UAE minister of tolerance accused of serious sexual assault

UAE minister of tolerance accused of serious sexual assault on Hay Festival organiser
4 min read
The Hay Festival has vowed not to return to Abu Dhabi while Sheikh Nahyan Mubarak Al Nahyan remains the UAE's minister of tolerance.
Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak allegedly assaulted Caitlin McNamara at one of his houses [Getty]
The United Arab Emirates' minister of tolerance has been accused of "serious sexual assault" by the organiser of a prominent literary festival.

Caitlin McNamara, 32, says 69-year-old Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak Al Nahyan attacked her on Valentines Day earlier this year while she was in Abu Dhabi working on the launch of the Hay Festival.

Nahyan, who reportedly likes to be known as the 'Sheikh of Hearts", has issued a statement through his lawyers saying he is "surprised and saddened' by McNamara's accusations, according to The Sunday Times.

McNamara spent around six months working in Sheikh Nahyan's ministry after she was hired by the prestigious literary festival to organise their first UAE event.

"After six months there I was used to being summoned to meetings at all times of day," she told the Sunday Times. "And no one said no to Nahyan — he was like a god."

Early on February 14, McNamara says Nahyan personally called her for the first time and invited her to dinner. The pair had never spoken before this, she alleges.

While being driven to meet the Sheikh, McNamara informed the head of the Hay Festival, Peter Florence, saying she felt as though she had been "called to the headmaster's office for disrupting class".

She also joked to Florence that he should "send help" if she does not return, but also turned on her Whatsapp tracker to enable others to see her location.

McNamara's fears grew when her driver began heading away from the royal palace and towards the outskirts of Abu Dhabi. The driver allegedly did not tell McNamara where they were heading.

The car eventually arrived at a place McNamara believes to have been the exclusive Al Gurm resort, where the Sheikh and other royals own properties.

At his house, McNamara says Nahyan served wine and gifted her a £3,500 ($4,520) watch with gold and diamonds.

As the pair talked, Nahyan was reportedly irked by McNamara's insistence on keeping the subject professional. It was at this point the Sheikh then began touching her, according to the Sunday Times.

"It was creepy," McNamara said. "He was on the sofa next to me and began touching my arm and feet and I was pulling away, then he got forceful... Suddenly, it clicked why I was there. I felt so naive."

After attempting to leave politely, McNamara says the Sheikh then insisted on taking her on a tour of his residence. While inside a gold elevator, the Sheikh allegedly continued his advances and started "grabbing her face and kissing her".

"We got in a gold lift where he pushed me against the wall and began rubbing my breasts in a weird way like windscreen wipers,' she says.

"He pulled up his kandora and was naked under, and got on top of me. I pulled my dress down but he put his hands up my dress and his fingers inside of me."

Days after the incident, the Sheikh allegedly continued to attempt contact via calls and text messages.

One screenshot McNamara shared with the Sunday Times shows the message: "Good morning my dearest darling I all is going as plan have a wonderful day don't stress yourself looking forward to see you soon miss you take care LoL."

He pulled up his kandora and was naked under, and got on top of me. I pulled my dress down but he put his hands up my dress and his fingers inside of me

Just over a week after the alleged assault the festival took place, already marred by criticism from over 50 non-profit organisations and individuals over the UAE's jailing of dissidents.

McNamara returned to the UK on March 5.

"What he had done affected everything," McNamara said, adding that she has also split with her long-term partner and lost her job.

British police have interviewed McNamara, who has waived her right to anonymity. Police also installed panic alarms in her residence due to serious concerns for her safety.

The Hay Festival's organisers have called for Nahyan to be sacked and on Saturday pledged not to return to the UAE while he remains minister of tolerance.

Follow us on Twitter and Instagram to stay connected