ECHR | Emirates Center for Human Rights

ECHR | Emirates Center for Human Rights
HomeNewsWife of Emirati activist detained & at high risk of being torturedWife of Emirati activist detained & at high risk of being tortured

Wife of Emirati activist detained & at high risk of being tortured


The wife of a prominent Emirati activist has been arrested, is being detained at an unknown location, and is at high-risk of being tortured in the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

Aisha Ibrahim al-Zaabi was arrested at the border between the UAE and Oman at 07:30 on January 10th whilst attempting to leave the country with her 18-month old son.

Authorities seized all electronic devices and Aisha’s father took custody of the child after her arrest. Since being arrested Aisha has had no communication with anyone and it is believed that she is being held at a secret state security facility.

Aisha is the wife of exiled Emirati political activist Mohamed Saqer al-Zaabi, who is currently residing in London. Mohamed is a former judge, who was forcibly retired due to his support for political reforms, and was sentenced in absentia to 15 years in prison as part of the controversial ‘UAE 94’ trial.

There was no reason given for the arrest and Aisha is not involved in any political activities. It is believed that the detention is related to travel bans imposed on the families of political activists.

Activists in the UAE have documented 30 cases of people being banned from travelling, although the actual number affected is believed to be in the hundreds. Authorities do not officially hand out travel bans and people only become aware of the issue when attempting to leave the country. People are not given a reason for the ban and are not told for how long they will not be allowed to travel.

There is grave concern for the wellbeing of Aisha Ibrahim al-Zaabi because of the credible and consistent allegations of torture made by prisoners held at secret state security facilities. In the past year alone a group of Egyptian detainees, a number of Emirati political prisoners, and a teenager jailed for tweeting all say they have been tortured.

Banning families of political activists from travelling amounts to collective punishment. They have committed no crime other than to be related to people who have angered authorities by supporting political reforms.

The longer Aisha Ibrahim al-Zaabi remains in an unknown location the greater the risk of torture and mistreatment. The Emirates Centre for Human Rights calls on authorities to released Aisha and stop banning people from travelling who have committed no crime.

Rori Donaghy, director, said:

“This is the first time a woman has been taken to a state security facility and Aisha al-Zaabi is in grave danger of being tortured. The wives and children of political activists are being punished for actions that they are not responsible.

Countries who offer the UAE visa free travel must consider how authorities restrict freedom of movement for dissenting citizens and their relatives.”


For further information please contact Rori Donaghy on +44(0)7850062105 or at

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