For a society that places such a premium on human rights, we should hold ourselves to a better standard when we shun regimes like North Korea or Venezuela at the same time we take the money from the likes of Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Dubai.
From an empty desert to an oasis of luxury in a few decades, what could have caused such a transformation in Dubai? The discovery of oil at the end of the 1960s helped turn the most populous city in the United Arab Emirates into a paradise for all those who love obscene wealth and luxury.
As often is the case with these non-democratic regimes who strike oil, the elites’ primary focus is to enrich their bank accounts. To their credit, they used their oil revenues to diversify their economy, becoming a world leader in high-end tourism, eccentric buildings, financial corruption and human rights violations.
When it adopted the values of capitalism, Dubai subscribed to the consequences of allowing it to run rampantly unchecked by a democratic system of accountability. As a result, the emirate has experienced the phenomenal economic growth fuelled by the West’s greed of its luxury while enduring and ignoring the throes of inequality, only possible with extreme corruption.
Let’s look at 15 facts that prove Dubai is to corruption what Burj Khalifa is to skyscrapers.
15. You’re untouchable if you’re rich enough
If you’re close to the Emir, his family, one of their many lackeys in national, regional and local government or one of the Emirates’ conglomerates, you’ll be safe from any troubles with the law, while enjoying the benefits of being favoured at every turn.
Property developers are one of the lucky groups, and, as such, they get to use modern slaves in 2017, treating them like subhuman beings. They do very little to hide their practices because they have the law, government and royal family in their back pocket. Why is that? The only thing they care about is money. If you have enough of it, you can get away with anything.
14. Automotive anarchy
An intriguing symptom of Dubai’s ridiculous levels of wealth, total lack of a moral fibre and widespread corruption of its elites, is the city’s curious story with cars. The city’s excesses are best represented by the luxury car graveyard where the lavish populations dump its unwanted vehicles, either because they have to abandon the country due to debt complications or simply because there’s a newer, better model out and selling a car can be a minor inconvenience.
13. Institutionalised racism
It’s shocking to verify the high degree of institutionalised racism in the United Arab Emirates, and more specifically Dubai. It’s painfully obvious at this point that the city’s oligarchy doesn’t place a great deal of value on human life that doesn’t have multiple zeros on their bank accounts, as exemplified by its use of modern slaves to build tall buildings as cheaply as possible.
Still, when 83% of the population is made up of immigrants you don’t expect the existence of a “special queues” at the airport for South Asians, but that’s the sad state of things in Dubai’s international airport.
12. Police brutality and abuse goes unpunished
When justice is perverted, and laws are put in place by the elites to oppress the population while ensuring they remain in power, law enforcement itself will become a tool of repression. If you happen to rub a cop the wrong way, (not like George Michael, although that would also be illegal) you will most likely end up with drugs planted in your car.
As you should know by now, this will be used by the authorities as evidence against you in a sham trial. A few years ago, British musician Karl Williams was picked on by police officers and ended up being arrested, tortured, beaten up and raped by his jailers.
11. Creeps use archaic laws to blackmail women into bed
Throughout the Middle East women are universally oppressed by ideologically obsolete legislation aimed at limiting their freedom and the United Arab Emirates is no exception. Dubai has one particularity not shared by many other countries in the region. Due to its highly liberal economic policies, it attracts plenty of expats, some of whom are women.
When in Dubai, western women need to be extra careful when turning down advances from local men who won’t hesitate to use the emirate’s regressive regulations on what women should wear to blackmail them into having sex. All they need to do is take a photo and use it as evidence to land these women in prison (or a penalty if they get off easy).
10. A stunning metropolis made possible by modern slavery
As much as the concept of Dubai troubles those with the kind of moral righteousness only possible by a chronic lack of zeros in their bank accounts, even they can’t deny the evident beauty of Dubai’s buildings. Have you ever wondered how those skyscrapers get built to reach record-breaking heights? The answer to that question is modern slavery.
Much like the Great Pyramids of Egypt, these towers are built by workers who have their passports confiscated as soon as they’re off the plane. Around 3 million workers are forced by “whip-crackers” to work over 12 hours a day for pennies while throwing them into “houses” with no plumbing, water or electricity while government authorities deny the existence of any issues.
9. Sex out of wedlock and premarital sex are crimes
If you’re planning to have sex in Dubai, you better have put a ring on it, and by it I mean your partner’s finger, assuming, of course, he or she is of the opposite sex. Having sex with someone you’re not married to is a criminal offence in the emirate. It is one of those draconian laws that can very well be used by a friend of the ruling class to intimidate an adversary into submission.
Additionally, it has also been used to jail women who had been raped and made the crass error of reporting the assault they had suffered. For teenage girls who want to have sex with their boyfriends but still keep their families’ traditions in mind, circumventing this law is possible by having anal sex, thereby conserving their hymens.
8. Being gay is illegal
As you may have expected if the topic crossed your mind upon clicking this article, Dubai has been consistently featured in the famous “Places not to be gay in” book series. Gay rights are as foreign of a concept to the emirate as beheading someone for sorcery is to your average westerner.
There is an underground gay scene in Dubai, but it’s subjected to constant police raids. Also, a relationship of a sexual nature between two consenting adults of the same sex will land both parties in prison for ten years while male sodomy is punishable by death, which might explain why Penn State has overlooked the UAE for its international campus.
7. Freedom of speech is virtually non-existent
In many ways, the United Arab Emirates in general and Dubai in particular, are very progressive when it comes to freedom of the press and freedom of information. I’ll admit this affirmation might confuse you but allow me to explain. Up until last decade, journalists in Dubai who wrote articles that the glorious monarchy deemed detrimental to its reputation were given the honour of spending a couple of months in prison.
Since then, the emirate has undergone a serious transformation and has shown itself to be incredibly tolerant of dissenting opinions and only presents journalists who insolently suggest Dubai’s fair and righteous government is capable of any wrongdoing with a hefty fine. This benevolence is applied by the authorities with equal measure to both domestic and foreign outlets.
6. Poverty is an epidemic
What do you get when you combine the extreme wealth brought on by an oil-fueled, financially-deregulated, corruption-riddled economy with an absolutist monarchy which answers to no one, supported only by a self-serving elite who values lavishness above all other things? The answer is the other side of the coin.
Dubai’s economic doctrine could very well be described as “capitalism on steroids”. With obscene wealth, comes abject poverty (which has increased 80% in the last two years). When the interests of the wealthy are tended to at the expense of the poor, you can bet severe inequality won’t be far behind. More on this topic in the next entry.
5. The shackles of debt
As mentioned in the first entry of our list, if you notify your employer of your desire to leave the company and the country, they will contact your bank who will proceed to freeze your bank accounts if you have debt larger than your savings. If that’s the case, you’ll also end up in jail, and you’ll be forbidden to leave the country.
There are reports of people who have fled the country sometimes leaving millions of dollars worth of their assets behind so that they can escape the police. Understandably, they want to avoid spending months in prison before being deported. Slave workers who are tricked into contracting debts towards the agents who arrange their work opportunities in Dubai aren’t that lucky.
4. Justice system is a sham
By now it should come as no surprise to you that the United Arab Emirates don’t have a fair legal system. As invariably is the case in countries where corruption is ripe, the justice system in Dubai is a puppet show put on by the monarchy to perpetuate their power and eradicate any enemies that might challenge their supremacy.
Anyone aiming to denounce corruption will be treated as an enemy of the state, a designation which will include any citizen that isn’t close to the authorities or obscenely wealthy. When a country doesn’t protect the rights of its citizens, corruption will flourish, and Dubai is a prime example of that.
3. Dubai’s authorities refuse to cooperate with the rest of the world
Law enforcement agencies throughout the world know the moment an investigation leads into Dubai they’re better off either shutting it down or finding another option. Why is that? Well, Dubai’s authorities are famous for their refusal to cooperate with international or foreign authorities.
Dubai’s blatant disregard for international law stems from the genuine belief it is entitled to do as it pleases and it’s answerable to no one. Several experts have pointed to Dubai’s refusal to cooperate as a powerful indicator of the institutionalized corruption experienced in the emirate, mostly in the field of money laundering.
2. Money owns Dubai
From luxury car graveyards to socially-regressive legislation, to modern slavery, brutal law enforcement, racism and without forgetting the city’s disregard for fundamental international cooperation to fight organized crime, Dubai is an incredible cautionary tale of immorality. By placing money above all things, and using the status it provides to excuse all sorts of deplorable behaviours, Dubai’s oligarchies end up being completely controlled by it.
I like to believe every person as a modicum of human decency and only fails to live up to that when blind-sighted by temptation. In a world where wealth can get you anything, there’s no higher temptation that money. Dubai’s elites will stop at nothing for the sake of money, and that is true corruption.
1. Quitting is a nightmare
There is no shortage of people wanting to go to Dubai. The city’s sandy beaches, phenomenally tall buildings, extravagant shopping centres and promises of a lavish lifestyle impossible to achieve anywhere else in the world are enough to convince thousands of people to adopt the expat lifestyle.
Much like a con man or a Ponzi scheme, the emirate will lure you win with promises of wealth but if you decide to quit your job – for whatever reason since you are a free human being – your employer will notify your bank. If your debt is bigger than your savings, your accounts will be frozen. With frozen accounts, you can’t get accommodation and become homeless.
A quick internet search will let you know more about the dramatic plights of expats who find themselves trapped in what was once their paradise.
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