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December 8   -   On An Overgrown Path

Classical music cannot ignore these 140 characters

Gustavo Dudamel, Simon Rattle, Daniel Barenboim, Jordi Savall and Joyce DiDonato are among the leading musicians who have performed in the Gulf States in recent years, and the the inaugural BBC Proms Dubai festival takes place in March 2017. So, given classical music's ongoing love affair with social media, the launch of the 140 Characters website deserves a heads up. This is the work of Human Rights Watch, and in recognition of Twitter’s 140-character limit, the interactive website profiles 140 prominent Bahraini, Kuwaiti, Omani, Qatari, Saudi, and Emirati social and political rights activists and dissidents - see images above - and describes their struggles to resist government efforts to silence them. All 140 have faced government retaliation for exercising their right to freedom of expression, and many have been arrested, tried, and sentenced to fines or prison. Dubai, which is hosting the BBC Proms, is the largest city in the United Arab Emirates, and Abu Dhabi, which has a high profile classical music festival, is the capital of the Emirates. Seventeen of the activists are from the UAE; the profile on 140 Characters of just one of them says it all:Osama al-Najer is a social media activist and the son of the political detainee Hussain Ali al-Najer al-Hammadi. Al-Najer used Twitter to campaign for the release of his father and other political detainees in Abu Dhabi and to criticize the conviction of 69 Emirati nationals in the "UAE 94" trial in July 2013. In September 2012 al-Najer was quoted in a Human Rights Watch news release that contained credible allegations that detainees had been tortured during interrogations. Authorities arrested al-Najer on March 17, 2014 and in November 2014 the Federal Supreme Court sentenced him to three years in prison under the 2012 cybercrimes law on charges including "damaging institutions" and "communicating with external organizations to provide misleading information." Authorities also fined him 500,000 AED ($US 136,127), confiscated his electronic devices, and ordered the closure of his Twitter account.Classical music at celebrity level is cash hungry, and it is unrealistic to expect a boycott of the cash rich but ethically tainted Gulf States. But in these days when Twitter is the communication channel of choice of even the US president-elect, is it too much to ask that Gustavo Dudamel, Simon Rattle, Daniel Barenboim, Jordi Savall, Joyce DiDonato and the BBC put the 140 Characters website in their pipe and tweet it? Before any clever clogs points out that there are 119 and not 140 faces in the header image, the reason is that photos of the other 21 activists are not available. Any copyrighted material is included as "fair use" for critical analysis only, and will be removed at the request of copyright owner(s). Also on Facebook and Twitter.


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