Thursday, March 27, 2008

Domestic violence

Gulf News
Dubai: The Chief of Dubai Police has said it seems that Sharla Musabeh, the owner of the City of Hope women's shelter, is suffering from psychological problems.

Women at the shelter had previously told Gulf News that she had profited from their misery and sold their stories to international media as well as treating them like servants. One woman even claimed that she sold her newborn.

"She is ignoring and neglecting UAE laws and justice. No one should give any attention to what she has said through the international media* which she is using to attack our country," Lieutenant General Dahi Khalfan Tamim said.

"We do not need to defend ourselves. I call what is published in international media about the UAE as unprofessional and a cheap shot at the UAE."

*Earlier this week the New York Times covered the story:
Emiratis do not often take kindly to rights advocates drawing attention to the dark side of their fast-growing city-state on the Persian Gulf, better known for its gleaming office towers and artificial islands.

Still, no one was quite prepared for the stories that started appearing in Dubai newspapers this month. Suddenly, unidentified female victims were coming forward to say that “Mama Sharla” herself had abused them, forced them to work as servants and sold their stories to foreign journalists for thousands of dollars, pocketing the proceeds. She even sold one woman’s baby, the articles said, hinting at criminal investigations.

To Ms. Musabih and her supporters, the accusations, which appear to be baseless, are the latest chapter in a long campaign of threats and defamation that began with angry husbands and has grown to include prominent clerics, and even the directors of a new government-financed women’s shelter, who, she says, would like to silence her.

The ferocity of the dispute is unusual for Dubai, and underscores a major challenge facing this proudly apolitical business capital. The city’s few rights advocates have always been quietly shunted aside. But as the conservative Muslim ethos of Dubai’s native Arab minority rubs against the varied perspectives of a much larger foreign population, debates about how to approach taboo subjects like domestic violence and the city’s prevalent prostitution are getting louder.

Ms. Musabih, 47, a boisterous American transplant who was born and raised on Bainbridge Island, Wash., argues that confrontation is essential in fighting the patriarchal Arab traditions that allow men to beat their wives with impunity. She and her supporters also say the Emirates have not acknowledged the severity of their problem with human trafficking, the brutal business in which foreign women are lured here with promises of jobs and then forced into prostitution or servitude. Last year the United States State Department placed the Emirates and 31 other countries on a watch list for failing to effectively combat the illegal trade.

“When a woman has three broken bones in her back, and the police don’t take it seriously, yes, I get angry,” Ms. Musabih said.

Others say Ms. Musabih’s aggressive approach — which includes appeals to foreign news media as well as tough, face-to-face lobbying — is inappropriate in the Arab world, and has needlessly fueled the backlash she now faces. That assertiveness may also have made it easier to dismiss her as an outsider. Although she has lived here for 24 years, converted to Islam, is an Emirati citizen, wears a veil and has raised six children here with her Emirati husband, Ms. Musabih is still unmistakably American, from her moralistic zeal to her habit of calling the women in her shelter “darlin’.”

“I have told her sometimes I think she is wrong, she goes too far,” said Lt. Gen. Dahi al-Khalfan, the chief of the Dubai Police, who has supported Ms. Musabih in the past but now tends to criticize her work as divisive. “There is a case between husband and wife; let the court decide! Leave it.”

Does WomenseNews have more? Just about anything is for sale in Dubai.

Earlier Al Jazeera reported on her work.

Gulf News has published numerous letters of support for Mrs. Musabeh, and critical of the way Gulf News has reported the story.


Anonymous Philip J. Cenedella said...

23 March 2008 - Easter Sunday
Written by person who remains unnamed, her story and identity have been verified.

I recently left Dubai after living there for seven years. I am a British Citizen (Christian) who moved to the Middle East with my husband, also a British Citizen (Christian.) During this period, my husband took advantage of the Islamic society and repeatedly abused me for years. Thirty-seven trips to Lt. General Dahi Al Khaifan's Police station, many times with severe bruises and bleeding, only led to the advise "go back home and stop making trouble for your husband."

I have known Sharla Musabih for five years. During 2007 I had nowhere left to go in Dubai , I feared for my life and that of my child at the hands of my husband. I turned to Sharla for support and help. She offered us safety at her Jumeriah shelter without question, hesitation or cost.

While at the shelter I noted Sharla was very attentive to all the women and children she harbored. I saw her repeatedly give money from her own purse to the women. Sharla made time to meet each woman in the shelter to address the individual personally about their particular case and provide legal representation.

In response to Lt. General Dahi Al Khaifan’s laughable statement criticizing Sharla’s work as divisive, all I can do is repeat the words I heard from his subordinates:
“Go back home and stop making trouble for your husband,…..and oh, do you need a bandaid?”

Actually, they never did ask me if I needed a bandaid, or anything for that matter.

Is this how the world’s richest nation and America ’s strategic partner treats western women who find themselves visiting or living in their “City of the 21st Century?” I am here to say that is exactly the state of affairs in the year 2008 in the United Arab Emirates .

Sharla is the only person trying to do anything to help abused women and children in Dubai . The Dubai police do nothing only make an already bad situation worse! They repeatedly sent me back to my husband to be beaten, threatened and intimidated. Dubai has no agencies set up to deal with spousal abuse and the Emirati Government will do anything to sweep it under the carpet. They want no negative publicity and view Sharla as a thorn in their sides.

She is being persecuted for her work, lies are being spread to discredit her and those in power are making every effort to beat her down. I am here to say, with firsthand knowledge, that Sharla Musabih is truly the “Mother Teresa of Dubai !!!”

8:23 AM  
Blogger rosh said...

Sadly this is quite true and the letter above I believe is a an honest testament to rights and protection in the UAE for women.

As for General Dahi Khalfan Tamim - well, all I can say this isn't the first time he makes callous statements.

5:12 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think she has really been victimized. If what the arab media is saying is really true, why don't they give her a chance to defend herself, something which she has been denied as per her statement in one of her interviews.

9:37 AM  
Anonymous Dubai Mom said...

I have known Sharla Musabih since 2004!!! What GN is reporting is absolute rubbish!! Sharla is a kind hearted Muslim Woman who does everything she can to protect abused women. I volunteered at the shelter for the years i was living in dubai and was there for nearly all events. One in particular stuck with older lady married to an arab seeked refuge at the center during Ramadan. Her husband found her and confronted Sharla and I and 2 others to let her and threatened us. The woman was so afraid, I personally helped this woman since i was volunteering, took her to the hospital numerous times. Sharla never took any money and willingly helped and gave these women and children anything they needed. I was also there during a newspaper interview, she was never paid in exchange for the stories and NEVER forced any one to talk!!!! as for selling a child, NONSENSE!!! thats not what happened...parents adopted a child conceived during a rape WITH the consent of the mother who underwent extensive explanation about the choice she herself made to have her baby adopted and everything was done legally!!! no one coerced or convinced her of it, SHE ASKED how she would go about doing it.
I myself suffered at the hands of an abusive boyfriend, if it wasn't for Sharla I would have never been able to leave him! I am now happily married to the most amazing man on earth.
STOP SPREADING RUMORS ABOUT SHARLA MUSABIH just because you don't want the precious country's truth to be known!! I have lived and grown up in Dubai my whole life, I saw it change from a plain desert to the fantastic city it is now! Domestic abuse is in every single country in the world, that's not what will affect tourism so stop defaming an incredible person for that!! She belongs back in Dubai with her husband and kids that adore her!!! STOP RUINING HER LIFE!!!

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