As UAE celebrated its third annual Emirati Women’s Day on 28th of August, the state-controlled local media hailed the “empowerment of Emirati women and their pivotal place in the society”. However, behind the façade of punchy headlines and celebrations for UAE women, the truth shows its ugly face.
EmiratI women face constant breaches of their human rights, and a blatant example of their mistreatment can be found within the Dubai ruling family itself. UAE Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, has received global condemnation for the capture and enforced disappearance of his own daughter Sheikha Latifa Bint Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, following her desperate escape attempt from Dubai in February after years of torture by her own family. Ironically, as he publicly endorses the Emirati Women’s Day, his government has not confirmed Latifa’s wellbeing or whereabouts – making the Emirati Women’s Day seem like a failed publicity stunt.
In addition, on the eve of the Emirati Women’s Day, International Campaign for Freedom in the United Arab Emirates (ICFUAE), a UK-based organisation supporting political activism and democratic reforms in the UAE, released shocking details of letters and audio recordings smuggled out of Abu Dhabi’s al Wathba prison. Living in inhuman conditions without basic health care, the female detainees face constant torture, rape threats and degrading treatment – without any rights to communicate with their family members. The detainees’ mistreatment prompted ICFUAE to run “Breaking the Silence” campaign to raise awareness of the issue, with the week-long actions culminating in a demonstration outside the UAE Embassy in London.
The mistreatment of Western women in the UAE, including the imprisonment of a Norwegian rape victim Marte Deborah Dalelv in 2013 for “consensual extramarital sex” has caused international media exposure, but up to now, the human rights breaches on Emirati women have received less global attention. As UAE government continues its tight grip on the media, it is paramount for the international community to continue its work to lobby for justice and rights for the Emirati women.