Dubai Police, Emirates Literature Foundation help prisoners tell their stories in new book

Dubai Police, Emirates Literature Foundation help prisoners tell their stories in new book
Dubai Police, Emirates Literature Foundation help prisoners tell their stories in new book

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Nevin Al Sukari - Abu Dhabi - The cooperation between the Dubai Police and Emirates Literature Foundation comes within the framework of caring for inmates.

The Emirates Airline Festival of Literature (4-9 February) has today announced details of a ground-breaking venture with Dubai Police and the Penal and Correctional Institutions, along with other initiatives to mark the beginning of the countdown to the 2020 Festival.

‘Tomorrow, I Will Fly,’ a book of essays written entirely by men and women in the Penal and Correctional Institutions in Dubai, will be launched at this year’s Festival. This is the culmination of a two-year collaboration with the Dubai Police and a year-long project with authors Clare Mackintosh and Annabel Kantaria.

Also announced were details of a global conference for literary festival directors from around the world, to be hosted during the Festival, plus a 50 per cent increase in the number of free sessions to ensure that the Festival is financially accessible to all.

Sheikh Ahmed Bin Saeed Al Maktoum, Chairman of the Board of Trustees for Emirates Literature Foundation, said: “Literature can be a lifeline, especially for those who need it the most. I am very proud of the difference we make in the lives of all the people we reach through our many projects.”

Major General Abdullah Khalifa Al Marri, Commander-in-Chief of Dubai Police, said “The responsibility of the Dubai Police General HQ is significant and varied in terms of means to protect and care for human rights, and what we offer to the inmates at the penal and correctional institutions is an excellent opportunity to reflect the bright image of the state in this field.”

Major General Al Marri noted that the General Department for Punitive and Correctional Institutions is keen on providing all necessary means for the inmates to harness their skills and creative energy in the cultural fields, so they become involved in educational and training programmes that contribute to their acquisition of writing skills and help them acquire decent job opportunities once they have completed their sentence. Thus, integrating them in the fabric of society as active and productive members who can depend on themselves and support their families.

“The cooperation between the Dubai Police and Emirates Literature Foundation comes within the framework of caring for inmates. The project, ‘Tomorrow, I Will Fly’ is one of these means that support inmates and aim to organise visits for some international writers and residents in Dubai to the correctional institutions during which the writer communicates with the inmate through the language of writing and books,” the Commander-in-Chief of Dubai Police added.

‘’Words are extremely powerful tools. They can change people, and shape how we view the world and who we will become,” said Ahlam Bolooki, festival director of the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature. “Tomorrow, I Will Fly” is a truly ground-breaking initiative for the UAE. It is humbling to be able to creatively support inmates in Dubai and through this project, make a difference to their lives.”

‘Tomorrow, I Will Fly’ stems from a long-term collaboration between the Emirates Literature Foundation, Dubai Police and The Punitive and Correctional Establishment, bringing Dubai-based and international authors to the institutions to talk to inmates about books and the process of writing. After visiting the Penal and Correctional Institutions in Dubai last year as part of this programme, the international best-selling writer Clare Mackintosh (‘I See You,’ ‘Let Me Lie’), and Dubai-based Annabel Kantaria (‘Coming Home,’ ‘The One That Got Away’), were inspired to help develop the initiative, which aims to let inmates find their voices and tell their stories. Support with creative writing can be transformative and produce life-long skills, reducing the risk of re-offending, and providing inmates with ways of processing their own experiences and emotions. Following a week of intense creative writing workshops with a group of male and female inmates, the resulting collection of essays and personal reflections, all on the topic of Tomorrow, were collated in an anthology.

The book will be launched on 6 February at the Penal and Correctional Institutions in Dubai, enabling the writers involved to read their work aloud and celebrate their achievements among their peers, and at the Festival with a panel discussion featuring Clare Mackintosh, Annabel Kantaria, Lt. Colonel Jamila Khalifa Salem Alzaabi from the Women’s Penal and Correctional Institution and retired Major General Nasser Al Razooqi, who was responsible for the designs of the new Penal and Correctional Institutions. It will also be made available to other prisons in the UAE, the Arab World and further afield.

One of the inmates said: “Thanks a lot for everything, for taking time out of your busy schedule to come and awaken the writer in us and help us polish and refine the skill. It was an amazing and priceless experience.”

 “The breadth of our activities is ever increasing and we always aim to show the difference literature and books can make to the world we live in,” said Ahlam Bolooki. “The International Literary Festivals’ Conference is another exciting development for us, demonstrating our position as one of the leading festivals internationally. The high-level directors attending the conference will gain a broader understanding of our country from a cultural perspective. It mirrors, in a present-day model, the time-honoured tradition of the majlis, gathering to discuss current events, recite poetry, tell stories, and reflect. We also hope that this programme will give Emirati writers the right exposure which could lead to them being invited to Literature Festivals around the world.”

It is expected that around 25 directors from festivals around the world will be converging on Dubai for the two-day conference, from as far afield as Brazil, Bali, New Zealand, Australia, the Caribbean, Africa, USA, Canada, China, Germany, Norway and the UK. The purpose is to exchange ideas, discuss mutual challenges and perhaps form alliances.  In addition to attending the conference, directors will go to sessions at the Festival, meet Emirati writers, and have an opportunity to engage with the flourishing culture in the UAE.

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