It is well-known, at least outside the Arab world, that all the [former] glamor of Dubai is built on the backs of abused Asian migrant workers.
These workers, mostly from Bangladesh, are lured from their home countries with promises of good salaries and comfortable housing. But, alas, they learn otherwise the moment they land at Dubai where officials confiscate their passports and settle them into far-off housing camps. These camps are an abomination. Several men are confined to a room no larger than a bathroom in one of Dubai’s seven-star hotels. As if the cramped living quarters are not enough, there is then the unbearable desert heat.
Safety regulations and right to collective bargaining are denied workers at job sites. Injuries and even deaths on the job are simply, and literally, swiped aside. There is no accountability. And, to add insult, because the conditions are so awful; in order to make sure the workers do not just leave after a month the contractors hold up pay for three months.
Naturally, many get so feud up that they protest for better pay, living quarters, safety regulations, and even unions. When they have the temerity to be treated like human beings [and let there be no doubt, Dubai treats these people in a scheme akin to “slavery,” that was the word used by Human Rights Watch], the authorities only get more oppressive. This is the problem with Dubai and why after years of growth due to cheap international credit, the grandiose city-state is finally being humbled. Dubai wants to be the first Arab city that can be compared to, say, New York and London. But in its cause the rulers foolishly think that they need only replicate the buildings of New York and the shops of London to then magically transform into a world-class destination. They fail to recognize that what makes the West great and prosperous is not just nice architecture, but institutions that protect civil rights. Dubai has yet to develop those. Instead, it currently wants to impress the world with shiny first-class hotels while maintaining 17th century slave labor. This contradiction has been Dubai’s rapid undoing…and deservedly so.
After time the migrant workers protest their indignation, they are meet with an iron fist. Everything is used against them: water canons, arbitrary imprisonment, beatings, and deportation.
And when confronted with this horror what do the leaders of this ostensible civilized city say? First they defend it. When British journalist Johann Hari interviewed [for this article] an prominent Emirati Sultan Sooud al-Qassemi “[he] passionately defended this system, saying that it is absolutely right that these workers are blasted with water cannons, arrested, and deported if they try to strike against their slavery-style conditions.”
When the piece was published, the Sultan did not respond to any of the criticisms on the “dark side of Dubai.” Instead, he penned an editorial for The Independent titled “If you think Dubai is bad, just look at your own country.”
This is such an blatant attempt to change the subject and obscure Dubai’s human rights abuses. Of course, the Sultan would never defend to a Western audience just abuses; so he such wishes to turn the spotlight on Britain. And what’s his point? That Britain isn’t perfect? No country is. But in Britain workers have rights, there are independent courts, NGO can operate, and is has all the civil liberties and right to due process that are non-existent in Dubai [at least for the imported workers].
This is an obnoxious tactic. And no decent, intelligent person will fall for it. The West is not without falls, but at least it treats people with dignity [for the most part], and when violations do exist there are efforts taken to correct it and those efforts may originate in the state or private individuals.
The world should no longer allow the high-rises and lavish shopping malls shadow into oblivion a modern-day slave state.