Manchester campaigners want street named after Emirati activist

Council criticised for failing to put pressure on UAE to improve human rights record

A group of Manchester residents has launched a campaign to name a new street after a jailed Emirati human rights activist in a bid to highlight human rights abuses by the United Arab Emirates, which has invested billions of pounds in the city and its title-winning football club.

Ahmed Mansoor was arrested after a dozen Emirati security officers stormed his home in Ajman in the early hours of 20 March 2017. The UAE’s official news agency, WAM, claimed Mansoor had been detained for using social media to “publish false and misleading information” that would harm national unity and the country’s reputation.

The Abu Dhabi United group, owned by Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed al-Nahyan, the country’s deputy prime minister and member of the ruling royal family, entered a £1bn housing deal with Manchester city council in 2014, six years after it bought Manchester City football club. Campaigners have criticised the city’s authorities for failing to use their influence to put pressure on the country to improve its human rights record.

In a letter from campaigners calling on the city’s councillors, the mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham, and the MP for Manchester Central, Lucy Powell, to back the “Ahmed Mansoor St’ campaign, the group argued it would be “a fitting honour to bestow upon an individual who embodies so many of the qualities that the city and the wider region celebrates as a key part of its history”.

The leader of Manchester city council, Richard Leese, responded to the letter from the group, saying: “Street naming is not my department, but long-standing policy is to not name streets after anybody still living or with no connection to the city.”

Lucy Powell responded to the group saying that she had written to the council asking it to consider the proposal.

In their letter, campaigners acknowledged that this was council policy, but called on councillors to back an amendment to that rule. In April 2017, Manchester City FC named a street outside the club’s Ethihad stadium after the former council chief executive Howard Bernstein, who facilitated the UAE’s investment in Manchester. Sir Howard Bernstein Way is a private street and so not subject to council rules on street naming.

In the letter to councillors, the group said: “We believe that Manchester could and should stand in support of outstanding individuals who are being subjected to serious human rights abuses as a direct result of principled stances on issues that Manchester celebrates as part of its heritage, especially when there is a clear link to the city.

“Trade and investment are important, but, as its history demonstrates, Manchester has always used new relations with different parts of the world to argue for the values of human rights and dignity that are so important to many in the city.”

Since Mansoor’s arrest a year ago, the Manchester Amnesty International group has been staging monthly vigils outside the council’s chambers to raise awareness of his situation. It is thought he is being held in solitary confinement and has not seen a lawyer.

Last month, a report by Dr Jonathan Silver of the University of Sheffield, commissioned by Greater Manchester Housing Action, found that none of the 15,000 recently built homes in Manchester city centre was classed as “affordable”.

“As the city becomes re-established in new global networks of finance and trade the people of Manchester will want to know that these international relations are predicated not just on a focus on investment,” said Silver, one of the letter’s signatories.

“Rather, drawing on our history of solidarity and radical action alongside recognition of the important role (both positive and negative) the city has played in global history, issues of human rights must be at the fore of these new relations. To be an international city is not just about how many millions of pounds are flowing in but how we remain true to our shared ideals of respect, dignity and justice.”


Frances Perraudin North of England reporter

The GuardianTramp

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