Egads, Emirates!

This article made its way to Yahoo! Mailbox: Emirates’ Exiles in Spotlight after Mubarak Fall. Looks like the recently ousted tyrant/dictator/monster may set up shop in the UAE. He isn’t the first (or the last, I’m sure) to end up in the Emirates. I didn’t know that before this morning, though. “The roster of Emirate exiles includes former Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, the late Pakistani ex-Premier Benazir Bhutto and a turncoat Chechen warlord who was gunned down by a killer with a gold-plated pistol.”

Wow. It’s a trip to me that controversial leaders would end up there. Well, not luxe-wise. That is definitely not surprising. The place is over-the-top luxurious. Politically though, the UAE is closed and doesn’t allow for dissent or protest. They’re not keen on political activism from anyone, exiles included. They like to stay out of foreign affairs. They seem to stay as neutral as possible. Their statement regarding Egypt highlights this. “The UAE said it has ‘confidence in the ability’ of Egypt’s armed forces to manage the affairs of the country ‘in these delicate circumstances.'” Very diplomatic.

Is it a mistake to take in these dictators? Some seem to think so. “But Christopher Davidson, an expert in Gulf affairs at Britain’s University of Durham, believes it was ‘a mistake for the UAE to get involved’ at a time when the Arab world is basking in the power of popular protests. ‘Both countries, Saudi Arabia and the UAE, were identified with the old Middle Eastern order,’ Davidson said. ‘That does not sit well with the UAE young population.'”

All due respect to the expert and coming from a random, far-from-expert chick in the US, I don’t think it will be a problem for them. They don’t have the extreme poverty Egypt has. And boy, do they love their leaders.

I bummed around Dubai for a couple days, on my way to and back from Bahrain. Dubai is Las Vegas on steroids. Miserably hot like Vegas but with the added humidity (better for me) being on the Gulf. Overindulgent like Vegas. They have the first 7-star hotel and made an island in the shape of a palm tree that can be seen from space. If you are addicted to shopping and have very deep pockets, you will fall in love with Dubai. Since I prefer online shopping, and I’m just a regular working schmuck, I didn’t even fall in like with the place. I just wanted to check out the Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest building. That was really neat, and I was waiting for its opening.

I had dinner with my cousin who lives in Sharjah and her boyfriend, “Mr. Salah” a native Emirati – very rare as most who live in the Emirates are ex-pats from various countries. He sure loves his monarch, Sheik Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, who also happens to be Prime Minister and Vice President of the UAE. The sentiment is shared by his fellow countrymen. He’s very down-to-earth and approachable and can be seen walking around the mall by himself with no bodyguards.

Mr. Salah is an example of how well the government treats their small population of native Emiratis. They are guaranteed education and jobs. They are given land and will even get cash when they get married. The government encourages their native Emiratis to pro-create. He and others like him are set for life.

That’s why I don’t think it is a dangerous move by the government to house the dictators – a robust economy and popular leaders. Being the right move is a whole different story. If it were my country, just the idea of being a refuge for leaders known to rob, torture, and kill their citizens is repulsive. “You don’t have to go home, but you can’t stay here” would be my message to said dictators.

It will be interesting if Mubarak retracts his firm statement of dying on Egyptian soil. Will he live out his days in the opulent Emirates? If he does, he sure as hell won’t be uncomfortable. If you have $70 billion that you stole from your country, life in the UAE will be gravy, baby.


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