the economist: The United Arab Emirates Send him away!
AHMED ABDELKHALEQ, a political activist who runs a website to highlight the plight of the thousands of stateless people living in the Gulf, has been deported from the United Arab Emirates (UAE), where he has lived all his life. At first the authorities tried to send him to the Comoro Islands, a tiny archipelago off the east coast of Africa, which he has never visited and with which he has no links. But the island government did not want him, so in the end he was sent to Thailand, another country with which he has no links.
Several other activists in the UAE have been punished this year by being stripped of their citizenship. But stateless people are hard to deport. So according to the Emirates Centre for Human Rights, a London-based lobby, the UAE authorities confiscated Mr Abdelkhaleq’s UAE passport and issued him with a Comoros one instead.
It is said that the poor Comoros, the southernmost country in the Arab League, has been paid several million dollars by the UAE in order that the boiling-rich Gulf state can send people who have become a nuisance to the remote islands. However, on this occasion, the Comoros authorities were unwilling to take Mr Abdelkhaleq.
He is one of five Emirati activists jailed for several months last year for “insulting the ruler” by signing a petition that called for an elected legislature. At present the rulers of the UAE, which comprises seven statelets led by Abu Dhabi (the richest) and Dubai (the most go-ahead), let 129,000 carefully vetted voters pick the Federal National Council, an advisory body.
Mr Abdelkhaleq had been waiting for weeks for his deportation, but was packed off just as the authorities announced that a foreign-backed plot “threatening national security” and “challenging the constitution” had been uncovered. Such charges are so broadly defined that they could encompass anything from terrorism to a peaceful petition for change. No political parties or demonstrations are allowed in the UAE. One person was arrested earlier this year for tweeting that the security services were heavy-handed.
According to the Emirates Centre, at least ten people were arrested on July 16th, including Muhammad al-Roken, a prominent human-rights lawyer. Several others, including a cousin of the ruler of Sharjah, one of the seven emirates, have been detained this year. The authorities are loth to say how many political detainees there are or where they are being held.
Whereas most of those arrested last year were secular liberals, this year they have tended to be Islamists associated with a local movement, Islah (Reform), who have been emboldened by the success of their brethren in Egypt, Tunisia and elsewhere. Dubai’s chief of police, Dahi Khalfan, recently had a very public Twitter row with Sheikh Yusef al-Qaradawi, an influential Muslim Brother based in Qatar. The policeman accused Islamists of hypocrisy, saying that they were as keen as anyone on Dubai’s worldly pleasures.