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The underbelly of Dubai

Dubai is always being touted for its go-go attitude, the de-luxe hotels and tourism infrastructure, the airline, Emirates, owned by the Crown Prince of UAE and the way it has grown so swiftly over the last years.......BUT, there is an underbelly which is not so well known - as this piece "Immigrant Views of Dubai, the ‘World’s Fastest Growing City" from truthdig explains.

"The Gulf Arab city achieved its current form in just a few short decades. The story of the city’s rapid evolution is a dramatic product of forces involving immigration, labor, capital and the singular vision of its wealthy monarch, Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, referred to by locals as simply “Sheikh Mo.”

While native Emiratis comprise less than 20 percent of the city’s population, Indians are a whopping 53 percent and other South Asians are 22 percent. This demographic breakdown strongly hints at the role that South Asian immigrant labor has played in the city’s phenomenal growth.

My own parents are among the hundreds of thousands of Indian citizens who migrated to Dubai looking for a better life. I was born and raised in a place to which I did not belong, but which I nonetheless took for granted was my home. When I left Dubai in 1991 to pursue a college education in the United States, the city of my birth was wholly unremarkable in terms of infrastructure, commercial centers and tourist attractions.


In just the past 20 years, Dubai transformed itself from a minor trade hub into an internationally renowned commercial center, attracting transnational businesses and boasting the world’s tallest building, the Burj Khalifa. It has also marketed itself as an attractive tourist destination, particularly for the world’s wealthy elite and their disposable incomes. One of Dubai’s main events is its annual “Shopping Festival”—akin to the U.S.’ holiday shopping season.

But the city has a dark underbelly that includes harsh treatment of its immigrant labor force and an intolerance for criticism. Human Rights Watch’s 2014 report on the United Arab Emirates succinctly summarizes some of the problems:

'The United Arab Emirates (UAE) continues to crack down on freedom of expression and association. The authorities are arbitrarily detaining scores of individuals they suspect of links to domestic and international Islamist groups. A court convicted 69 dissidents in July after a manifestly unfair trial, in which evidence emerged of systematic torture at state security facilities. The UAE made no reforms to a system that facilitates the forced labor of migrant workers. Plans to ameliorate conditions for female domestic workers fall short of the standards outlined in the convention on domestic workers that the International Labour Organization (ILO) adopted in 2012.'"

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