This boycott campaign was set up for the 2016 festival and is no longer active, however the issues highlighted on this page remain unaddressed.


The Emirates Airline Festival of Literature is an international literature festival held annually in Dubai. The festival is sponsored by Emirates Airline which is wholly owned by the Dubai government, part of the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

The festival's impressive roll call includes many prominent UK authors and illustrators. We don’t think that Emirates Airline – an environmentally unfriendly company owned by an oppressive government – is an appropriate sponsor for a literature festival and we’re encouraging all published UK authors and illustrators (not just those booked to appear at the next festival) to pledge not to attend the festival until the issues highlighted on this page are addressed.

Here are three good reasons to make this pledge.

If you care about FREE SPEECH

Political opponents are persecuted and imprisoned by the festival's sponors

Some of the 67 UAE citizens currently in prison for speaking out in favour of greater democracy

“Beneath the glitz, the gloss and the glamour of the facade that the UAE‘s rulers present to the outside world there is a much uglier reality, where activists who dare to challenge the authorities or speak out in favour of greater democracy and government accountability are thrown into jail. There, they are cut off from the outside world for months at a time before they are tried and sentenced to long prison terms by courts that do little more than rubber stamp the decisions of the UAE executive.”

THERE IS NO FREEDOM HERE: Silencing dissent in the United Arab Emirates
Amnesty International 2014 report

More than 100 peaceful activists and critics of the UAE government have been imprisoned on broad and vague national security-related charges since 2011. Both Amnesty and Human Rights Watch have documented credible allegations that many of these prisoners were tortured during interrogations. At least 67 of them remain in prison today.

… boycotting the Emirates Airline Festival would send the message that the Dubai government must stop suppressing free thinking and free speech

If you care about HUMAN RIGHTS

LGBT, women's and migrant workers’ rights are ignored and abused by the festival's sponors

UAE low-paid migrant workers are subjected to abuses that amount to forced labour

Homosexuality is strictly forbidden in Dubai and punishable by harsh, discriminatory laws which promote homophobia. Article 177 of the Dubai Penal Code criminalises consensual anal intercourse with penalties of imprisonment for up to 10 years. Emirates Airline itself has been condemned by professional associations within the airline industry for discriminating against women and gay men.

Dubai law is heavily prejudiced against female rape victims. Proving rape requires either a confession or the testimony of four male witnesses to establish guilt. Rape victims also run the risk of being charged with extramarital sex, which is a criminal offence in Dubai. As a consequence, rape and sexual assaults on women are rarely reported.

Low-paid migrant workers are subjected to abuses that amount to forced labour. Migrant domestic workers, most of them women, are excluded from UAE labour law; many say their employers fail to pay the full wages due to them, force them to work excessively-long hours without breaks or days off, or deny them adequate food, living conditions, or medical treatment.

… boycotting the Emirates Airline Festival would send the message that the Dubai government must treat people fairly and without discrimination regardless of their sex, sexuality or status

If you care about CLIMATE CHANGE

Emirates Airline’s international passenger flights generate far more CO2 than any other airline

Climate change is increasing the frequency and severity of extreme weather events such as Typhoon Haiyan which struck the Philippines in 2013

The aviation industry is already a major contributor to global CO2 emissions and its continuing growth is critically undermining efforts to keep global warming beneath the 2ºC limit needed to avert climate catastrophe. One Emirates Festival author's return flight from London to Dubai generates almost as much CO2 as the average UK citizen produces in an entire year and more than three times the CO2 produced by the average Indian citizen. Despite this, aviation was excluded from the 2015 Paris Climate Change Agreement. Emirates Airline is already the Nº1 carrier of international traffic and has announced plans to double in size.

The relentless growth of the aviation industry is assisted by tax injustice on a global scale. Jet fuel is the only fossil fuel that is banned from taxation by international treaty and plane tickets are zero-rated for UK VAT. The annual UK tax subsidy to aviation is £11 billion. To put this figure into perspective, HMRC estimate the total tax avoidance from non-aviation multinationals to be only £1.4 billion. So, if you’re angry about companies like Amazon and Google short-changing the taxman, you should be furious about how little UK tax is paid by environmentally unfriendly airlines like Emirates.

Climate change is already responsible for killing an estimated 315,000 people every year. The World Health Organisation estimate that 80% of these deaths are children. The increasing severity and frequency of extreme weather events, such as Typhoon Haiyan which struck the Philippines in 2013, is directly linked to climate change. Climate change was also a key driver in the Syrian conflict which led to the current refugee crisis and is likely to trigger similar conflicts in the future.

… boycotting the Emirates Airline Festival would send the message that Emirates Airline and the rest of the aviation industry must reduce their CO2 emissions

IF YOU CARE, please THINK TWICE about attending the Emirates Airline Festival

OK, I'm convinced that I don't want to appear at a festival sponsored by Emirates Airline or the government that owns it. What should I do next?

We're encouraging authors and illustrators to pledge not to appear at the festival until the airline and its owners address the issues highlighted above. The pledge is open to all published UK authors and illustrators (not just those booked to appear at the next festival).

I'm not convinced and would like further information or have some questions.

You can can click on any of the underlined text on the page above for more information relating to individual points, or click the link below for a list of reports and articles with more detailed information.

And you can find answers to frequently asked questions by clicking the link below.