The London School of Economics has cancelled a Middle East conference on the Arab Spring that was to begin on Feb. 23 in Dubai, in the United Arab Emirates, citing curbs on research.
The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is a major business hub and oil export area. So far it has managed to avoid any major instability but the rulers are all hereditary emirs. Oil revenue has enabled them to provide high salaries.
The LSE told news agency Reuters that the cancellation was "in response to restrictions imposed on the intellectual content of the event that threatened academic freedom."
Visiting university lecturer, Kristian Coates Ulrichsen, was detained at the airport in Dubai and denied entry. Ulrichsen is co-director of the Kuwait program at LSE. The conference called 'The Middle East: Transition in the Arab World,' was co-sponsored by LSE and the of Sharjah (AUS). Ulrichsen was to speak on the international implications of protests in the UAE and US Gulf ally, Bahrain. This is too hot a topic to handle apparently.
Ulrichsen has written critical material about the manner in which the Bahrain government has dealt with the protests. UAE authorities had instructed the conference organizers to cut out any discussion of Bahrain from the program. The AUS, one of the leading universities in the area, confirmed the conference cancellation.
In a statement AUS said::"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."
The UAE has shown little if any tolerance for dissent over the last year. The main target of repression has been members of the Muslim Brotherhood, whom they accuse of plotting to overthrow the government. In March of last year, the government closed down offices of two western pro-democracy groups and a US polling center. It also refused to renew a permit for a local think-tank.
LSE receives funds from the Emirates Foundation, which in turn is funded by the UAE government. Recently, LSE received a great deal of criticism for accepting funds from Libyan sources within the Gadaffi family.