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Friday, January 17, 2020

HRW’s report on the UAE is political garbage

by Khalaf Ahmad Al Habtoor

© APimages

Enough is enough! I will not tolerate defamatory attacks on my homeland by a committee based in New York under the pretence of concern for human rights. And I believe I speak for the majority of my compatriots who’ve had the misfortune of reading the blatant misrepresentations and exaggerations contained in Human Rights Watch’s (HRW) 2015 report pertaining to the United Arab Emirates.

In some instances, HRW’s allegations are so outlandish, I can only wonder whether they are motivated by the authors’ personal political agenda or, worse, have been concocted for propaganda purposes on the say-so of a state actor/actors. Over the years, HRW has been condemned by various states for ideological bias, inaccurate reporting and for falling under the sway of US government foreign policies.

Last May, over 100 scholars, journalists and human rights activists, including two Nobel Peace Prize Laureates, published an open letter urging HRW to close its revolving door to the US government; in other words, to “bar those who have crafted or executed US foreign policy from serving as HRW staff, advisors or board members…”

The letter cited ex-CIA analyst, Miguel Diaz, who left the CIA, joined HRW’s advisory committee and went on to be appointed as a State Department official tasked with liaising between the intelligence community and nongovernment experts. Strange that when the CIA’s record on human rights – torture, killing, kidnapping, physical and sexual abuse of detainees – is dismal, a human rights organization would seek to hire a person from its ranks!

Putting aside HRW’s possible suspect affiliations, I would like to draw your attention to misjudgments contained in its misleading propagandist screed, point-by-point:

HRW: “The United Arab Emirates (UAE) continued in 2014 to arbitrarily detain individuals it perceives as posing a threat to national security…and a new counterterrorism law poses a further threat to government critics and rights activists.”

Answer: The UAE does not and will not apologize for taking firm measures against anyone who threatens its national security or the safety of its nationals and foreign residents. HRW is using double standards here. We witnessed how the US reacted in response to the 9-11 attacks. Thousands of innocent Muslim Americans were rounded-up and detained with access to lawyers or family members. The UAE will always guard its children against individuals who disrespect the freedom, opportunity and enviable lifestyles that my country offers to nationals and expatriates alike.

HRW: “Freedom of Expression, Association, and Assembly - In August, the UAE issued a counter-terrorism law that will give UAE authorities the power to prosecute peaceful critics, political dissidents and human rights activists as terrorists.”

Answer: Yes, look what ‘freedom of assembly’ did for Libya, Yemen, Lebanon and Iraq and other countries in the region! People didn’t gather together to munch corn-on-the-cob or discuss the latest movies; they plotted and armed themselves – and now they cry about ‘the good old days’ when those countries were free of terrorism. We will absolutely not permit recruiters from the ‘Islamic State’ (Daesh), Al Qaeda or groups associated with the Muslim Brotherhood or other enemy militias to hand-out recruitment fliers to our youth in parks. As for freedom of expression, we enjoy the privilege of being able to approach our leaders, who are always open to constructive criticism, to talk about our issues.

HRW: “In January 2014, authorities denied entry to a Human Rights Watch staff member and placed two others on the blacklist as they left the country in the immediate aftermath of the release of Human Rights Watch’s 2014 World Report. According to UAE immigration law, the blacklist includes the names of individuals prohibited to enter the country “for being dangerous to public security.”

Answer: Congratulations to the UAE authorities for recognizing HRW as a subversive entity and acting accordingly! My country does not put out a welcome mat for troublemakers and agitators.

HRW: “Migrant Workers Foreigners account for a considerably high percentage of UAE residents, according to 2011 government statistics, but despite labour reforms, low-paid migrant workers continue to be subjected to abuses that amount to forced labour.” [In this respect the report is illustrated by a split photograph. The top half shows luxury buildings; the lower half is a photo of a young woman (presumably a nanny) with a young child. The caption is highly offensive. It reads “I already bought you” implying the UAE condones slavery. In 2007, the UAE became the first country in the region to adopt laws against human trafficking and there are severe penalties for anyone found guilty of enslaving another human being].

Answer: If one delves closely into this topic, it’s clear that workers in the UAE are well-cared for by both the private and public sectors, which invest millions of dirhams to provide the country’s labour force with air-conditioned, clean accommodation and a decent standard of living. Moreover, there is no such thing as forced labour in the Emirates; anyone who isn’t happy here is free to leave. Those instances where abuse against domestic workers was proved are rare – and are known to occur everywhere in the world. The report is neither fair nor objective when it infers that a few unfortunate incidents are representative of the norm.

HRW: Women’s Rights Federal law No. 28 of 2005 regulates matters of personal status in the UAE and some of its provisions discriminate against women. For example, it requires that a male guardian conclude a woman’s marriage contract; likewise, talaq (unilateral divorce) occurs when the husband makes a declaration before a judge.

Answer: The UAE is a Muslim country and our family laws are based on Islamic Shari’a. Here, HRW launches an attack on our faith, which is unacceptable. Secondly, women in the UAE are treated with more respect than women elsewhere in the world; they are cared-for, provided-for and enjoy the same educational and employment opportunities as men. Just look at how many women are employed in ministries, government departments and in numerous fields within the private sector. There are four women in the UAE cabinet and we are proud of our female pilots. The numbers speak for themselves.

I can only reiterate what I told delegates during my keynote speech to the C3 Summit held in New York during October last year:

Human rights organizations and the Western media must stop trying to fit us into Western moulds. We do not want to be influenced by foreign concepts of democracy and human rights. We know what works for us! Everyone is invited to come and see with their own eyes how we live in my country and the blessings we have.

I have just one thing to add. Everyone is welcome with the exception of representatives of Human Rights Watch or anyone else who arrives with the intention of making biased, untruthful slanderous attacks on my country that’s been recognised over and over as a model to be emulated by the entire world.

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