SAR’s Academic Freedom Monitoring Project investigates and reports attacks on higher education with the aim of raising awareness, generating advocacy, and increasing protection for scholars, students, and academic communities. Learn more.

Date of Incident: January 16, 2017

Attack Types: Imprisonment

Institution(s):Qatar University

Region & Country:Western Asia | United Arab Emirates

New or Ongoing:New Incident

On January 16, 2017, authorities reportedly arrested Abdulkhaleq Abdulla, a retired professor of political science at United Arab Emirates University (UAEU), in apparent retaliation for his social media posts critical of human rights in the UAE and Egypt’s foreign affairs.

Dr. Abdulla holds a PhD in political science from Georgetown University and a MA from American University in Washington D.C. He taught political science at UAEU and occasionally teaches a course in the Gulf Studies Program at Qatar University. He was chairman of the Arab Council for Social Science and has served as director of the Gulf Research Unit, Sharjah, for many years. In addition to his scholarly work, Dr. Abdulla is an active political commentator over social media and is regularly featured in press interviews regarding regional politics.

Dr. Abdulla is believed to have been arrested in connection with his comments regarding freedom of expression in the UAE, and an Egyptian court ruling which confirmed Egyptian sovereignty over Tiran and Sanafir islands, subsequently affirmed by UAE. Dr. Abdulla posted a tweet on his Twitter account on January 15, 2017 — one day before his arrest — in which he called for greater freedoms in the UAE. On January 26, authorities reportedly released Dr. Abdulla; however, it is unknown whether he continues to face charges.

Scholars at Risk is concerned about the arbitrary arrest and detention of an academic, apparently in retaliation for his non-violent exercise of the rights to free expression and association, conduct that is expressly protected under international human rights instruments including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Arrests aimed at limiting free expression and association undermine academic freedom and society generally. State officials have an obligation to comply with internationally recognized standards of free expression, due process, and fair trial.