United Arab Emirates
“”[T]he glamorous guise of skyscrapers, shopping malls and touristic luxury with its leading emirates of Dubai and Abu Dhabi, as well as being a hub for economic ambition and opportunity, this conceals the true nature of the UAE... The UAE’s repression and crackdown on civil society has soared since the 2011 Arab Spring, showing mass intolerance. Like elsewhere in the region, some Emiratis campaigned for greater reforms and democratic elections. Yet the UAE swiftly crushed these and has since moved to stem all forms of dissent... The UAE is seeking to create a façade of tolerance, while carrying out clear human rights abuses – enabling it to secure its own political and economic fortitude. Repression in the UAE will be rife while such impunity continues.
|—Jonathan Fenton-Harvey, Byline Times.|
The United Arab Emirates (UAE), also known as 'Lil Saudi Arabia, is a wealthy oil-rich monarchy in the eastern Arabian Peninsula, bordering Saudi Arabia and the Persian Gulf. As a Western-aligned nation, the UAE likes to present itself as a tolerant and forward-thinking state through efforts such as normalizing relations with Israel and holding the first "World Tolerance Summit." However, the UAE has a dreadful human rights situation and remains at its heart a cold-blooded and repressive police state that regularly conducts torture, arbitrary arrests, and a zero-tolerance policy for any political dissent.
Despite the UAE's oppression, Westerners remain dazzled by its riches and architecture, and its most famous city Dubai is among the top 10 most visited cities on earth.Ayaan Hirsi Ali seems to think of the UAE as a role model for Muslim countries in the region, which is just appalling.
"The Notorious U.A.E." is known for having no concept whatsoever of human rights and humanism.
Migrant labor and trafficking
It actively conducts modern-day slavery and human trafficking, by importing helpless workers from South and Southeast Asia, and its poor Arab neighbors. Of a population around 9 million, 58% is from South Asia and around 16% is from other parts of Asia, leaving only around 16% of native Emiratis who live off cheap labor of the migrant workers. Migrants have no rights of collective action to demand better working conditions. If workers cause trouble, they will be easily deported and human traffickers from each of the sending countries will prepare the replacement out of the endless pool of low skilled workers. There's also notorious child slavery, conducted by trafficking young boys from impoverished neighbors and forcing them to work as camel jockeys. The UAE also has strict censorship of the media, and human rights activism will land you in jail or detention centers in no time. Activist Iyad El-Baghdadi was deported for tweeting.
Freedom of expression
The UAE has been on a constant crackdown against internal dissent since 2011, arbitrarily arresting or "disappearing" people who speak out against the regime. In March 2017, the UAE detained Ahmed Mansoor, an award-winning human rights defender, for allegedly publishing "false information that harms national unity" on his social media accounts. His actual crime was to call for the release of another human rights activist. Authorities held Mansoor in an unknown location for more than a year with no access to a lawyer before sentencing him to 10 years in prison. Goddamn.
Another political prisoner, Nasser bin-Ghaith, is also in prison for a decade's sentence and is in poor health due to being chronically denied access to medical care.
One of the most absurd cases was that of Ali Issa Ahmad, a British football fan who was arrested for unknowingly violating a law against 'showing sympathy to Qatar'. Ahmad was then brutally tortured with a knife while in custody, and has since allowed British media to publish images of his scars.
Prisoner abuse and torture
Like other repressive dictatorships, the UAE's authorities need little provocation to inflict torture or other abuse on political prisoners. During the Arab Spring, the UAE subjected many dozens of people to torture methods including pulling of fingernails, savage beatings, stress positions, rape, and death threats.
In 2017, their authorities were found to have horribly abused cancer-sufferer Alia Abdel Nour after shackling her to a bed and refusing to allow her medical care. She died in 2019. The UAE also likes to force its detainees to sign confessions while blindfolded and after prolonged periods of solitary confinement.
The justice system also approves of torture. For instance, when Dr. Nasser bin Ghaith told a UAE court about how he was tortured for a year without trial, the judge scoffed at him and shut off his microphone.
Women and LGBT rights
Wahhabism is prominent in the UAE, and the country has legislation based on strict interpretations of Sharia. It implements the hudud penal code which enables corporal punishments such as flogging and stoning. Homosexuals and apostasy are punishable by the death penalty, and adultery (if found out) is considered a grave sin which is applicable for non-Muslims as well. Many Western migrants are convicted for being raped.
The UAE, unlike its big boss Saudi Arabia or rival Qatar, is known for attracting the fanfare of neocons and neoliberals alike,
because of in spite of the aforementioned human rights violations. Westerners are especially attracted to Dubai, and the city is among the top 10 most visited cities on earth. This is most likely due to their cunning PR strategy in full effect, and not supporting overseas Jihadism led to much less negative coverage among the Western media, which is obsessed with terrorism.
Dubai, an emirate/city in the UAE, has lots of money and so has tried to bootstrap itself from medieval theocracy to respected first-world-quality world citizen. This has been less than convincing in many cases.
Dubai has the highest per-capita income in the world, if you don't count all the poor people shipped in to do the actual work, and is currently home to the tallest building in the world.
Dubai's ruler since 2006 is Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum, who is also Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE. He is something of a playboy, with a vast number of racehorses and a fondness for hanging out with Queen Elizabeth II of the UK at British racetracks, and is reportedly also an acclaimed poet.
His family's treatment of women leaves something to be desired. In 2000 he had his daughter Shamsa kidnapped in Cambridge, England; she was bundled into a helicopter and flown out of the country. She has not been seen in public since, and is reportedly kept in Dubai, regularly dosed with tranquilizers. His daughter Sheikha Latifa bint Mohammed al-Maktoum fled the country in 2018, first to Oman and then via yacht towards Goa, but she was captured by armed men off the coast of India and apparently returned to Dubai. One of Sheikh Mohammed's wives, Princess Haya Bint al-Hussein (sister of the King of Jordan), also fled from his loving embrace, hiding in London in 2019 claiming to be afraid for her life; the Sheikh responded with a poem and litigation, while reportedly seizing her racehorses. In 2021 a British court found that the Sheikh had hacked Haya's phone using NSO Pegasus spyware software on eleven occasions in 2020, uploading large amounts of data.
In a nutshell
- Human Trafficking & Modern-day Slavery - archives of articles related to modern-day slavery in UAE.
- The United Arab Emirates Cannot be Allowed to Whitewash its Way Out of Serious Human Rights Abuses. Byline Times.
- Five reasons why Israel's peace deals with the UAE and Bahrain matter. BBC News.
- Hypocrisy of Dubai’s World Tolerance Summit. Human Rights Watch.
- The Constant Violation of Human Rights in the UAE. Americans for Democracy and Human Rights in Bahrain.
- Dubai is sixth most visited city on earth: Euromonitor. Gulf News. Retrieved February 27, 2018.
- Ali, Ayaan Hirsi (4 December 2017). "Opinion – The Plot Behind Saudi Arabia’s Fight With Qatar". New York Times.
- "Labor Migration in the United Arab Emirates: Challenges and Responses". Migration Policy Institute. 18 September 2013.
- "United Arab Emirates". International Trade Union Confederation.
- "Kidnapped children sold into slavery as camel racers".
- Child slavery provides camel jockeys in United Arab Emirates. Digital Journey. Retrieved February 27, 2018.
- UAE's crackdown on democracy short-sighted. Middleeastmonitor.com.
- World Report 2016: UAE. Human Rights Watch.
- UAE: Free Prominent Rights Defender. Human Rights Watch.
- World Report 2020: UAE. Human Rights Watch.
- Qatar football shirt row Briton 'leaves UAE custody'. BBC News.
- 'I was sure I'd die': UK football fan detained in UAE feared for his life. The Guardian.
- UAE: Ruthless crackdown on dissent exposes 'ugly reality' beneath façade of glitz and glamour. Amnesty International.
- UAE: Eight Lebanese Face Unfair Trial. Human Rights Watch.
- UAE: Strong Ally of the West with a Turbulent Torture Record. Americans for Democracy and Human Rights in Bahrain.
- Izady, Mehrdad (2014) . "Demography of Religion in the Gulf". Mehrdad Izady.
- Dubai is sixth most visited city on earth: Euromonitor. Gulf News. Retrieved February 27, 2018.
- Detained In Dubai: Cat Le-Huy
- The Burj Khalifa
- Dubai: the new Iceland? (Eirikur Bergmann, Guardian, 2009-11-27)
- See the Wikipedia article on Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum.
- Princess Latifa urges UK police to reopen sister's kidnap case, BBC News, 25 February 2021
- Family of Emirati princess release pictures to rebut 'false' abduction allegations, The Guardian, 24 Dec 2018
- Princess Haya: Dubai ruler's wife in UK 'in fear of her life', BBC, 2 July 2019
- Dubai's ruler battles wife in UK court after she fled emirate, The Guardian, 1 July 2019
- Dubai ruler hacked ex-wife using NSO Pegasus spyware, high court judge finds, The Guardian, October 6, 2021
- Sheikh's British palace staff worked in 'culture of fear', The Daily Telegraph, 25 Mar 2011