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Dubai's downside
UAE society is completely stratified with every inhabitant categorized

Rachel Cerbone
February 28, 2005

A significant challenge that I have faced would be the enslavement of the non-locals in the United Arab Emirates. I can't speak for all Arab states in the Persian Gulf , but my experience is the UAE is quite disturbing. I decided to go to the UAE because I wanted to work whilst traveling abroad. My friend boasted of a thriving metropolis that has anything and everything you could want from a typical Western country; she also explained how easy it would be to find a job in this budding city of Dubai.

When I arrived, I could clearly see this was an affluent country. What I could not see stepping off the plane was the slave labor it took to run the country. I think the general consensus of the world is that places like Ethiopia or Cuba are poor countries where people live in misery on a daily basis. What people do not see is that the same thing is going on in the UAE, to a lesser extent.

In a street filled with luxurious cars and lined with florid buildings, you can find poor, exploited Pakistanis living in squalor. Emirati society is completely stratified with every inhabitant categorized into a tier on the triangle. It is a conglomerate of cultures which would lead one to think would foster a robust society as it has here in New York but the truth is to the contrary. People are clearly divided in the city; as there are borders between countries, there are borders dividing the cities into cultural spheres. Clearly, as a Westerner, I was afforded more rights being in a latter tier but even still I never felt equal.

The UAE has not signed any of the UN's human rights agreements which gives way to a lot of problems and discontent among its workers. I always maintained that if the UAE did not have the rest of the world to force as its slave labor within its own borders, it would completely crumble. Furthermore, the locals aren't really educated and they don't need to be in a country based on nepotism.

One of the major problems for me is employment. I was working for a company and I had to work 6 days a week, which I got used to. What I could not take was teaching 8 classes a day with no time to prepare for my other classes so I was constantly working overtime and not getting paid. My company branch was in a constant state of distress.

As a female, I was not given the respect that is demanded for a man so when I tried to clarify certain objectives within the office I was constantly ignored and coddled. Meanwhile, if I tried to persuade a fellow Western colleague to help me in my endeavors, s/he would do nothing because they accepted this mind frame. They felt they couldn't change it, so they didn't.

Another problem I witnessed was the non-payment of many of the workers. The scam these local companies have is to coax many Indians and Pakistanis into paying money in pursuit of a better life, job and more money to send back to their family. I met several people who told me in their countries there were teachers and engineers meanwhile they are preparing my order. Once they get to the Emirates, they are forced to work day and night and it has been reported that they withhold their pay for no reason.

One such case was a group of Bengalis who, after coaxed into paying money to go to Dubai for their new life, worked for 9 months without pay. They have no rights because they are non-citizens, part of they scheme they have cooked up over there. Eventually, they did make a formal complaint, which they can do, and it pushed the government to put pressure on the company to pay them, which it did- 3 months' salary.

In the end, I thought it best to return to New York and give my life here an opportunity. I did not find the Emirates to be a fair country and I could not deal with the daily injustices that were committed in part of the Emirati government. If you are a visitor of Dubai, you won't see this part of the picture but working there enables you to see the greater part of the spectrum.

In retrospect, I'm glad I had the opportunity to live in Dubai because I learned a lot about the world and how it works. Living in the West, you don't really see this kind of thing and it made me appreciate what I have here in America a lot more.

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