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The New Arab Staff

Prominent Emirati writer banned from leaving UAE over anti-normalisation stance

Dhabiya Khamis announced the travel ban on social media [Getty]

Date of publication: 27 September, 2020

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Veteran poetess Dhabiya Khamis Al-Muhairi took to social media on Saturday urging immediate assistance from human rights organisations after she was banned from leaving the country.
A prominent Emirati poetess said she was banned from travelling out of her home country over her anti-normalisation stance.

Veteran poet Dhabiya Khamis Al-Muhairi said she was prohibited by authorities from leaving Dubai International Airport to go to Cairo on Saturday, according to a Facebook post.

"I am Emirati writer Dhabiya Khamis. I was banned from flying today due to an order from Abu Dhabi without specific reason," she wrote in the Facebook post.

"Most likely this is because of my publicly announced position against the Zionists and normalisation and I am fearful for my freedom and life from threats and arrest." 

The 62-year-old urged human rights organisations to intervene to hold Emirati authorities accountable for "any oppression, arrest, assassination or liquidation I am subjected to", she said.

Khamis is a popular academic and poetess who previously worked as a diplomat for the Arab League.

In a post on Twitter, Dhabiya likened the situation to her previous arrest.

"When I was abducted from my home and held in solitary confinement for months without charge or court proceedings in 1987 over an article I wrote, I left the UAE and lived abroad for 30 years…It looks like we are returning to 87," she wrote.

News of her travel ban quickly circulated across social media with many international activists urging authorities to ensure her safety.

"Dhabya Khamis: a scholar, poet, and diplomat from the UAE is fearing for her life. She was banned from travel. She wants the world to know that she is being punished for her views against Israel and for her opposition to normalisation. Normalisation can only be imposed by despots," Lebanese-American professor and author, Asad Abukhalil wrote on Twitter.

The UAE and Bahrain signed an agreement to establish full diplomatic ties with Israel earlier this month at the White House.

The two Gulf countries broke decades of consensus among Arab states that there would be no relations with Israel until Palestinian statehood had been assured. 

The so-called "peace deals" have angered Palestinians, who consider the move a betrayal from the Arab nations. Before Bahrain and the UAE, only Egypt and Jordan had diplomatic relations with Israel.

In the wake of the deal, government-linked Twitter accounts in the UAE called on security services to monitor social media posts of residents opposed to normalisation.

Other Twitter accounts linked to the government promoted an app called "My Safe Society", which encourages users to report "ideas which threaten the safety of UAE society".

The app has been castigated as "Orwellian" and "totalitarian" by Gulf analysts.

Read also: 'Disgust' as UAE cleric Waseem Yousef says Arabs their own enemy, not Israel

Since the agreements earlier this month, speculation has pointed to a handful of other Arab countries on the brink of reaching similar deals, with Oman and Sudan as the most likely candidates.

Friday reports suggested both Oman and Sudan could announce normalisation deals with Israel as soon as next week.

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