June 7, 2012
The United Arab Emirates is trying to deport an activist to a country he has never set foot in, with a human rights group accusing the oil-rich state of increasingly wielding its power to grant or deny citizenship as a tool to crush any Arab Spring-style uprising.
While revolts have gripped many countries in the Middle East, the Gulf states have largely managed to escape the protests as their people enjoy the rewards of oil wealth, with well-paid state employment and benefits.
Still, there have been some signs of dissent, but these were dealt with in a swift and quiet crackdown. Members of the “UAE 5” group spent eight months in jail last year after signing a petition with more than 100 academics and other activists calling for universal suffrage. Several non-governmental organisations were dismantled. Now it seems the UAE is employing another tool to deal with dissenters. Ahmed Abdul Khaleq, one of the UAE 5 who was again detained without charge two weeks ago, called his family yesterday to tell them he was being deported to Thailand. The activist and blogger was initially told he would be sent to the Comoros Islands, off the coast of Madagascar.
Last week, seven members of Al Islah, an Islamist group affiliated to the Muslim Brotherhood, lost their battle to sue the interior ministry over its decision to strip them of citizenship after they were accused of perpetrating “acts threatening the national security of the UAE”. They have spent two months in jail after refusing to sign a pledge promising to seek citizenship elsewhere.