the Western Region, as conservation also means cleaner coastal waters, protecting the habitat used as nursery grounds for seafood species that support commercial and subsistence fisheries, and the overall protection of mangrove and reef habitat to reduce threats from coastal hazards.”

The two islands will be evaluated by the Secretariat, which is part of the United Nations Environment Programme’s Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific, who will take into consideration different factors including their ecological and biological significance, their governance as well as their regional and global representation.

Enhanced by Zemanta

Torture in United Arab Emirates

This video is called CIA is destroying evidence of their torture tape recordings.

From daily The Morning Star in Britain:

Brother of Dubai police torture victim calls for his release

Tuesday 15th April 2014

Hasnain Ali beaten and threatened with rape after arrest for ‘trumped-up’ drugs charges

The brother of a British man tortured at gunpoint and threatened with rape by Dubai police spoke out for the first time yesterday about the case.

Hasnain Ali, a former bodyguard to members of the Abu Dhabi royal family, will be sentenced today on allegedly trumped-up charges of possessing and selling drugs.

He was on holiday in Dubai in May 2013 when he was arrested, beaten and threatened with Tasers, firearms and rape by police.

Following the ordeal he was made to sign a “confession” in Arabic, which he did not understand, relating to the charges.

This “confession” is being used against him at trial.

“There has been no proper investigation into his torture and we have felt that the authorities have shown more interest in saving face than ensuring that any kind of justice is done,” his brother Jed said.

Legal charity Reprieve is fighting for Hasnain to be acquitted and returned home to Britain to his family.

Breaking news from Reprieve:

A British man arrested and tortured by Dubai police has today been acquitted.

Hasnain Ali (32), from London, was on holiday in Dubai in May 2013 when he was arrested and held for three days without access to a lawyer or his family. While detained he was beaten and threatened with tasers, firearms, and the prospect of sexual assault. Following his torture he was forced to sign a ‘confession’ in Arabic, a language he doesn’t understand, and charged with drugs offences for which he could have been given a death sentence.

See also here.

Enhanced by Zemanta