Emirati press announce fake Oxford centre

UAE state media release doctored images of 'Future Design Center' which doesn't exist

The doctored image shows (from left to right) Roger Michel, Alexy Karenowska, Mohammed Al Gergawi, and Omar bin Sultan Al Olama at the 'opening ceremony'

At the start of May, the Dubai Government Media Office issued a press release regarding the opening of the “Mohammed bin Rashid Center [sic] for Future Research” at Oxford University.

But Cherwell can exclusively reveal that the centre does not exist.

Cherwell understands that the centre has not even been formally proposed to the University, and that the images of its supposed opening were photoshopped.

According to the media release – which was also covered by outlets including The Gulf Today, Zawya, and Gulf News – the centre opened during a ceremony attended by Minister of Cabinet Affairs and the Future, Mohammed Al Gergawi, and the Minister for Artificial Intelligence, Omar bin Sultan Al Olama.

The fake release also claimed that the ‘ceremony’ was attended by “a number of representatives of Oxford University”. Cherwell understands that these ‘representatives’ were, in fact, a fellow of Magdalen College, Alexy Karenowksa, and an honorary fellow of Trinity College Roger Michel.

Michel, a Trinity alumnus, who recently became an honorary fellow of the College, already has several links with the United Arab Emirates.

In February, Trinity President, Dame Hilary Boulding, attended the World Government summit in Dubai at Michel’s invitation along with two students.

Michel has since endowed a scholarship in honour of Al Gergawi that “will enable Trinity students to attend future summits in Dubai”.

Karenowska, a Physics tutor at Magdalen, told Cherwell: “I’m quite upset about it actually. What has happened here, as unbelievable as it sounds, is that picture was photoshopped, so the centre doesn’t exist.

“It’s not even a proposal, it’s more of a request for a proposal, so that request is outside of the University. [The Emirati officials] were in town for a visit in connection with something completely separate, and at a lab facility outside Oxford, those photographs were taken, but as bizarre as it sounds, it doesn’t exist. There’s a request for a proposal, but no money whatsoever has been received, and it certainly hasn’t opened, and the University of Oxford was photoshopped onto those photographs. I was in the photographs, but the text was photoshopped on.

“As bizarre as it seems, I don’t think it’s that much of a big deal. Obviously I’m quite upset about it, and the suggestion of a connection with the University is upsetting. But I think that it’s one of those situations where probably the person involved hadn’t appreciated how that would be interpreted.”

Bin Rashid, the vice president and prime minister of the UAE, already has links with the University, after he made a donation towards a graduate scholarship last year.

Bin Rashid has previously been accused of multiple human rights abuses.

In September 2006, he was accused of encouraging the abduction and enslavement of thousands of boys for use as jockeys in camel races. A class-action suit was filed against him in the US state of Florida, but the suit was dismissed in July 2007.

In July 2013, following international pressure, Bin Rashid pardoned Marte Dalelv, who, after she reported being raped, was convicted of extramarital sex and alcohol consumption.

In October 2013, The Telegraph reported that “Sheikh Mohammed [was] again cast as a victim of employee malpractice” after reports that toxic and dangerous steroids, anaesthetics, and anti-inflammatory drugs had been shipped into the UAE, labelled as “horse tack”.

In March 2018, allegations of grave abuse towards multiple of his daughters surfaced via a video recorded by Princess Latifa bint Mohammed Al Maktoum, in which she reported being incarcerated in a family-owned compound for more than three years.

After attempting to contact her sister, presumed to also be detained by Bin Rashid and flee to Oman, she was further incarcerated and tortured. She has not been heard from since 4th March and the Dubai authorities have refused to comment about her alleged claims and attempt to seek political asylum in the US.

The University did not address Bin Rashid’s controversial history when approached for comment. A spokesperson said: “A donation towards graduate scholarships from the Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Knowledge Foundation was approved after going through the University of Oxford’s Committee to Review Donations.”

According to the release, “the [future design centre] aims to incentivise future-oriented research and innovations in various scientific fields, such as 3D technology, physics, and other advanced sciences, in addition to the development of medicines and other future-oriented applications that present solutions to the challenges imposed by the exponential changes in today’s world.”

Al Gergawi said: “The center [sic] reflects Mohammed bin Rashid’s vision to develop future solutions and tools.”

12 COMMENTS

  1. The quotations attributed to me here have been taken completely out of context. The false intrigue created is not only absurd but deeply disappointing. The text that has been printed has been cherry-picked from lengthy conversations during which I sought to underline the fact that this was, as Mr Michel has outlined in his comment, nothing other than a case of over-zealous reporting.

    At a time when so many of the stories in this publication are dedicated to questions of Oxford’s lack of racial diversity and cultural capital it is deeply, deeply, troubling to me that such an unbalanced and poorly researched article would be printed by our own students. I could not possibly have more respect and admiration for my extraordinary colleagues in the Middle East. I know for a fact — because I was careful to ask — that the author has no experience whatsoever of the region (that part of his conversation with me, strangely enough, seems to have been omitted from his reporting). I only hope that, at some future time, this will change and he will come to understand why the superior and self-righteous attitude he has adopted is not only offensive and unhelpful but also deeply embarrassing.

  2. In my comment above I refer to an earlier one posted by Mr Michel. This appears to have mysteriously disappeared: I would suggest that rather than supress the responses of those you have written about, it might be prudent to withdraw the article altogether.

  3. There are so many factual inaccuracies in this story, I don’t know where to start. At some level, the fact that the boys who wrote this piece did not even bother to contact me (despite being given my telephone number) to verify any of the details is all you need to know. Suffice it to say, an exciting and well-received proposal got turned into a done deal by an over-eager reporter somewhere. That problem could have been resolved with a simple correction — happens all the time. Far more troubling than the shoddy reporting, however, is what seems, in my opinion at least, to be the blatant racism evinced by the authors (whose names have now been redacted). They have tarred me for my “links” to the Middle East as if there is some shame in that. I have spent many years building bridges between East and West — on a global scale — precisely to dismantle such attitudes. Mr bin Sultan and Mr Gergawi are two of the finest men I’ve ever met. They are like brothers to me. They came to Oxford in good faith to discuss plans to add diversity to what we all now know is a shameful bastion of exclusion. Perhaps the authors here should consider applying for that scholarship I created. They could learn a lot from the people of Dubai. I know I have.

  4. It’s a little funny, just because the reporting is so hilariously poor. It’s not funny for the guy who screwed up. He has a young son and is likely going to lose his job because of this.

  5. Lol ok the cherwell shouldn’t report on this because someone in the uae might be held accountable for their writing of fake news, how racist of them!

  6. I’ll leave you with the one of the funniest phrases in the whole English language: “…with reckless disregard for the truth or falsity of the statements asserted therein.” That one makes me smile. Best wishes to you all.

  7. Disgraceful, Cherwell. Boring, one-sided character assassination. Note for next time that Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, as well as being a donor to this univeristy, is also married to an alumna. As a former writer for this newspaper I’m embarrassed.

  8. What exactly is the point of this article? There is no suggestion that any of the individuals in the photograph were responsible for doctoring it or somehow over-egging or misrepresenting the progress of discussions relating to the centre proposal. Instead, you simply point it out and then batter us with completely irrelevant allegations of various human rights abuses and other scandals that you probably lifted from a Wiki page.
    To then fail to contact one of the individuals associated with the university and to misrepresent the views of another is shocking journalistic practice. Both you and your section editor should be ashamed. As another former writer and Editor of this publication, I, too, an embarrassed.

    (Oh, and I think you mean *formally and not ‘formerly’).

  9. never seen so many comments miss the point of an article by so much, it’s just said ‘the uae media released a fake news story’ and given some background
    reckon you can take these two jokers in the pic with a pinch of salt too, it’s not ‘over-zealous’ to photoshop a logo onto a pic and make up a whole centre, it’s just fake news…

  10. David Lammy is right. The Oxford student body is a bastion of privileged white kids. And, as this article shows, naked racism is alive and well among them…….

  11. I guess the short story writer has removed his name out of shame.

    Any more of this sort of reporting and you’ll be getting a phone call to go and work on Fox and Friends or Infowars.

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