The Middle East Channel

The making of a police state

The arrests over the last week of three pro-democracy activists in the United Arab Emirates should come as no surprise. Having sent troops to participate in the Saudi-led crackdown in Bahrain and having supported Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak until his final days in office, the UAE regime has already signaled its strong preference for the status ...

FAYEZ NURELDINE/AFP/Getty Images
FAYEZ NURELDINE/AFP/Getty Images

The arrests over the last week of three pro-democracy activists in the United Arab Emirates should come as no surprise. Having sent troops to participate in the Saudi-led crackdown in Bahrain and having supported Egypt's Hosni Mubarak until his final days in office, the UAE regime has already signaled its strong preference for the status quo and its fear of greater Arab freedoms.

Previously a collection of federated, tribe-based, traditional monarchies, led by the well-liked Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan al-Nahyan until his death in 2004, the UAE has since been morphing into a sophisticated police state led by Zayed's two principal sons from their Abu Dhabi power base -- the UAE's oil-rich, wealthiest emirate. Unlike their father, who had to consult with other tribal elders and powerful merchants across the entire country, the new rulers now govern with zero accountability over an increasingly urbanized and Abu Dhabi-dependent population, the movements and communications of which are now carefully monitored and censored.

The arrests over the last week of three pro-democracy activists in the United Arab Emirates should come as no surprise. Having sent troops to participate in the Saudi-led crackdown in Bahrain and having supported Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak until his final days in office, the UAE regime has already signaled its strong preference for the status quo and its fear of greater Arab freedoms.

Previously a collection of federated, tribe-based, traditional monarchies, led by the well-liked Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan al-Nahyan until his death in 2004, the UAE has since been morphing into a sophisticated police state led by Zayed’s two principal sons from their Abu Dhabi power base — the UAE’s oil-rich, wealthiest emirate. Unlike their father, who had to consult with other tribal elders and powerful merchants across the entire country, the new rulers now govern with zero accountability over an increasingly urbanized and Abu Dhabi-dependent population, the movements and communications of which are now carefully monitored and censored.

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<p> Christopher M. Davidson is reader in government and international affairs at Durham University. He has authored several books on the Gulf states and has held academic posts in the United Arab Emirates and Japan. This is an adapted excerpt from his new book, After the Sheikhs. </p>

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