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If you think Dubai is bad, just look at U.K.

Dear Ethiopian Review, I was interviewed for the “Dark Side of Dubai” article from Britain’s The Independent newspaper that you have posted on the Ethiopian Review and would like to submit my rebuttal that also appeared in The Independent to be published in the Ethiopian Review as well to even it out as it would only be fair. Kind regards, Sultan Sooud Al-Qassemi

If you think Dubai is bad, just look at your own country

By Sultan Sooud Al Qassemi

I recently figured that if British journalists such as Johann Hari who come to Dubai don’t send back something sensationalist it won’t get printed and they won’t get paid. After all, sleaze sells.

I called a British journalist friend of mine and said: “I’m going to write an article about London, the same way your compatriots write about Dubai.” By the time I was back at home I had come to my senses, it’s not fair to London, a city so dear to my heart, or Londoners to be judged by the actions of a few. It’s easy to generalize about a country when figures are manipulated to sensationalize and sell papers.

Homeless man in the streets of London

Say for example that I had written an article that states that, in wealthy first world Britain there are 380,000 homeless people, many of them mentally ill, starving and abandoned in sub-zero temperatures to live on the streets.

Say then that I wrote an article that states that Britain, the so called “jail capital of Western Europe” sentenced in 2006 alone a staggering additional 12,000 women to prison and that up to seven babies a month are born in jail where they spend their crucial first months.

I could have written an article that stated Britain, victor in the Second World War, had given refuge to 400 Nazi war criminals, with all but one of them getting away with it. Or one stating that the number of Indians who died while serving the British Empire, to build your Tube and grow your tea, is so large it is simply unquantifiable by any historian.

Or say I write an article about the 2.5 million-strong Indian volunteer army who served Britain during the Second World War, where 87,000 of them died for their occupiers’ freedom and yet until recently those who survived continued to be discriminated against in pay and pension.

I could have written an article that stated that, in civilized Britain, one in every 23 teenage girls had an abortion and in 2006 more than 17,000 of the 194,000 abortions carried out in England and Wales involved girls below the age of 18.

I could have written an article stating that Britain, the human rights champion, not wanting to get its hands dirty, had resorted to secretly outsourcing torture to Third World states under the guise of rendition by allowing up to 170 so called CIA torture flights to use its bases. Or that Britain’s MI5 unlawfully shared with the CIA secret material to interrogate suspects and “facilitate interviews” including cases where the suspects were later proven to be innocent.

I could have written an article that stated that the Britain of family values is the only country in the EU that recruits child soldiers as young as 16 into its Army and ships them off battlegrounds in Iraq and Afghanistan, putting it in the same league as African dictatorships and Burma.

I could have written an article that states that Britain either recently did or has yet to sign the Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings, the United Nations Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict or the UN’s International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families .

I could have highlighted the fact that liberal Britain is responsible for the physical and racial abuse of hundreds of failed asylum-seekers at the hands of private security guards during their forced removal from the country .

I could have written about the countless cases of slave-like working conditions of immigrant labors such as the 23 Chinese workers who lost their lives in 2004 as they harvested cockles in the dangerous rising tides in Morecambe Bay.

I could have written about how mortality rates from liver diseases due to alcohol abuse have declined in Europe in recent decades but in Britain the rate trebled in the same period reflecting deep societal failures.

I could have written about how in “Big Brother” Britain maltreatment of minors is so serious that one in 10, or an estimated one million children a year, suffer physical, sexual, emotional abuse or neglect.

Or that according to Oxfam 13.2 million people in the UK live in poverty – a staggering 20 per cent of the population in the sixth richest nation in the world.

I could have written all that, but out of respect for Britain, I decided not to. Because when you stitch together a collection of unconnected facts taken out of context, you end up with a distorted and inaccurate picture: something that Britain’s Dubai-bashers would do well to learn.

(The writer is a journalist based in Dubai.)

26 thoughts on “If you think Dubai is bad, just look at U.K.

  1. is the writers saying Dubai is better than UK? for me neither of them are good. perhaps there is some humanity in UK. but DUBAI is a place where modern slavery is taking place.

  2. I am speechless….I lived in London for the past 15 years and didn’t know all these facts. But there are some untrue or exagirated statments made in the article. I agree UK from the underlying is not the heaven as some people think. I have to work long hours but the fruit is no where near the same. No wonder so many of my fellow ethiopian would go back in the blink of an eye if they had it their way.

    Bruke from west london

  3. I have never been in Dubai, but from what I heard and seen on TV Dubai is the place to be. Behind all this facade I am sure you’ll find a dark side, in UK however i found you have the freedom to be destitute.

  4. Funny article with childish mentality.

    Sultan Sooud Al Qassem should or must know that there is no justification for human rights violation wherever it occurred, period. On the contrary he tries to justify or take solace by comparing the horrible and unbelievable human rights violations in Dubai by relating to the shortcomings of Western countries. Grow up man!

    All the items Sultan mentioned about London or UK is no secret to the world and British writers are writing about it in details without fear from the state unlike UAE.

    Islam, the highest religion, is abused by Sultan’s rulers. Read some verses from Quran and compare what is happening in Dubai as detailed by Johann Hari for better reflection.
    One has to expose and fight injustice, subjugation, abuse, oppression, tyranny etc… but not to be proud of.

    Kudos to Johann Hari. Shame on you Sultan and your likes for comparing the incomparable.

  5. Funny article with childish mentality.

    Sultan Sooud Al Qassem should or must know that there is no justification for human rights violation wherever it occurred, period. On the contrary he tries to justify or take solace by comparing the horrible and unbelievable human rights violations in Dubai by relating to the shortcomings of Western countries. Grow up man!

    All the items Sultan mentioned about London or UK is no secret to the world and British writers are writing about it in details without fear from the state unlike UAE.

    Islam, the highest religion, is abused by Sultan’s rulers. Read some verses from Quran and compare what is happening in Dubai as detailed by Johann Hari for better reflection.
    One has to expose and fight injustice, subjugation, abuse, oppression, tyranny etc… but not to be proud of.

    Kudos to Johann Hari. Shame on you Sultan and your likes for comparing the incomparable.

  6. this writer is a well paid writer to cover the trash hidden inside Dubai. But the truth is no amount of cover up articles such as this one can hide the obvious truth. Dubai is a slave state where there is no justice for the human suffering caused by greed and down right racism.

  7. Well donne bro! As someone who has been in the West for over two decades, I can see their deep-seated hypocrisy and constant psychological warfare agaist of what they call “third world” country. I’m not saying these countries are perfect either, but some are much better in terms of justice, socioeconomic and ethical issues.

  8. Dear Sultan,

    I really appreciate the way you have tried to tell us all about Britain/London.

    Unfortunately, there is no way any readers can be convinced by the argument that Dubai is better than London. Impossible!!!

    It is not reasonable to compare democratic with absolutely non democratic country.

    Any way, it is not bad to read it.

    Please don’t bluff too much.

  9. Britain did not sign “Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings” ? shocking. Hey, you could have and should have written that Britain may be the only country where you would have to wait 47 years before you realize you have a stunning talent. Susan Boyle is a good example. We should tell all British based NGOs and save the children do good doers crowding rural Ethiopia without meaningful impact to go take care their own homeless people.

  10. Well, even though very bad things happen in the UK or in any other Western nation in general, a person have an easier resort to the law for everyone is deemed equal before the eyes of justice. A person can take an judicial action against his abusers if he/she so wishes.

    What is missing in Dubai and many other Arab cities is that there is no equality before the law. The Arab citizens are more superior than their servants. The only non citizens who enjoy an equal justice is those professionals, most of them from the West. The rest, especially maids and other day laborers, are forced to put their fate on their masters. As far as the law is concerned, they do not exists as persons, but as commoduties with one an one purpose only, i.e. to serve their masters at any time in what ever way the latter wishes.

    In short, a sane person can not compare the situation in Dubai and London, with all due respect to the writer of the above article.

  11. I know nothing about London, but I am sure there is too much suffering in Dubai. You can not imagin how bad things are here. They are giving you false wealth and money but you don’t know while they are taking your life, your self-being and your money. Everybody is making money but no one is saving. Watch this video about what recently happened. By chance it is caught on camera, but there are hundreds and thousands of sufferings that are happening here with no chance of exposure. God send your Mercy for us, the Immigrants.

  12. The writer is I think Pathetic. He said that he did not want to write anything bad about Britain. But he did. The only thing he did not do is that he did not mention references. I am not saying it may be false, all what I am saying is that if he said he would not write, the he should have not written anything at all.

  13. Mr. Sultan Sooud Al Qassemi

    First thing first. I find your attitude abut Mr. Hari’s article kind of a tit-for-tat and coming from a self-described journalist totally childish. Mr. Hari wrote about his experience in Dubai and his piece was just that. The people he interviewed and the places he visited are not made up, but that was his experience. If you can refute any part of his writing, you can do so based on facts. But if your line of argument is London is much worse than Dubai, then you miss the whole point of the article because Mr. Hari was not comparing Dubai with any other place but documenting his experience. If you feel that you have something to write about London, you can do that but you need not compare it with any other place unless you are doing a comparative piece.

    You did not mention any specifics in Mr. Haris’ article that you find objectionable but condemned it in its totality because sometimes that is the best of course of action when you are short of credible argument. I can go over every example that you mentioned about London and give you a comparison with Dubai but I will give you a glimpse of what you failed to comprehend in Mr. Haris’ piece. For your information, I have lived in Dubai for more than a year and visited the place several times over the span of two decades; and I have been in London many times for a very short period of time.

    Your first negative example about London is the number of homeless people and let me take the figure at its face value because it is not even relevant. I live in America and I know first hand that almost every major city has a problem with homeless people. And among the homeless, a good percentage of them are mentally sick and need immediate care. The government and welfare agencies are constantly trying to address the problem so far with little success. But the point I am trying to make is you don’t even have the right to be homeless in a city such as Dubai or all of the Gulf States because they will ship anyone who is staying in the land if they are unemployed. This is not like comparing apples to oranges; this is something like comparing apples to a rotten, insect infested orange. The sad fact of the matter is human rights violations are rampant across the region and if you really need to write about anything, do not be offended because someone find the will to write about the land of your ancestors, but try to tell us about a great deal of injustice that Mr. Hari did not find the time to document.

    And then you mentioned about the awful nature of women prisoners in Britain (I thought we were talking about London) and by implication you tried to tell us that any journalist who comes from a nation of such atrocity should have no business writing about other places. Again, it all comes down to the issue of human rights and the places where it is respected. Not only in London or England, but almost all industrialized countries have their share of social problems be it in the form of drug and alcohol problems, ethnic issues, gender issues, economic hardship, gang problems, homelessness, lack of medical care, etc. But unlike any of the Gulf States or Middle Eastern countries, these and many others societal problems are constantly debated among the population and the lawmakers to find a solution. Some countries are getting better in managing the problems and others are having a difficult time dealing with them. But the point is, unlike much of the Arab states, the problems are not shunned or ignored but are discussed openly in an effort to find a solution. Because of the system of governance, sometimes governments are changed because of these issues. I wish I could say the same about the city you tried to defend needlessly.

    In your zeal to defend the honor of your region, you dug deeper to find examples of injustices that Britain did against other than its own people and you brought us the example of the millions of Indians who served the Queen during World War II. I agree with you that we should learn a great deal from the history of injustices and suffering that Britain, America or the western world had brought against the third world countries. Thousandths of books have been written about the unjust nature of colonialism and its aftermath. And I am quite confident that many more will be written by future historians to enlighten us and guide us not to repeat those mistakes. But Mr. Qassemi, I am sure that you will be the first one to admit that Britain of today is not the place you knew a decade or two ago. And I have to admit that America of today is the not the nation that I saw when I landed the first time more than two decades ago. America is not proud of the way it treated the native Indians, African Americans and many other ethnic groups throughout the centuries. We have also to admit that nothing is static; we are all witnesses to the dynamic changes that is taking places all around us which is also changing us as result. No one is immune and everything is changing. We are living in an interesting time that let us see changes immediately. But unfortunately, all of the Gulf States are intentionally missing this dynamic human revolution. They are good at importing and adopting the western technology while at the same time ignoring the suffering of the immigrant population who are doing all the work to bring material modernity to the region.

    The point is human rights group can raise the issue of the suffering of army conscript of Indian origin and demand just compensation for their suffering; I have seen first hand America discussed and addressed, thought not adequately, the issue of Japanese-American prisoners during World War II after a number of decades. The same could happen in Britain and all the colonial powers. Can we say the same thing about millions of slave labor conscripts who are suffering in the desert heat of Gulf States right at this moment? Most of the Arab states have forgotten that these are human being after all, with the same blood running through their veins as those who employ them. Mr. Qassemi, it is not only Indians, Pakistanis, Bangladeshis, Pilipino, etc, but many of my fellow Ethiopians are suffering because of slave labor conditions throughout the Gulf States. I personally heard numerous examples of abuse of domestic workers who work from the time they wake up early in the morning until they go to bed late at night without any rest in between. Sometimes, the wages of these “slaves” are held for months and at times it is totally forfeited when the employer gets rid of them or if and when they escape from their captivity.

    Mr. Qassemi, we are all thankful that we are living in a democracy and have the right to address any wrong that is done to us. Sometimes, we get the short end of the law and we do not get everything that should be ours by right. But no one can doubt that we live in a much better condition that our immigrant brothers and sisters in the Gulf States. Granted, we have so many social issues that we need to address to become a fair and just community, but don’t you dare to compare us with the unfortunate human beings in the deserts of Arabia who have no way out. I think you should be ashamed of yourself in trying to defend the indefensible just because someone wrote not so nice things about your region. You are no better than the people who are putting these people under such terrible conditions because you are trying to tell the world that it is no worse than Britain. You know that is not true and that is a shame.

  14. what an article that was… no its just rubbish. I imagined that you guys were not the followers of the Prophet Mohamed you would have been more worst than this. I have no doubt with all respect to the writer you should be ashamed of the article that which defend the evil act of those Arabs in the midle-east. I have personaly met many peoples who lived in that region and the barbaric character of those in the middle-east is crystal and clear. Dear Surat is already said it all that the comparison between London and UAE is just dumb. please don’t even think to compare these two places how dare… Insh Allah you will keep quit next time.

  15. As for me, Dubai is a frontal glitter and underground slavery machine, immigrants are highly abused by the so-called elite Arabs while women are heavily sought after for the satisfaction of sexual perversion of the well to do, Britain can not be compared with Dubai or any other middle eastern countries, the only fact I dare to accept is the positive remark I have for the ruler of Dubai who is very liberal and very different from traditional elite Arab families while maintaining his culture and religion, if only the Muslim countries and leaders are like him, terrorism would have been out of option in Islamic countries but the open minded are few while self centered hypocrites are at large making the way of peace and development narrower than ever, so dear reader, I understand the love you have for your country but even though Britain had a bad and dark history, it has evolved into a humanitarian country while the middle east lives in a recycling process, so please go and examine your own domain. I am an African who have suffered the poison Britain has inflicted in my country but it is my and my own peoples responsibility to overcome it since that Britain has long been gone, the clear and present danger and current poison for my fellow African citizens is the middle east, you are not even gentle enough to respect the God given dignity of a woman who works hard to support her family once you find her in each one of your households. How many of my African sisters are raped and murdered by the rich who always get away with it, I only mentioned one of the many disgusting deeds I have personally witnessed in the middle east, if I go on, I will go politically incorrect in this journal so I choose to stop here but believe me, I live in the US and have European experience as well, you are not even close to be as “humble human” as the Brits, not even close…………

  16. Sultan,

    I have nothing to say but only SHAME ON YOU and your government. Is there any humanity in UAE/Dubai for our Moslem brothers let alone to Christian slaves?

    Are you trying to tell me you are angles? I think you guys are the most stupid coward people I have ever seen in my life. You guys are as brutal as devil. SHAME ON YOU.

    I am really shocked by the video. What the hell it is!!!!

    Any way, may God forgive you for your evil treatments to the slaves in your country?

    May Allah (God) bless Britain and the government abundantly.

  17. Human right respect and inequality of law is the main factor. I have been to both places. In Dubai, although it is a modern city and it is designed mainly for the enjoyment of the riches, the rule of law doesns’t work equally for all and besides foreigners should at all times be on stand-by mode so that they may leave the country at any point of time for whatsoever reason! There is not guarantee to stay in the country no matter how long you stayed in the country. However, in the UK, human right is respected and everybody enjoys democracy and rule of law regardless of identity, wheater legal resident or illegal resident, black or white, nationality, race,etc…

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