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In May 2016, artist, researcher and activist, Manu Luksch, travelled to the United Arab Emirates (USE) to conduct research on ‘smart city’ initiatives in the region, and also to interview renowned human rights defender, Ahmed Mansoor. In March 2017, Mansoor was re-arrested, and on May 28th 2017, he was sentenced to 10 years’ imprisonment. Organisations like Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and many others are campaigning for his release and #FreeAhmed has become a call online and on the streets in the form of graffiti and posters. Meanwhile the UAE has been one of 4 Gulf states, led by Saudi Arabia, who have extended their authoritarian campaign against dissidence beyond their borders to target other states who they regard as threatening the status quo, in particular the small but very wealthy state of Qatar, home of the Al-Jazeera news network that has, like Mansoor, championed opposition movements in the Middle-East. In this context, Surveillance & Society decided it was important to publish this interview almost in full as it gives unique insight into the personal and professional experience of a human rights defender in an authoritarian state that is at the same time extremely wealthy, technologically advanced and highly integrated into global capitalism.
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