On 15 September 2020, the United Arab Emirates along with Bahrain, shook hands with Israel under the US-brokered Abraham Accord to normalize relations with the latter, after remaining in conflict for decades. Since then, the Emirates has been all over the news for its peace initiation in the Middle East. However, the so-called peace didn’t last too long without any road-bumps. Quite recently, precisely on 26 September 2020, a poet and prominent Dubai-based writer — Dhabiya Khamis Al Muhairi — was snatched off her right to travel. Her crime was exercising her freedom of speech in UAE and expressing her views on the UAE-Israel peace deal.
Critical Tweet Leads to Controversial Fate
UAE couldn’t hide under the cloak of ‘peace’ for too long, especially in a region filled to the brim with turmoil, conflicts and proxy wars. Middle East has been under a very fragile condition politically. UAE human rights abuse has been one of the biggest factors responsible for the instability in the region, yet it was trying to paint it with ‘peace’ under the guise of the Israel deal.
The deal, however, didn’t go down well with Dhabiya, who took to Twitter to express herself, contradicting the deal. The next thing she knew, leaving the Dubai International Airport was barred for her without any specific reason given. She was flying to Cairo, Egypt.
Dubai is famous for being an amalgamation of two different worlds; in the day it is a conservative Islamic emirate, while by night it turns into a hub of drugs, drinks, and prostitution. Yet, Dubai human rights abuse has been highly reported by tourists, residents and migrant workers who have faced the hypocrisy of the most famous Sheikhdom.
UAE human rights abuse won over humanity again as the Dubai authorities suppressed the poet’s freedom of speech allegedly under the name of ‘anti-nationalism’. The 62-year-old poet claimed that she was allegedly banned for her stance against Zionism and the normalization deal between UAE-Israel. She expressed fear of threat against her life and her freedom. She urged human rights organizations to look into the matter and hold the Emirati authorities responsible for “any oppression, arrest, assassination or liquidation I am subjected to”.
As per a Washington Institute opinion poll for Near East Policy, the establishment of relations between UAE-Israel was objected by almost 80 percent of Emiratis. However, expressing the same on a social media network got Dhabiya Khamis banned from traveling.
The monarchy has silenced many critics and human rights defenders for their stance against government policies and UAE human rights abuse. However, such criticism is opposed by the autocratic nation, which has led to imprisonment, forced detention, and disappearance of people with opposing views. In one such incidents, Amnesty International reported that hundreds of critics and peaceful activists were arrested by the UAE government on undefined charges related to national security. At least, 67 people out of those arrested since 2001 are still in UAE prisons.
Now, Dhabiya Khamis fears the safety of her life and her freedom since being barred from traveling by UAE authorities following her critical tweet. Her Twitter post condemning the UAE-Israel deal weighed heavy on her fate and left her stranded in a country that is potentially threatening her freedom.