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No eggplants, please: UAE criminalises 'rude emojis' Open in fullscreen

The New Arab

No eggplants, please: UAE criminalises 'rude emojis'

Emojis can be deemed offensive, threatening and a form of harassment [Getty]

Date of publication: 10 April, 2019

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In March, a British woman was arrested over a Facebook post in which she compared her ex-husband's new wife to a horse
Using emojis that are deemed to be insulting, threatening or a form of harassment can land you in trouble if you are in the United Arab Emirates, notoriously known for its harsh repercussions for actions perceived to be normal in other parts of the world.

The latest law to hit the overtly-sensitive Gulf state came to light during a case against an Asian worker who was accused of slander and libel for commenting on an image of a group of people using the fox emoji, local media reported.

The fox emoji, in this case, was deemed to be an offensive remark by the people in the picture who filed charges against the worker.

The worker could face a fine if found guilty, according to local lawyers, who noted the misuse of emojis. "Sending a flower or a heart to a woman could be considered as harassment," according to Khaleej Times.

Similarly, sending an emoji of a knife of weapon could be considered a threat, the lawyer added.

The UAE has repeatedly come under criticism for human rights abuses, more recently for its treatment of foreigners accused of petty "crimes".

"Beyond the sun, sea and skyscrapers, most tourists are oblivious to the UAE's continued detention of foreigners who are arrested for behaviour deemed criminal under the country's harsh laws," noted The New Arab's Sana Uqba in her recent report, Detained in Dubai.

Earlier this month, reports showed Christian Wilke, a former teacher at Kate Middleton's school, was jailed in the UAE for a Facebook post in which he is alleged to have said that camels in the Gulf state were treated better than humans.

Wilke spent nine month imprisoned in the UAE over the "electronic insult", The Sun reported, in which time he developed pneumonia. He also suffered sleep deprivation and was denied a lawyer for 52 days.

Wilke told The Sun he posted a picture on Facebook of a road sign with a camel on it, with the comment "Look how they care for their animals. Even in the desert you find a sign to stop for the camels."

A British academic commented on his post that the fine for killing camels was higher than for running a person over.

"All I did was answer: 'You might be right there.' Which is my point of view - I don't hold back when talking to colleagues," said Wilke.

In March, a British woman was arrested over a Facebook post in which she compared her ex-husband's new wife to a horse. She faces up to two years prison in Dubai and a $65,000 fine.

A British football fan attending the AFC Asian Cup in Abu Dhabi was detained in January for allegedly wearing the Qatar national team's jersey.

Jamie Harron, also a Briton, was sentenced to three months in jail for accidentally touching a man in a bar while holidaying in the UAE.

Meanwhile, Scott Richards, an Australian aid worker living in Dubai, was arrested for fundraising to buy blankets for freezing Afghan children.

Amnesty International has previously accused Emirati authorities of continued arbitrary restriction of "freedoms of expression and association, using criminal defamation and anti-terrorism laws to detain, prosecute, convict and imprison government critics and a prominent human rights defender".

The rulers of the UAE have declared 2019 to be "the year of tolerance".

Follow us on Twitter: @The_NewArab

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