DUBAI Feb 23 A top British university has
cancelled a conference on the Arab Spring in the United Arab
Emirates, citing curbs imposed by the Gulf state, which has
placed limits on foreign research groups in the past two years.
The UAE, a major oil exporter and regional business hub, has
not seen the unrest that has ousted autocratic Arab rulers
elsewhere, but analysts and diplomats say the U.S. ally is
anxious to prevent instability spreading to its turf.
In a statement emailed to Reuters, the London School of
Economics (LSE) said it cancelled its gathering scheduled for
Feb. 24 "in response to restrictions imposed on the intellectual
content of the event that threatened academic freedom."
The UAE also barred entry to a visiting university lecturer,
Kristian Coates Ulrichsen, on his arrival to participate in the
event, called 'The Middle East: Transition in the Arab World',
He told Reuters he had been scheduled to speak at the forum,
which the LSE was due to co-host with the American University of
Sharjah (AUS), on the topic of the international implications of
protests in the UAE's Gulf ally, Bahrain.
Ulrichsen, who has written critically about the Bahraini
government's response to mass protests that erupted in early
2011, told Reuters UAE authorities had instructed conference
organisers to cut any discussion of Bahrain from the programme.
"They made it very clear," he said.
The LSE said without elaborating it was aware of Ulrichsen's
No UAE official was available for comment.
A statement by the AUS, one of the Gulf Arab state's leading
universities, confirmed the conference had been cancelled.
It added: "The decision made by LSE cited restrictions on
the intellectual content of the event that threatened academic
freedom as the reason for the cancellation. AUS is unaware of
any other information relating to the last minute cancellation."
Over the past year the UAE has shown little tolerance of
home-grown dissent, detaining dozens of Islamists who the
authorities say are members of the Muslim Brotherhood plotting
to overthrow the government.
In March 2012 the UAE closed down the offices of two Western
pro-democracy groups, the U.S.-funded National Democratic
Institute and Germany's Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung, citing
The Abu Dhabi Gallup Center, a branch of the U.S. polling
and research firm, also closed down in 2012.
In 2011 the country refused to renew the permit of the Gulf
Research Centre thinktank due to "objections by the Dubai
government to various aspects of (its) work".
(Reporting By Angus McDowall; Editing by Jason Webb)