The UAE. A place famous for tax-free shopping, stunning feats of construction and beautiful beaches. So much so that one million Britons visit each year. Scratch beneath the aesthetics of opulent Dubai however, and a much darker story begins to emerge.
In the past, the rulers have distributed wealth amongst their citizens in exchange for political acquiescence. Following the advent of the Arab Spring, this has begun to unravel as the lack of democratic institutions has become clear. Of course, when the indigenous population makes up less than 10% of the population it is a little easier to ignore or suppress any whispers for democratic reform.
Last year, the case of the UAE 5 gained some traction in the West as five individuals were prosecuted for undermining state security after calling for increased democratic accountability in their country. After the international community's gaze fleetingly turned towards the UAE, the five were granted pardons and the focus swiftly moved onto other matters.
Now our attention must turn back towards the UAE. In the past months arrests by the security forces have been spreading, best exemplified by the case of the UAE 7. Like the five before them, these seven individuals became disillusioned with the democratic falsity of the Federal National Council. Elections in 2006 exposed the farcical nature of this pseudo-democratic body, where half of the forty seats on offer were elected by a few thousand handpicked citizens chosen by the authorities.
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