Panorama uncovers Dubai! Behind the glitz lies……

Posted on April 21st, 2009 by Jim

Hi from Dubai where a much needed wake up call has hit.

Those of you in the U.K may have watched Panorama recently that features the darker side of the Emirate:

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Behind all the glitz lies poverty and turning a blind eye to what is, no matter how much you dress it up as slave labour as part 2 also shows:

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This motivates me to stay in the region longer and help give the unsung foot soldiers of Dubai a voice as I tip-tap away on the novel I started back in 2005 when I felt something wasn’t quite right.

Comments welcomed!

9 Responses to “Panorama uncovers Dubai! Behind the glitz lies……”

  1. Hilary says:

    Hi Jim – that’s great news you’re writing a novel ..

    .. the subject I’ve heard and read a little about & I can guess it’s like slave labour – it’s here in the UK too … perhaps run by gangs – but unfortunately alive and well.

    All the best with what you’re doing for the people who cannot really help themselves.

    Hilary Melton-Butcher
    Positive Letters

    • Jim says:

      Cheers Hilary….

      Pressing on with my work in progress!

    • Sam says:

      Con-jobs and Bad Journalism

      I hate conspiracy theories. Did the CIA murder JFK? Did Princess Diana get done in by a Buckingham Palace order? Has global warming been unleashed by the Martians to smoke out Earthlings? I could go on, but I’ve always been very bored by these ‘theories’, and the speculations and counter-speculations they spawn.

      These days, bizarrely, I have formulated my own conspiracy theory. Journalists are being airdropped into Dubai with alarming regularity: they come armed with their Apple MacBooks, and are driven by — not a nose for news — but an express purpose of scooping piles of dirt. And even before they clear immigration, they know what their brief is: trash the city, run it through the shredder, and don’t bother with the fact-checking.

      Their write-ups on what a “con-job” Dubai is are then published in the Western media with sadistic glee. This, at a time when head hunters here claim that the list of job applications from the West has grown by leaps and bounds. Very odd indeed!

      Even odder is how stories of the souring of the Great American Dream are tinged with melancholia and accompanied by disbelieving shaking of heads, whereas Dubai’s alleged capitulation is greeted by whoops of “There, we told you so” — and then the high-five.

      I reckoned this could be the best conspiracy theory that emerged from this part of the world when a few days ago, one of the best newspapers in the world, The Independent, sealed the case. It ran an outrageous 8,000-plus-word feature called ‘The Dark Side of Dubai’, written by Johann Hari, a journalist who, I hear, has won numerous awards.

      The centre-piece of the feature is the lead-in, the starting point, the holding story — whatever you want to call it — and stars one Karen Andrews, a Canadian, living out of a Range Rover. Thanks to the evil ‘Dubai system’, she cannot afford a roof over her head (but she has a ‘once-rich’ look about her). Her husband is in prison because he’s a defaulter: he’d borrowed money to buy houses and live The Life in Dubai; then, he was diagnosed with a brain tumour (not clear whether it is malignant or not — because two doctors have given two different verdicts) and wanted to go back home.

      The Andrews thought they could just leave without clearing their dues. They were wrong.

      Karen is now waiting for her husband to serve out his term. And yes, his trial was conducted in Arabic, so neither he nor Karen understood what was being said. “This isn’t a city, it’s a con-job,” Karen rounds off her sob story. “They lure you in telling you it’s one thing — a modern kind of place — but beneath the surface it’s a medieval dictatorship.”

      Instead of contacting a lawyer or anybody in the legal department to substantiate any of this, Hari uses the sob story as a springboard to go deep-sea diving in the city — and comes across people blessed with a staggering consistency: they are all diehard-with-a-vengeance haters of Dubai and whatever it stands for, yet none of them want to pack their bags and get the hell out of this hell-hole. A few are confused, they think they like it — but a few hard knocks on their conscience, and, sheep-like, they are led off the misguided path.

      As an Indian expat living in Dubai, I know now that I belong in the lowest rung of the city’s ‘intelligence’ hierarchy: that’s been helpfully pointed out by one of the reporter’s sources at an ‘English pub’ right here. But I still want to stick ?my neck out and ask something ?fittingly foolish.

      How would it have worked in any other place if, as a foreigner, I’m heavily in debt — because I’m partying, living The Life and buying houses there — and then decide to go back home, without paying back my creditors? In India, the biggest democracy in the world, one would probably be in prison too. I don’t know how it works in the ‘modern’, free world; I guess I’m an ignoramus.

      The Nazi concentration camps — that’s what came to my mind when I read Hari’s account of Dubai’s labour camps. He’s probably never walked past tenements on Brick Lane and in Southall, so he doesn’t even try to find out about the working conditions back home for the construction workers here — who come mostly from India and Pakistan.

      We all know that in the Indian subcontinent, recruiting agents are a bunch of crooks who extract money out of poor workers to bring them here, where they are usually paid lesser than the sum promised.

      But the funny thing is, despite the undercutting, there are thousands dying to work here and the waiting list keeps getting longer — because they’d still be making much more than they would back home. Yes, right, Dubai has its share of problems: which metropolis doesn’t? Yes, right, it has an underbelly: which cosmopolitan city doesn’t? Yes, right, this is the not the best of times, but isn’t that the same story everywhere else?

      So, what is the point of this lop-sided reporting? Why is The Independent suddenly concerned that Dubai may run out of water, for instance? Or ?that people here can no longer afford to buy flouncy designer dresses ?worth $20,000?

      The tour de force of ‘The Dark Side ?of Dubai’, one that had me in splits, is, undoubtedly, the bit about the 17-year-old Dutch girl in hot pants, in a chi-chi mall, oblivious to swarms of men gaping at her (I’ve never been witness to such a scene in a mall, but that’s besides the point).

      She squeals aloud how she loves the beaches and the heat here, but suddenly crumbles when she’s sternly asked by Hari how she comes to terms with living in a ‘slave society’. “I try not to see,” she tells him, eyes downcast.

      The final act of city’s deviousness is played out when Karen Andrews, of the Range Rover, the creased brow and the creased clothes, is reduced to asking Hari, shamefacedly, if he could buy ?her a meal.

      Even while battling the crushing blow to his soul that Dubai dealt him, I’m sure he was honourable enough not to refuse her.

      I’m also sure he billed it to his expense account.

      • Jim says:


        Welcome to GSTF and thanks for your take on this, Dubai does seem to be doing the rounds lately!

        Where abouts in India are you from btw & how long in Doo-bye?

        • RYK says:

          Jim, those videos and the report is typical piece of cynical shallow journalism, which repeatedly comes from “undercover” obsessed British media. 2 days back The News of The World, a London tabloid had an expose about a Dubai Sheikh trying to “buy” one of the Slumdog Millionaire kids for $1.5Million and the guy was apparently their own “undercover” reporter.

          Infact just today the Indian press has instead reported that there is an Indian living in Saudi who has donated $1.5M to education of the Slumdog kids and he came forward to reveal himself because of this false story!

          Sure Dubai like everyone else has its issues, but this video has sensationalized the issue and does not do justice to the benefits that workers have received in Dubai. Why are there 1 Million labour workers in Dubai id its so bad? They have been attracted by the riches of those that went before them.

          I have been associated with Dubai for 30 years and in the course I know many workers, drivers, shopkeeprs, etc; I personally know 2 pakistani workers who are now back home after 25 years in Dubai and are living a much better life that before they got to Dubai. No piece of 2 day “undercover” journalism can capture the reality of the situation.

          If you ask me, the East European prostitution trade that exists across Europe, US, India & Middle East is far more exploitative than the Dubai Labour Camps.

        • Sam says:

          I am from North of India, a small poor village, my father inherited a small land and he decided to sell it and move to Dubai and start a business today he is a very rich, he always says moving to Dubai was the best decision I have ever made.

          Because of Dubai I studied in the best schools and college in UK and USA and today I work as senior manager in one of the British banks in Dubai and you know what shocked me about this bank that our secret strategy is not to allowed any UAE nationals to reach senior position in the bank, they are only allowed to do joiner positions and the maximum they can reach is a branch manager with no authority.

          This is the situation in the privet sector across Dubai and UAE, NO national will be allowed to be in senior position, however we do all what we can to show the opposite, we mislead the government, give them falls figures, participate in all local recruitments expetions and some time we get rewards for recruiting junior staffs.

          Do you think this is fair that locals in their own country have to struggle to find jobs and to reach senior positions, while it’s so easy for expatriate to work in the privet sector and reach senior levels?

          Next time you come to Dubai take your secret camera to Northern Emirates and see how some poor nationals leave in poverty, while some expatriate leave in Villas next to the beach with their Porsche cars in their Garage.

          • Jim says:

            @RYK – interesting & realistic angle,

            @ Sam..
            I’m in Dubai myself and am glad the over paid and often talentless expats are waking up and some moving on….

            Since expatriating from UK in 2002 I’ve learnt more about myself and others than UI ever thought possible and the tapestry of my life is weaved out….

  2. sarah says:

    All I can say is this is simply eye opening.

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