23 March, 2008

Voice for Abused Women Upsets Dubai Patriarchy

Excellent article on Sharla Musabih in the New York Times.

She's a woman who is very familiar with conflict but it seems that the very people she is trying to help are (perhaps unknowingly or under bribes) being used against her.

*sarcasm* Great to see the esteemed Chief of Police remaining unbiased.
*end sarcasm*

If there wasn't a problem with violence against women, there would be no need for people like Sharla. Some people seriously need to get their heads out of the sand and face reality.


Nadim said...

What an amazing woman, bless her. Dubai needs people like her!

secretdubai said...

Sadly this doesn't surprise me at all. I wrote about Sharla a few years ago, and some time after that a man - I believe one of the abusive husbands - began posting comment after comment of defamatory and threatening remarks. They included Sharla's mobile number and home address (where her children live).

I deleted all the comments as they arrived, traced the IP of the commenter (he appeared to be using a particular internet cafe in Abu Dhabi) and send everything in a file to a mutual contact. Eventually this guy gave up.

The campaign to discredit her says everything about the "values" of a certain section of the community here: people that believe it somehow preserves "honour" and tradition for a woman to stay with an abusive spouse.

Those of use with more enlightened views see it as quite the opposite: it is an absolute perversion of any virtue or honour to fail to protect the weak.

Dubai Guy said...

She is really doing a good job, although recently she had again been targetted negatively by some columnists in arabic media. I am glad she is getting the recognition she deserves, if not at home then at least by the foreign media.

Proud Emirati said...

Yea the local newspapers have been attacking here recently.

Women are abused, here and everywhere in the world, no one can deny that. It is a very naive to assume that the government here try to cover that. Anyone who believe so doesn't know anything about the UAE or Dubai.

but fact is that she doesn't have any license to operate. I mean even fish market have licensees so who does she think she is getting into when she open anything without the approval of the authority?

Many say that Sharla encouraged those women to leave their families and children and that she is looking for publicity .....

Proud Emirati said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Proud Emirati said...

one more thing the government of Dubai established an entity to support abused women and children

but yea, I totally agree that the authorities should be tough on whom abuse their wives or children.

phantom said...

I am not surprised. This is the response of a backward culture.

nzm said...

Proud Emirati: what sort of license would Sharla apply for? Is what she does, recognised with licensing in any way? Would she receive such a license from authorities who obviously don't believe in and condone what she does?

I believe that when she started her refuge, Sharla was more outwardly recognised and supported by the authorities. It's only recently, after an official attempt to start another refuge hasn't gone so well, (as mentioned in the article), that the attacks against her have become more public and vocal.

Power to her - anyone who works towards stopping violence from happening has my vote!

Proud Emirati said...

nzm, they don't believe in her way of dealing with the problem but they sure believe that female abuse is a problem that should dealt with. That is why a governmental agency was founded for that.

A license should be acquired from the ministry of Social issues, Dubai Islamic Charity Department or anyone responsible for such things. What she is doing is illegal, law wise.

The problem of Sharla has started years ago and not now. What happened recently only added fire to what was already there.

Assistant Editor said...

However, Musabih's efforts have been recognized by the highest levels of the Emirates government, which has taken her lead and has started the Dubai Foundation for Women and Children.
Although the government has asked Musabih to Although the government has asked Musabih to merge her organisation with the Dubai Foundation, she has declined, opting to keep it as a non-governmental organization for the country and a "City of Hope" for the women and children who seek refuge there.


rosh said...

Positive article by NYT, pleasure reading. Hands down to people like Sharla, much (very much) needed in the UAE and across the GCC.

Gulf News, given another spineless piece shot themselves at the heart of Journalistic integrity, yet again.

nzm said...

Proud Emirati: thanks for the explanation.


I do however think that there is a place for both government and private ventures like Sharla's, otherwise there would be no balance to what is being done, and no benchmark to measure the effectiveness of either side.

Look at the Chief of Police's comments in that article about how trouble between a husband and a wife should be left for the courts to decide. Sadly, often by the time it gets to the courts, it's usually too late for one of them - more often the wife who has either been seriously injured or killed.

With the Chief of Police thinking the way in which he does, I doubt that any agency dealing with this issue would have the full backing and support of the Dubai police. His views would taint the rest of the force and there are most likely to be police officers with even stronger viewpoints than his!

Until the police and the authorities start to deal with situations according to the law, and not to whatever their personal opinions may be, the authorities will be in conflict.

Sharla fights an opposition that is full of antiquated ideas and sexist people. I doubt that any amount of education or information fed to these people would get them to change their minds.

What needs to be appointed is a sympathetic mediator between the refuges and the authorities - someone whose fundamental ideas and beliefs support that violence (in this case, against women), is unacceptable behaviour and the main priority is to ensure the safety of the women and to get them away from the cause of the violence as quickly as possible.

Someone who has a direct line to the Al Maktoums would be ideal because if the UAE seriously wants to deal with this issues, then the Al Maktoums' actions on these matters will be the only effective ones - just as Sheikh Mohammed did with the child jockey affair.

My 2 fils!

Editor said...

Maybe some serious changes are on the way....

"In the first international conference of its kind, delegations from 32 countries are discussing the relationship between federal and local courts, the challenges to judicial systems in the 21st century and the application of Sharia law as a legal system."


Proud Emirati said...

lovely video

Arab Lady said...

Women get abused everywhere in this world its not a matter of arab/ muslim men. She should use a better approach in highlighting the issue & team up with governmental body for example. I’m against her being interviewed by foreign media as a way of exerting pressure on the local media & authority.

New York Times gave a very bad image about Dubai & UAE ppl esp men as if they are abusing women systematically. Now Sharla is denying what was written in that newspaper!

Yes she needs to abide by UAE regulations & use a peaceful diplomatic approach…although she is a Muslim with UAE citizenship she is still viewed as American Outsider…

Arab Lady said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
A S Woods said...

United Hope UAE: Feminism Run Amuck
All too often women are innocent victims of what can rightfully be described as systematic abuse, oppression and neglect, in addition to the feeling of utter desperation in trying to seek help in a male dominated society. As such, there is, and will always be, a pressing need for private organizations to stand up for those without defense and to advocate for the rights of women in the society. But what happens when these private agencies become so powerful that they become themselves the administrators, deciders and executors of the law. Such is the case with Ms. Sharla Musabih, her group United Hope, and her network of shelters for women in the UAE. The ostensible aim of her organization is to thwart human trafficking and to counter any domestic abuse that may take place in the UAE. To that end, her efforts should be praised, commended and assisted by the local government and the community at large. The problem arises when she interferes with family disputes and usurps the local laws based upon her own since of what is fair and proper. Such was the case last Thursday.
Recently, I exercised my basic right as a human being to divorce my wife. My wife found in Ms. Sharla Musabih and her activist organization United Hope, a potent tool to exact her revenge upon me. Without ever meeting me, speaking with the children, advising counseling, or going through the local legal channels for divorce in Dubai, she ruled based upon her conversation with my ex wife that I was an abusive parent. She then executed her judgment, while I was away at work, by sending her local aid to collect my wife and children, hiding them in a local ‘shelter.’ So two young children, ages four and seven, were taken from their school, home, and father without any consultation, arbitration, or even conversation with their father! The local police were very helpful and blocked their passports, thus preventing them from traveling. It was from them that I learned this Ms. Sharla Musabih has been sent back to America for causing other such problem between families. Since Thursday, I have emailed her repeatedly seeking a return of my children, but she refuses, insisting that they are now safe from me. When I conveyed to her what I learned from the local police she replied:
‘These are very simple police you a communicating with! I certainly did not get kicked out of the country! In fact I am coordinating with the UAE Gov. to set up a system & recognize my new non profit to enhance the system on behalf of victims! We are in contact with the Minister Dr Anwar Gargash & the Ambassador H.E Yousuf Al Otaiba for our up coming project! It is not uncommon for such rumours to fly about this type of work, as it is a new concept, however it is very Islamic to protect women & children or even provide a time out!

I am a UAE national & the UAE Gov. has worked with respect & honor with me, I am featured on the Federal Gov. Website!’

It is organizations like United Hope that truly hamper the cause of women’s advocacy in the Muslim world and stunt the growth of local agencies to protect women. Rather than working with local officials and advising patience and restraint, they become filled with a warped since of self righteousness, taking the law into their own hands. This breeds mistrust in the hearts of government officials who truly wish to defend the rights of women, but fear, as in my case, that the oppressed quickly become the oppressor.
A S Woods
May 9, 2009


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