The writer in question has written about poverty in the UK. Has written about UKs darkside. The sulton, who defends the horrible treatment of workers Dubai, merely is trying to deflect criticism of his own country by creating a strawman to attack.


Poverty is one thing. Slavery is another. Every society has poverty but Dubai chooses to have slavery.

If these people can't tell the difference, it's because they've chosen to wear blinders.


This "20% in poverty" number is highly misleading. The definition of poverty that this study uses is a household income of less than 60% of median income. Under this definition every pensioner who owns his house as well as collecting a pension of $23,000 a year is "poor"...

Of course this definition means that "poverty" will never be eradicated (there will always be people earning less than the average, even if everyone is earning fortunes), Oxfam will always have a cause to ask for donations, and Al Quassemi always can fake outrage.

Nevermind that this poverty threshold of $23,000 a year is probably more than the household income of two-thirds of UAE residents...

Tariq F

I would hope that Dubai can come up with a better rebuttal than that. Though I'm Canadian I've lived in both Britain and Dubai and there is simply no comparison.

Firstly, the author's rebuttal amounts to an admission that they have serious problems, including human rights violations, but "so do you so leave us alone!" Is the correct answer to documented immoral practices that border on slavery to acknowledge them but point to others who are doing the same as justification?

Secondly, and more importantly, the statistics cited are misleading. Anyone can take isolated examples and use them to make something look good or bad, we all know that. I could produce the same for the US or Canada and try to blur the issue enough as to equate them with China or Burma. But it doesn't change the fact that the rule of law and human rights exist in Britain on a level that simply don't exist in Dubai.

After all, as a construction firm in London, can I get away with bringing in cheap foreign labour based on false promises and then enslaving workers by confiscating their passports and forcing them to work for their freedom? NO. Is it done in Dubai not as an isolated example but rather as the norm - as documented by various international human rights groups? YES.



"...including one writer who wants to remind Britons that their own country has a dark side."

= Nice example of the Ad Hominem Tu Quoque logical fallacy


One small problem...

When your definition of poverty is "people living on X% of the median income after housing costs," you're going to have a lot of people living in "poverty," no matter what you do. It's much like listing a massive "homeless" number by including every person in the country who didn't have an official address at any point in the last year. Including who slept on a friend's couch, or whose house burned down (so they had to live in a hotel for a month).

Do you think Sultan Sooud Al Qassemi would care to give comparable numbers for Dubai, including the folks who make a bit more per year than a "poor" Briton makes in a month, or the ones who live in barracks while building some of the tallest buildings on Earth?


This is not a rebuttal! It's a change of topic.

Kevin H

so Sultan Sooud Al Qassemi belives slavery is preferable to homlessness? That's all I took away from that article. It is the worst kind of drivel which takes a 'lets just play nice' attitude which with it's stance to 'not focus on the bad' seeks to wrongly equate all injustices, large and small.


Everyone's made good points so far, I will break that trend.

Did anyone else find the "I could have...." a bit annoying? Especially the end: "I could have written all that, but out of respect for Britain, I decided not to. "

When you say that you "decided not to" do exactly what you did just a few inches up the page, you lose a lot of credibility. Even if you are a Sultan.


I agree that the measure for poverty used was horrible, if 22% of the people earn 60% or less of the mean income the Gini should be very high.

I was unable to find food security rates for either country. I like the food (in)security rate because it measures being poor far better than any other metric I have come across. If anyone knows where to find it please post it

Mr. Shiny & New

My favourite part was all the WWII (or older) statistics. Sure, history is full of injustices. But things change, people learn, and hindsight is 20/20 as they say.

"Dubai has slaves"
"So? England had slaves 100 years ago!"

That's good argumentin'.


I believe we all should take a step back and observe what is happening here:
For the past couple of months the world has been focusing on Dubai, secretly reeling at its possible steep downturn and criticizing everything that the emirate tried to do. Of course criticizing Dubai is necessary - it is as necessary as it was criticizing the process of building New York city on the shoulders of poor emigrants a century and some odd years ago. A place like Dubai that was "born" 30 years ago has to grow up and become more responsible - and if you talk to the people of Dubai, you will realize that they know that.
Basically what Sultan Qassimi is saying is that whilst it is justified pointing out all the faults Dubai might have, why dont we also point out what it has done for this world? Would we want a Middle East without Dubai as a stabilizing factor? Would Europe find another such platform for economic and political collaboration in the Arab world? Would the Arab world currently have another "role model"?
I dont think so.

So people, if for once a journalist from a non-european or american country dares to rebuff - lets cut him some slack and give him credit for what he is doing: If you have read any of his other work, you will know that you will not find many other writers with such open critique about his own society - your own country included!


Sultan Sooud Al Qassemi

I just want to say how much I respect the British press, they have printed a critical article about themselves. It reflects professionalism and neutrality.

Things aren't perfect in Dubai, but we are working on them. We need help and advice from others and we welcome constructive objective criticism.

I have personally written about human rights, women rights, children rights, labor rights, environmental protection and criticised my own country and provided solutions. We are not blind to our shortcomings, we need to work much faster though to remedy these issues.

Finally, I was amused by the abusive and racist comments about me on The Independent's website, people don't like to feel attacked and I have obviously hit a sensitive nerve.

Finally, to the ignoramuses out there, please note that my first name is Sultan, it's not a title.


Dubai is not the only country in the world guilty of the charges put against it! This is a classic case of "the pot calling the kettle black." Most countries have a fair share of problems.I think what the leadership in Dubai should do is allow workers the freedom to express their concerns to a government regulatory body.Lets face it, people are being ripped off not by government but by developers and employers with no work ethics.Holding people to ransom for their passports has absolutely nothing to with the authorities(this is same modus oprendi of expats from India trying to hold sway over their fellow countryman looking for a better life in our country -South Africa) .Given the fact that these kind of problems have been brought to the attention of the Dubai authorities,an immediate investigation should be launched and all employers guilty of infringing basic human rights should be punished in the same way that debt defaulters are punished.There should be some sort of work ethic or code formulated which both employer and employee must abide by and this should be strictly monitored by the relevant authorities.The leader of Dubai should understand that he is the shepard of his flock and as such has a moral obligation to them,if he fails this responsibility he knows what his deen(way of life ie Islam )expect of him ....RESIGN and hand over the reigns to somebody more competent than himself.Shame on countries whose embassies fail to represent their people that are being exploited! I think that is worst than the unscrupulous employers.



Funny how you guys just sit there and comment about the poverty part of the whole article, yet you chose to turn a blind eye on every other fact that was stated in it just like you criticize Dubai at turning a blind eye on the slavery. Most of you and probably all of you have not lived in Dubai and probably never seen this place, you see it on tv and you hear about it from friends, and all your personal comments root from a word of mouth, and we know what a word of mouth can do you.
"Jealousy is a disease", and from what it appears to me, seems like your all ill and need to see a doctor, but obviously a doctor to straighten out your crooked. Word of advice, educate yourself before you comment...


I think a couple of points have been lost:

If you are very concerned about the welfare and wellbeing of poor people, then your best course of action is probably focusing on your own country. This is because you have access to political channels, to local knowledge, and possibly to lending your own time to charity.

We can also affect change overseas, but that relies on our credibility. In the Western world, we walk past homeless children on our way to protest China. Our freedom is often protected by torture, and our affluence by financial oppression. Yes, we can criticize other countries' policies, but our ignorance and our track record saps our credibility.


Not sure how many people will get this far down in the comments...

Johann Hari, the author of "The Dark Side of Dubai", actually wrote his own response to the critique you cite on The Independent. I included the link below - he addresses many of the above comments.



Shamim Bukhari

Having lived in the UK and USA for several years, I understand there is no difference between how they treat an Indian construction worker in Dubai and a "Niger" worker in Fulham or Brixton. Goodluck Poles!!

While I appreciate the neutrality of British newspaper, what I feel from various comments written on this page and some other website is that many Britons and Americans really hate any kind of criticism. I am amused by baseless assertions / conclusions made up the page. Some have very dishonestly asserted that Sultan, in his article, has established or tried to establish that ""Dubai has slaves" or "slavery is preferable to homelessness". Indeed, he has NOT!!

James O'Hearn

One point that has been covered in this debate, but has not been explored, has been the practice of "taking" passports.

In Dubai, the law is clear - employers are not allowed to take an employee's passport. For those who work in a professional capacity, there is never a question about surrendering your passport. I wouldn't surrender mine, ever, because I know what that entails. But my side is not the only side of this issue.

Then why does this happen? To understand why, it is better to look on the issue with the eye to economics rather than law or morality.

Yes, employers are not allowed to take and hold employee passports. However, employers also directly sponsor any expat employees, and as the sponsor, are on the hook for any illegal action on the part of the sponsored employee.

Complicating the issue is the way businesses are structured. Foreigners are not actually allowed to own businesses in Dubai, only locals can. Say an entrepreneur comes to Dubai and wants to set up a company. He has money, skill, and connections, but in order to do business he has to find a local, a UAE citizen, to sponsor the business. The local takes a fee, or yearly salary in exchange for putting their name on the business license, and for most sponsors, their involvement ends there. This creates a lucrative sideline for many locals, but it also allows for a weakness in the system.

The business operator, the person who actually runs the business, has to make sure that the sponsor isn't dragged into any unnecessary mess. If some employee ran afoul of the police, the overall sponsor is on the hook for that person's actions, just as much as the business operator is. At any time, the sponsor can decide to withdraw his sponsorship, and that company and all their employees will be up a creek without a paddle.

Which leads to the passport holding issue.

Why do so many come to Dubai? The streets are not paved with gold, but they may as well be when you compare this place to almost any other place in South East Asia. The opportunity to escape a life of poverty is possible here, but impossible where many of these workers are from. Plus, the vast majority of expat laborers come from desperate straights. They do not know the laws of the country, and they all come in order to better their situation. Given a chance, more than a few would slip away from their job sites, looking for even better opportunities, opportunities that do exist here. It's just basic economics - enlightened self interest in action. But by doing so, they would actually be breaking the law, as you cannot just switch employers here. You have to leave the country, and re-apply for a new visa.

Were a number of employees able to slip away, sure a few would find their footing fast, but a number would not. What options would they then have? A chance to become a vagrant? Go begging for money? That is all illegal here. And where do you sleep? It's a desert. If you don't have housing, it's not like you can just hang out under a bridge, and kick back in a cozy cardboard box. In the summer it hits 50 degrees in the day, and often around 40 at night because of the humidity.

Soon enough those newly liberated employees would find themselves in a jail cell. Their employer and sponsor would be dragged in, and there would be a whole lot of hell to pay all around. Which is why a lot of these employers take passports. The practice is frowned upon, but usually overlooked as an acceptable compromise.

What I've outlined only includes a few of the complications involved in this issue, because you have to also take into account transportation, food, culture, religion, and sanitation. Dubai has grown faster than almost any city on record, and due to this, comes into contact with issues and difficulties no one had really thought about until they happened.



I believe that using the concept of relative poverty employed in this context, the US has a greater percentage of its population living in poverty than the UK.