An Emirati woman who fled the UAE has been denied asylum in Macedonia and faces extradition, though she claims she has suffered serious human rights violations by her family, and will likely be severely punished for her escape. Radha Stirling, CEO of Detained in Dubai, issued the following statement:
“Hind Al-Bolooki’s case should not be taken any less seriously than the case of Rahaf Mohammed last month. The patriarchal system, and informal male guardianship rules she is fleeing are just as pronounced in the UAE as they are in Saudi Arabia. There is a misconception that the Emirates is a more liberal, Westernised society; the UAE has worked very hard to manufacture that image, but the reality is drastically different.
“The treatment of women in the UAE, whether foreigners or locals, can be unimaginably harsh. We have seen rape victims arrested and charged with having sex outside marriage; women denied custodial access to their children after divorce; and the laws actually stipulate the necessity of female obedience to a male guardian.
“Even the daughters of the royal family are not exempt from these repressive legal and cultural restrictions. Sheikha Latifa, the daughter of Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the Ruler of Dubai, fled the country last year after what she claimed was years of abuse by her father since she was a minor. But in the UAE, like Saudi Arabia, even an adult woman is legally regarded as a minor; she can be confined to her home as a veritable prisoner, without any consequences to the perpetrator. Sheikha Latifa’s elder sister, Shamsa, also tried to escape her family in 2000, but was captured and reportedly drugged into submission ever since. Latifa herself was captured in a full-scale military operation off the coast of India, and was not heard from for nearly a year. Until now, she has been prevented from speaking publicly or communicating independently with the outside world.
“The rushed decision by Macedonia to deny asylum to Bolooki is indicative of the soft power wielded by the UAE in less wealthy nations through the use of investment. The UAE has been involved in a number of investment deals throughout the Balkans, with very little transparency, and appears to have secured a great deal of influence in the region. Using this type of influence, the UAE recruited the help of the Indian Coast Guard for the raid on Sheikha Latifa’s vessel in March of last year; arranged over a personal telephone call between Sheikh Mohammed and Prime Minister Modi. Through this type of influence, the UAE is increasingly able to circumvent diplomatic norms and essentially expand its own jurisdiction through the willing complicity of foreign governments less concerned with human rights than they are with the influx of Gulf petro-dollars.”