By Julianna Iwasinski
The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is one example of a country in the Middle East that raises red flags regarding human rights violations. The issue of human rights in the Middle East region has not been focused on just the UAE. Other countries that have a home in the region have also been accused of violations such as Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, etc. However, there has been extensive documentation of serious human rights abuses in the UAE by its officials that its authorities do not address. Based on recent trends of human rights violations including freedom of expression, women’s rights, migrants’ rights, and arbitrary detention, it is imperative that the United Arab Emirates protect its citizens’ fundamental human rights.
The UAE is relentless when it comes to detaining its citizens. It is duly noted that the UAE has detained and prosecuted peaceful protestors simply because the protester’s stances on policies conflict with their ruler’s actions. Some of those detained were individuals who spoke out against the country online. UAE officials use intimidation tactics on activists and their families who speak boldly about authorities. A Human Rights Watch Middle East Advisory Committee member named Ahmed Mansor is currently serving a ten-year sentence that started in 2018 due to alleged defamation on social media. He was not allowed to have access to a lawyer while being detained before his trial. The intolerance the UAE has regarding freely speaking out about the country and its officials is clear and evident.
UAE human rights violations are not restricted to its borders..
Actually, the UAE has played a hand in the current humanitarian crisis in Yemen. It is reported that the UAE has sexually abused and tortured prisoners. Furthermore, they have been involved in the forceable disappearance of civilians who were being held in detention facilities. The UAE has made a stride in the right direction by removing all of the ground troops it had in Yemen. Nevertheless, there are still UAE-backed Yemeni troops in Yemen continuing to contribute to the list of serious abuses. All of the alleged freedom of expression abuses have gone without the UAE taking any accountability.
Along with other Middle Eastern countries, the UAE has migrants that come to work in their countries. However, the rights of migrant workers are heavily abused within the country. There are factors like the no minimum wage policy and immigration violations punishments like overstaying visas that contribute to the long list of migrant abuses. Amid the current pandemic, sixteen nongovernmental organizations have come together to conduct a letter calling on the United Arab Emirates to protect the migrant workers. Isobel Archer, a project officer at the Business & Human Rights Resource Center, mentioned that construction in UAE is believed to be an essential industry. That being said, the protections for migrant workers’ wages are through their employers who make arbitrary wage cuts. The unfortunate part for the workers is that they must mutually agree to the lower wages, but due to their vulnerability in being a migrant worker, it is nearly impossible to have room for any negotiation. The overarching issue here is that the migrant workers are given a choice to either work in the current environment with lower pay or be out of a job therefore being unable to take care of themselves and their families.
Even as of recently, it is reported that employers from the UAE are using tourist visas to hire Indian migrants. Instead of the individuals having to obtain work permits, they can receive this visa, making it a cheaper yet more effective way of getting workers to their businesses quicker. The problem with this is that the Indian migrants are now open to exploitation by their employers. These migrants fear that their illegal status will be exposed if they are to report this to officials. The most significant part about the visit visas is that there is no way to obtain records of the workers through the UAE’s visas or Indian migration. Making it nearly impossible even to know if these individuals were ever there.
Along with migrants, women are victims of abuse in the UAE, but they have far fewer rights than migrants. Women and girls are dehumanized by the government, along with their male guardians in their households. Unfortunately, women in the UAE have no say in their marriage, and they are forced into marriage by their male guardians. When it comes to divorce, the husband can solitarily divorce his wife. However, if the woman wants a divorce, she must go to court and obtain permission. Another issue regarding marriage with women is that they lose their financial support if they refuse to have sexual relations with their significant other. However, in 2019, officials in the UAE had recently introduced amendments to revoke the provision that made it mandatory for women to obey their husbands. The UAE has made strides in regards to beginning to advocate for women. Nevertheless, one may ask, is the UAE trying to get the world’s attention with their push to become one of the top twenty-five gender-equal states in the world by 2021? Or is the country trying to distract from the many human rights violations that they are committing elsewhere?
Arbitrary detention is another significant issue that must be addressed within the country. The UAE is known for committing detainee abuse and criminal trial violations. There are a significant number of arrests without warrants in the UAE. With those arrests come torture and demeaning conditions. The detainees’ rights are ignored continuously, especially in the instance of a woman named Alia Abdelnoor Mohamed Abdelnoor, who was serving a ten-year sentence for terrorism charges that she was forced to confess. This inmate had terminal cancer, and she died while being chained to a bed. Like Alia, many inmates deal with conditions like this every day, and they should be advocated for and allowed the due process everyone deserves.
Overall, when looking at the violations of human rights in the United Arab Emirates, it is evident that the country must continue to make strides towards protecting its citizens and the individuals they come into contact with. From migrants who come to work in their country to beyond their borders, the country must uphold the fundamental human rights that everyone needs.