Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Music's UN Messengers of Peace send mixed messages


The Gulf States have, justifiably, come under the spotlight for their repressive treatment of gays. But the human rights abuses are far more widespread: investigative organisation Human Rights Watch has documented these abuses and starts its latest report with these words:
The human rights situation in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) worsened in 2012 as authorities arbitrarily detained and deported civil society activists, and harassed and intimidated their lawyers. In September, an independent monitor found significant problems in the treatment of migrant workers on the high-profile Saadiyat Island project in Abu Dhabi, identifying the payment of illegal recruitment fees as a key concern.
Fortunately classical music is actively involved in human rights via the four superstars who are United Nations Messengers of Peace, including new recruit Lang Lang. Of these messengers of peace, three have first hand experience of the situation in the Gulf States, as Daniel Barenboim, fellow messenger Yo-Yo Ma and new recruit Lang Lang have all performed in Abu Dhabi in recent years. The prime classical music venue in the Gulf State is the Emirates Palace; this is a seven star luxury hotel which cost $11.02 billion to build and is described as a "luxurious hotel blending Arabian splendour with the latest technology to create a magical and memorable experience". The magnificent auditorium where the UN's classical Messengers of Peace play is seen above. But here is a look behind the scenes at the Emirates Palace from Australian journalist Natalie Robyn Banks:
Emirates Palace itself has hundreds of laborers working on the gardens and around the perimeter of its property. They are “hidden” in plain view. Visitors...r are often caught up in the bright lights and refuse to see those in dirt-caked blue uniforms, who are bussed back and forth from labor camps living in poky rooms with triple-decker bunk beds where 12 men sleep. These men were once shuttled in cattle trucks until a number of expatriates complained. It is these labourers who work for about US$100 a week in temperatures that can hit 55 degrees, sweating like sponges slowly wrung out. These foreign underclass workers are the people who built Emirates Palace.
The next time classical music's United Nations Messengers of Peace play at, and stay in, the Emirates Palace they should take a walk around the grounds.

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