Fears grow for UAE citizen arrested after Snapchats 'sympathetic' to Qatar


Amnesty has called for the immediate release of Ghanem Abdullah Mattar, who was detained last week

Ghanem Abdullah Mattar (screengrab)
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Last update: 
Wednesday 12 July 2017 8:41 UTC

Fears are growing for a young Emirati citizen arrested last week after allegedly expressing sympathy for Qatar in a series of Snapchat videos. 

Ghanem Abdullah Mattar was detained last Thursday, after security services arrived to his home within hours of him publicly posting the videos, according to local activists.

In his videos, Mattar said that people should “avoid cursing and swearing at Qatar as it is a piece of us,” and called on Emiratis not to forget “when Qatar stood by us in the Yemen war”.

Mattar’s series of short videos ended with him saying: “Some people lead and others are led. Qatar has proved to us that it cannot be led…It leads its people, but it cannot be led.”

Amnesty International has called for his immediate release, tweeting that if the grounds for his arrest transpire to be his peaceful remarks regarding the Gulf crisis, then he would be considered a prisoner of conscience. 

Last month, UAE Attorney General Hamad Saif al-Shamsi made it a criminal offence to express sympathy or support for Qatar, after the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Egypt announced a political and trade blockade against Doha.

Anyone found guilty of making such views public faces up to 15 years in prison, and a fine of up to AED 500,000 ($136,000).

Social media users took to Twitter to express their concern and support for Mattar, with the hashtag #FreedomForEmiratiGhanemAbdullahMattar taking off in Arabic.

Translate: “What did he do to deserve prison? Is being sympathetic to one’s brother a crime? Your priorities oh sons of Zayed, should be the arrest of traitors, drunks and prostitutes. #Freedom_for_the_Emirati_Ghanem_Abdullah_Mattar”

A few users also expressed their support for Mattar’s arrest, calling him a traitor.

Translation: “#The_Traitor_Ghanem_Abdullah_Mattar He was brought up on its land [UAE] and learned on it, and then turns and attacks it…..oh traitor of the Emirates. When it strikes it strikes firmly, with Saudi, Bahrain and Egypt.”

The UAE has a record of restricting rights of freedom of expression and association, detaining and prosecuting those who criticise or oppose the government.

Amnesty International has repeatedly reported enforced disappearances, unfair trials, torture and other ill-treatment of detainees in the UAE.

“Emirati prisons hold the finest elders, intellectuals, scholars and sisters. It does not have a murderer or a crook or transgressors. #Freedom_for_the_Emirati_Ghanem_Abdullah_Mattar”

إذا كان اعتقال غانم مطر في #الامارات سببه تعليقاته السلمية حول الأزمة مع #قطر، فإنه سجين رأي ونطالب بالافراج عنه فوراً. pic.twitter.com/UCa9WWd9tr

— منظمة العفو الدولية (@AmnestyAR) July 10, 2017

Others also pointed out the irony that whilst the UAE does not have freedom of speech, it does have a ministry of happiness.

Translation: #Freedom_for_the_Emirati_Ghanem_Abdullah_Mattar ; If the expression of one’s opinion is a crime, what was the point of establishing a Ministry of Happiness?!!!”