Some days ago, my friend former US congressman Paul Findley forwarded an email that made my blood boil. It emanated from the lawyer and columnist John Whitbeck, who disseminates political commentary and news via his mailing list and included a report from the Human Rights Watch (HRW), condemning the UAE for having, “expanded its crackdown on civil society”.
Whitbeck complains that such a “crackdown” has failed to attract sufficient attention in the international media, and suggests that the ‘Arab Spring’ has produced an ‘Arab Winter’ in the UAE and certain other Gulf States.
Why am I annoyed? Quite frankly, I’m fed with the way the Emirates has been unnecessarily targeted over the years by critics who would be better employed worrying about real unfortunates in wealthy First World countries, where the homeless camp out in cities made up of tents cities, the poor survive on food stamps, drug addicts sleep in cardboard boxes under bridges and ethnic minorities are treated as second-class citizens.
Mr Whitbeck and the authors of the HRW report should save their crocodile tears for nations that turn a blind eye to human trafficking and child labour; places where illiteracy is rife and education is sparse.
A country that cares about human rights ensures that its people have access to schools and universities, hospitals and clinics, modern infrastructure, business opportunities and jobs in a stable and secure environment. UAE nationals are blessed with those essentials and much more.
Our nationals enjoy a standard of living and a lifestyle that is the envy of the world. Our government nurtures enterprise, encourages talent and uses the country’s natural resources for the benefit of all.
This is a place for people who want to live decently and freely, in keeping with our cultural and religious heritage. UAE nationals are taken care of from the cradle to the grave, by being provided with homes, free land on which to build homes, subsidised utilities – all without the burden of taxation. Expatriate workers flock to our shores because there are more opportunities for them in the UAE than in their homelands.
I would challenge any Emirati or expatriate to find better living conditions anywhere in the world than here in the UAE. All our government demands in return is for its people to behave respectfully towards one another and abide by the country’s laws.
It’s an unfortunate fact of life that some people are never satisfied, no matter how well off they are. Instead of counting their blessings and thanking God that they were born in one of the finest countries on the planet, they do everything they can to rock the boat. The UAE doesn’t pretend to be a Western-style democracy; it is run on a hybrid and inclusive style of governance that allows for citizen participation. It has worked seamlessly ever since the country’s flag was first unfurled on December 2, 1971, when human rights and freedoms were put under the protection of the constitution.
Of course, ‘freedom’ means different things to different people. For those who think freedom means they have the right to disturb the peace, offend public morality, insult whomever they like or attempt to stir-up political dissent, the Emirates isn’t the place for them.
Our country is small and vulnerable to harmful influences from outside; both our security and economy are reliant upon a stable leadership that offers longterm structure, vigilance and red lines that cannot be crossed.
One of the main gripes of Human Rights Watch hangs on the detention of five individuals, who, according to the UAE Attorney-General, were detained for “instigation, breaking laws and perpetrating acts that pose a threat to state security, undermining the public order, opposing the government system and insulting the President, the Vice-President and the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi,” according to the UAE Attorney-General.
Those so-called activists have been infected by the revolutionary zeal in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Yemen and elsewhere in the region, where people, unable to afford the rising price of bread, schooling for their kids, or desperate for career opportunities, have struggled against oppression and corruption.
The UAE authorities had every right to stop them in their tracks; they’ve behaved like sheep witho ut pausing to think that Emiratis aren’t victimised by poverty, oppression or corruption – In fact, just quite the opposite. They are nothing more than troublemakers. They have no constituency and they do not represent the majority in any way, shape or form.
Our rulers cannot permit a handful of malcontents to disturb the status quo for their own ends. And I’m sorry, but if Human Rights Watch, Mr Whitbeck or any other individual or organisation doesn’t like it, then tough. We must guard against anyone who threatens our way of life.
This is the country we love and anyone who wants to live here must play by its rules, or find some place else; somewhere that permits them to stand on a public soapbox and complain to their heart’s content even while they worry where their next meal comes from.
I’m just grateful that the UAE’s founders, the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan and the late Sheikh Rashid bin Saeed Al Maktoum, who cared for us like their own children, aren’t here to witness the ingratitude displayed by a few spoilt and selfish people today. It’s up to all proud Emiratis to maintain their legacy and do everything in their power to keep our beloved land from harm.