When I wrote my post about Dubai bashing, I was responding mostly to email and twitters from friends who had read the New York Times article and others asking me, "Are you alright in Dubai? I hear there are cockroaches coming out of the faucets and that the airport is full of dumped cars." I would have to reply saying, "I'm fine." It seemed like the rate of negative press about Dubai was increasing and that there was an aggressively negative tone and lack of context in the reporting.
In my blog post, I focused more on sending a message to my friends saying, "I'm fine. The demise of Dubai is exaggerated." I linked to an article which, among other criticisms of Dubai, reported on the mistreatment of migrant workers in the UAE.
There has been a outpouring of criticism about my blog post, some from my closest friends, criticizing me about glossing over the human rights issue as if they weren't important. I still believe that the article by Hari is unfairly negative in tone and lacks context. However, I do apologize for any implication that human rights in not a serious issue.
I have read the Human Rights Watch report, Building Towers, Cheating Workers - Exploitation of Migrant Construction Workers in the United Arab Emirates which was very informative. I am in touch with various people and will focus some attention on gathering first-hand information about the issue. I promise to write something about this as soon as I feel I am informed enough to have an reasonably accurate view. My personal opinion is that in order to be effective, I need to understand the context, including the situation on the government side, before taking a strong stand.
I've spent a great deal of my life involved in activism - calling ministers liars on TV, marching in the streets with megaphones and protesting and arguing every government policy in Japan that I felt strongly about. I'm not afraid to take a stand on issues I believe are wrong.
It's just that I've learned over the years that strategy, context and an understanding of the situation on the recipient side of the message you are trying to send is essential in causing change. Thoughtful and persistent pressure by organizations like Human Rights Watch, combined with contextual local activism is, in my view, the foundation for positive long-term change and I will pledge to try to find a way that I can contribute to improving the human rights situation in the UAE, as well as every other location I have the ability to affect.