Image of Dubai skyline with a quote from Radya Stirling, Founder and CEO of Detained in Dubai, stating: "It's highly risky to go to the UAE. It's the most likely place for British nationals to run into legal troubles abroad."

Legal expert warns Radio 4 listeners it is “highly risky” to go to UAE

Radha Stirling, Founder and CEO of the UAE legal justice group Detained in Dubai issued a strong warning to British nationals thinking of visiting the UAE, telling listeners to the Today Programme “it’s the most likely place for British nationals to run into legal troubles abroad”.

Ms Stirling was interviewed by the Today Programme on 12 April 2019 after the British woman Laleh Shahravesh, 55, was arrested at a Dubai airport and faced up to two years in jail after calling her ex-husband’s new wife a “horse”. Ms Shahravesh was eventually freed and allowed to return to the UK, following a high profile media campaign led by   Detained in Dubai.

Arrested for social media posts made whilst in England

Ms Shahravesh was arrested under the UAE’s wide-range cyber-crime law. Under the law, a person can be jailed or fined for making defamatory statements on social media. Even more troubling for staff and students considering travelling to the new University of Birmingham Dubai campus, Ms Shahravesh  was arrested for social media posts she had made whilst living in England in 2016, prior to moving to Dubai.

Speaking to Jon Humphries, Ms Stirling said: “these laws criminalize 2.6 billion social media users before they ever get to Dubai.

“Anyone who you might have had an argument with in the past – and maybe you don’t even know them, maybe you had a Twitter war with them – they can actually go through your social media and report you to the telecom regulation authority who could then take a police a case against you. It’s extremely risky.

“The fact is almost everyone who visits Dubai is going to be in breach of those cyber laws and that means they could be subject to arrest.”

You can listen to the full interview below.

LGBT+ staff and students advised to hide their identity when working in Dubai

The arrest of Laleh Shahravesh is the latest in a long line of controversies surrounding Dubai. On 1 1 April, the University’s Rainbow Network took the unusual step of issuing gudance to LGBT+ staff and students, advising them to hide their identity when working at new Dubai campus.

The “Top tips for travelling to Dubai” document offers a range of tips, from altering one’s next of kin details through to changing how they dress and avoiding carrying out academic activities which could be perceived as LGBTQ advocacy.

In the email to members that accompanied the guidance, the network’s leadership said:

“We must emphasise that we are unhappy about having to produce a document like this given our usual push for LGBTQ inclusion and visibility in the workplace, but in this instance our concern for staff welfare is our top priority.”

Boycott of University of Birmingham Dubai continues

In November 2018, Birmingham UCU members voted unanimously to support an academic boycott of the University of Birmingham’s Dubai campus after the jailing of British academic Matthew Hedges.

Despite the persistent controversies in the UAE, University of Birmingham management continue to refuse to enter into meaningful negotiations with the recognised campus trade unions over serious concerns about staff and student safety; construction workers’ rights; and academic freedom at the new Dubai campus. On the contrary, in February, the University announced it had signed a contract worth an estimated £100 milllion to expand the Dubai campus and, responding to concerns raised by a a member of staff, Vice Chancellor Sir David Eastwood opted to describe Dubai as a “relatively straightforward, comfortable and relatively open environment”.

For information about the academic boycott and how you can support it, please visit the Boycott UoB Dubai! web page.

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