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  • Detained in Dubai

Etoum case proves blood is not thicker than politics in the Middle East

Radha Stirling, CEO of Detained in Dubai, issued the following statement:

“The UAE jailed a Jordanian activist in February, with a 10-year sentence, for criticising the government of Jordan over an increasingly iron-fisted crackdown on free speech and human rights in the country. Just over a month later, Jordan placed Prince Hamza bin Hussein (half-brother of the king) under house arrest for the same reason. While the ex-wife of Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, herself a Jordanian princess, continues to pursue divorce and child custody hearings against the Dubai Ruler, fraught relations between the UAE and Jordan appear to be healing over a common interest in supporting regional authoritarianism. It seems in the Middle East, blood is not thicker than dictatorship.

“Despite the ongoing family disputes between the royal families of Dubai and Jordan, Abu Dhabi’s imprisonment of 46-year-old Ahmed Etoum can only be interpreted as a gesture by the UAE government that zero tolerance will be extended to critics of any member of the Saudi Arabia and Emirates-led coalition of authoritarianism in the Middle East formed originally as an alliance against Qatar. Jordan had been seen as a somewhat noncommittal member of that group, continuing to solicit and receive financial assistance from Doha during the blockade, and the awkward row between Sheikh Mohammed and Princess Haya bint Hussein threatened to further weaken Jordan’s relationship with the UAE. However, Jordan’s use of the Covid-19 pandemic to broaden its security and intelligence controls, and to curtail civil liberties in the country demonstrated to the UAE that King Abdullah of Jordan remains, as the Clinton Administration said of Indonesian dictator Suharto in 1995, their “kind of guy.”

“The house arrest of Prince Hamza, the former heir to the throne, reveals just how insecure the regime of King Abdullah has become, and the UAE government can surely relate. Recent years of high profile controversies in the Emirates; the escape, abduction and continued detention of Sheikh Mohammed’s daughter Princess Latifa, Princess Haya fleeing the country, the instability of Ras Al Khaimah Ruler Sheikh Saud bin Saqr Al Qassimi, an