Emirates Leaks

Investigation: UAE oppression contradicts with alleged happiness signs

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The UAE appears to be carrying the “happiness” label in reports referring to the Middle East, as a result of high income and the absence of unrest. But is there really a “happiness” in the descriptive and abstract sense?

The past decade has been difficult for UAE nationals and expatriates due to the repressive practices of the state security apparatus, which violated their rights.

Emiratis know that the Ministries of “Happiness and Tolerance” are just a cover for violations and torture, and an attempt to promote happiness and tolerance as a UAE brand that stands out as an international front and helps enforce their policies.

The security apparatus is characterized by happiness, tolerance and national security, but it is, in fact, violates the Emiratis basic rights.

The State Security Apparatus is similar to “Umm al-Duwais,” one of the mythological mysteries. In her story, she is a very beautiful woman wearing gold and diamonds to seduce men to follow her. Then she reveals her ugly face kills them.

In a sign of the severity of the violations of public freedoms, the UAE academic Abdul Khaleq Abdullah commented in a series of tweets about the freedom of expression in the UAE.

“The ceiling of freedom of expression has declined in the UAE compared to what it was,” Abdullah, the former adviser to Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed, said on his personal account on Twitter.

“Freedom of expression is not subject to written laws but to unwritten laws,” he said, stressing that fear of speaking the word of truth is real and that there are those who have paid the price.

“The enemies of freedom of expression, individuals, and officials have increased, and the cybercrime act is ruthless.”

“The ceiling of freedom of expression in the UAE is much higher than it is imagined to be,” said Sheikh Zayed’s adviser in response to a series of tweets published by the Emirati lawyer through his Twitter account. “It is being imagined that it is so low that some of them are thinking whether it is right or wrong to write a comment about a barrel rolling by the air to the street and delayed the municipality to remove it.”

He explained that “the laws of the loose phrases that circulate between people in terms of expression and opinion and criticism, intimidated non-specialists in law and make them think that every word they say can get him in trouble with the law.”

Last week, the US State Department published its annual report on the human rights situation, highlighting that the UAE Constitution provides for the right to freedom of expression and the press. However, the law prohibits criticism of officials and speech that may create or encourage social unrest; therefore, the government restricts freedom of expression and the press.

The US State Department, a key ally of the UAE, notes that the authorities have launched a crackdown on freedom of expression since 2011 and have imposed severe restrictions on public criticism of the government, ministers, and individuals.

The report notes that the UAE authorities continue to arrest people or impose other restrictions on freedom of expression with regard to Islamic political activities and support, and these activities only call for democratic reforms.

In November, the Supreme Court ruled that both written and verbal insults were a crime that could be prosecuted.

In January 2018, the Federal Supreme Court handed down a 10-year sentence and a fine of 500,000 dirhams ($136,000) to a citizen convicted of insulting and ridiculing a country’s leader.

In other cases, authorities have trialed individuals with for publishing on social networking platforms where the marital was considered a violation of privacy or personal insult to colleagues, employers or religions.