Trial of 94 Citizens In UAE Continues to Spur Question: Will Government Crackdown Spurn Political Dissension?
Last month, a mass trial of over 90 suspects began in the United Arab Emirates to investigate whether these individuals are linked to an Islamist network seeking to topple the UAE government. Defense attorneys argue that this group is nothing more than judges, lawyers, doctors who have been victims of a panic induced by the Arab Spring series of political revolts and uprisings. The trials of these individuals continue to be under the microscope of political analysts, activists, governments, and citizens of Middle Eastern countries as well as key Western actors like the United States.
The reason there is so much scrutiny of the United Arab Emirate’s trials is in part because of how wealthy the UAE and the fact that it has one of the heaviest concentrations of social media users per capita outside of the United States. We as outside observers see a familiar recipe beginning to come together in the UAE. First, the UAE consists of a well-educated populace with a 77% (CIA) total literacy rate. Secondly, the UAE has a fairly young median age of 30 years of age (CIA). Emiratis also enjoy a per capita GDP of almost $50,000 ranking 16th in the world.
Also present in the UAE is a government, controlled by a small group of elites, which has recently witnessed relatively stable governments/economies like that in Egypt and Tunisia overthrown from within. Each Imarat has to worry not only about the federation as a whole but also about maintaining control of his emirate.
This trial, in Associated Press writer Brian Murphy’s opinion, “Reflects a fundamental retooling of how the Western-allied Gulf states approach the business of using and keeping their power from the arrests to the court sessions to the media controls on coverage” (UAE Coup Trial). With such political crackdowns, one has to wonder, will all of this backlash by the UAE government actually accelerate dissent? In a country that has so many educated, wealthy, and highly sociable people how can a government maintain that does not allow opposing political parties to form maintain power. Not only that, but how should the West and most importantly, America react to such blatant disregards for the rights of individuals? The UAE is a vital ally to the United States in the Middle East however, does America benefit more from the current power structure or by supporting the rights of the individuals all across the world in the hopes that when reforms come to these countries the United States is looked at in a positive light.
The UAE government has two options, continue to crackdown on their citizens in hopes that they can quell them into submission or become more lax in their laws and rules of political participation and possible lose their control of the government. Either way, the chance of reform in the UAE seems to be growing steadily.
"Central Intelligence Agency." CIA. Central Intelligence Agency - United States of America, 26 Mar. 2013. Web. 07 Apr. 2013.
Murphy, Brian. "UAE Coup Trial Offers Window Into Wider Gulf Fears." Philly.com. Associated Press, 07 Apr. 2013. Web. 07 Apr. 2013.
Sambidge, Andy. "UAE to Settle Citizens' Debts up to $1.36m." Arabian Business. N.p., 20 May 2012. Web. 07 Apr. 2013.