The UAE gained its independence in 1971. Just like many other Arab nations at the time, the country was poor and devastated. Fast forward 40 years, and Burj Khalifa, the tallest man made structure in the world is opening in Dubai. The building is located right next to Dubai Mall, the largest mall in the world, with an area of 502,000 square meters.
Dubai and Abu Dhabi are now some of the most visited places in the world, boasting millions of tourists each year. Not being content with what they already have, Dubai went even further by building artificial islands in the sea. The World is an artificial archipelago that consists of multiple small islands, which together make a rough shape of the world map.
The millions of tourists that come to Dubai to see these truly marvelous constructions are left in awe. They drive around Dubai in amazement. However there is something else there to which tourists pay little attention to. The construction workers, who slowly walk by the side of road towards the buses, where they will have to cram together to get back to their camp.
Birds eye view of Dubai
And that is the real Dubai that many ignore. Behind the breathtaking constructions and daring projects, there is much going on which the government of UAE so desperately tries to hide.
About half of construction workers in Dubai are of South Asian origin. They are subject to a range of human right abuses. Numerous complaints have been about the living conditions the workers live in. The toilets are not properly washed and the smell is nauseating. The government justified itself by saying that it was the fault of the workers, as their culture is not hygienic and it is therefore that toilets are in such a bad state.
Moreover, a huge amount of complaints have been made about the way the workers are recruited. They are promised a high salary and good working hours, however as they arrive in Dubai things work out a different way. Their passports are taken, and they find themselves in debt with the recruiting agency, as the travelling costs have to be repaid. The amount spent on the travelling costs is usually grossly exaggerated. On top of that, the high salary they were promised suddenly decreases twofold. Each year hundreds of workers throw themselves of the buildings or die of poor conditions. In a way, it is modern day slavery.
The atrocious treatment of workers unfortunately isn’t the only case of clear abuse of human rights in Dubai and UAE. Issa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan is son of late Sheikh Zayed, the first president of the UAE and the man behind the magnificent development of Dubai. Issa is a prominent real estate agent and an important figure in UAE politics. However his actions once more proved to the world that there is more going on behind the Burj Al Arabs that we don’t know.
On August 16, 2006 Bassam Nabulsi filed a lawsuit against Issa for assault libel and slander in Houston. The lawsuit was based on a tape and Nabulsi smuggled out of UAE. The tape shows Issa torturing an Afghan grain merchant Mohammad Shah Poor because Issa thought that he was cheated in the deal he made with Mohammed. As a punishment, Issa beats him with a wooden plank, shoot around him, forces a cattle prod into his anus and drives over him with a car. What’s more shocking is that Issa wasn’t alone, he received help from a uniformed policeman. It really makes you wonder how safe you are in Dubai if a man who is supposed to protect you can turn against you if he is told so by an important Emirati.
The lawsuit was dismissed for the lack of personal jurisdiction and proper service of process. But that didn’t stop the video from going viral, and the world finding out the atrocities that are behind the closed doors in Dubai.
Contains Graphic Images
Issa appeared in court on December 14, 2009 in Dubai and declared he was innocent. And amazingly enough, that was enough to acquit him. In fact the court declared that Issa was a victim of conspiracy and Nabulsi was sentenced for 5 years in absentia "drugging, recording and publishing a video and blackmail”.
Dubai is a fabulous place. You will find things there that you will never again see in your life. But all that was built on the backbone of starving and ill-treated workers who wish they would go back home to their families after years of separation and devastation. Dubai is fabulous, but is it worth it?