Hay Festival, which ran the first-ever Hay Festival Abu Dhabi this year, has stated that the literary festival will not return to Abu Dhabi while the minister accused of assault “remains in position”:
The festival was held in February of this year, but it wasn’t until this past weekend that the account of Caitlin McNamara, curator of the inaugural Hay Festival Abu Dhabi, was made public in the Sunday Times. There, McNamara related her story of sexual assault by Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak Al Nahyan, the UAE’s current minister of tolerance.
The Sunday Times story is paywalled, but Bookseller relays:
McNamara related her ordeal in the Sunday Times, giving a harrowing account of how she was invited to what she believed to be an evening work meeting with the sheikh, a member of the Abu Dhabi ruling family, shortly before the festival in February, only to be driven to a remote private island villa where she was allegedly propositioned and sexually assaulted.
What happened to our colleague and friend Caitlin McNamara in Abu Dhabi last February was an appalling violation and a hideous abuse of trust and position. Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak Al Nahyan made a mockery of his ministerial responsibilities and tragically undermined his government’s attempt to work with Hay Festival to promote free speech and female empowerment.
We continue to support Caitlin in seeking legal redress for this attack and we urge our friends and partners in the UAE to reflect on the behaviour of Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak Al Nahyan and send a clear signal to the world that such behaviour will not be tolerated. Hay Festival will not be returning to Abu Dhabi while he remains in position.
Although she reported the assault to Hay organizers at the time, they say she wanted the festival to go forward.
According to The Bookseller, the minister “has denied all wrongdoing, with his UK law firm Schillings saying that he is ‘surprised and saddened’ by the claims.”
In additional to their signature festival at Hay-on-Wye in Wales, Hay has come to run festivals around the world. They have recently held literary events in Peru, Colombia, Mexico, Croatia, and Spain, among other places. Hay Festival Abu Dhabi was the second Arabophone-focused festival they had held. The first was in 2009, a collaboration between Hay Festival and Beirut World Capital of the Book that year.