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The United Arab Emirates (UAE; Arabic: دولة الإمارات العربية المتحدة‎ Dawlat al-ʾImārāt al-ʿArabīyyah al-Muttaḥidah literally "'State' of the United Arab Emirates"), sometimes simply called the Emirates (Arabic: الإمارات‎ al-ʾImārāt), is a country in Western Asia at the southeast end of the Arabian Peninsula on the Persian Gulf, bordering Oman to the east and Saudi Arabia to the south and west, as well as sharing maritime borders with Qatar to the west and Iran to the north. The sovereign constitutional monarchy is a federation of seven emirates consisting of Abu Dhabi (which serves as the capital), Ajman, Dubai, Fujairah, Ras Al Khaimah, Sharjah and Umm Al Quwain. Their boundaries are complex, with numerous enclaves within the various emirates.[8] Each emirate is governed by a ruler; together, they jointly form the Federal Supreme Council. One of the rulers serves as the President of the United Arab Emirates.[9] In 2013, the UAE's popopulation was 9.2 million, of which 1.4 million are Emirati citizens and 7.8 million are expatriates.[10][11][12]

Human occupation of the present UAE has been traced back to the emergence of anatomically modern humans from Africa some 125,000 BCE through finds at the Faya-1 site in Mleiha, Sharjah. Burial sites dating back to the Neolithic Age and the Bronze Age include the oldest known such inland site at Jebel Buhais. Known as Magan to the Sumerians, the area was home to a prosperous Bronze Age trading culture during the Umm Al Nar period, which traded between the Indus Valley, Bahrain and Mesopotamia as well as Iran, Bactria and the Levant. The ensuing Wadi Suq period and three Iron Ages saw the emergence of nomadism as well as the development of water management and irrigation systems supporting human settlement in both the coast and interior. The Islamic age of the UAE dates back to the expulsion of the Sasanians and the subsequent Battle of Dibba. The UAE's long history of trade led to the emergence of Julfar, in the present-day emirate of Ras Al Khaimah, as a major regional trading and maritime hub in the area. The maritime dominance of the Persian Gulf by Emirati traders led to conflicts with European powers, including the Portuguese and British.

Following decades of maritime conflict, the coastal emirates became known as the Trucial States with the signing of a Perpetual Treaty of Maritime Peace with the British in 1819 (ratified in 1853 and again in 1892), which established the Trucial States as a British Protectorate. This arrangement ended with independence and the establishment of the United Arab Emirates on 2 December 1971, immediately following the British withdrawal from its treaty obligations. Six emirates joined the UAE in 1971, the seventh, Ras Al Khaimah, joined the federation on 10 February 1972.[13]

Islam is the official religion and Arabic is the official language of the UAE. The UAE's oil reserves are the seventh-largest in the world while its natural gas reserves are the world's seventeenth-largest.[14][15] Sheikh Zayed, ruler of Abu Dhabi and the first President of the UAE, oversaw the development of the Emirates and steered oil revenues into healthcare, education and infrastructure.[16] The UAE's economy is the most diversified in the Gulf Cooperation Council, while its most populous city of Dubai is an important global city and international aviation and maritime trade hub.[17][18] Consequently, the country is much less reliant on oil and gas than in previous years and is economically focusing on tourism and business. The UAE government does not levy income tax although there is a system of corporate tax in place and value added tax was established in 2018 at 5%.[19]

The UAE's rising international profile has led to it being recognised as a regional and a middle power.[20][21] It is a member of the United Nations, the Arab League, the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, OPEC, the Non-Aligned Movement and the Gulf Cooperation Council.

History


The land of the Emirates has been occupied for thousands of years.

There are six major periods of human settlement with distinctive behaviours in the pre-Islamic UAE, which includes the Hafit period from 3,200-2,600 BCE; the Umm Al Nar culture spanned from 2,600-2,000 BCE, the Wadi Suq people dominated from 2,000–1,300 BCE. From 1,200 BC to the advent of Islam in Eastern Arabia, through three distinctive Iron Ages (Iron Age 1, 1,200–1,000 BC; Iron Age 2, 1,000–600 BC and Iron Age 3 600–300 BC) and the Mleiha period (300 BC onward), the area was variously occupied by Achaemenid and other forces and saw the construction of fortified settlements and extensive husbandry thanks to the development of the falaj irrigation system.

In ancient times, Al Hasa (today's Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia) was part of Al Bahreyn and adjoined Greater Oman (today's UAE and Oman). From the second century AD, there was a movement of tribes from Al Bahreyn towards the lower Gulf, together with a migration among the Azdite Qahtani (or Yamani) and Quda'ah tribal groups from south-west Arabia towards central Oman.

The spread of Islam to the North Eastern tip of the Arabian Peninsula is thought to have followed directly from a letter sent by the Islamic prophet, Muhammad, to the rulers of Oman in 630 AD, nine years after the hijrah. This led to a group of rulers travelling to Medina, converting to Islam and subsequently driving a successful uprising against the unpopular Sasanids, who dominated the Northern coasts at the time.[26] Following the death of Muhammad, the new Islamic communities south of the Persian Gulf threatened to disintegrate, with insurrections against the Muslim leaders. The Caliph Abu Bakr sent an army from the capital Medina which completed its reconquest of the territory (the Ridda Wars) with the Battle of Dibba in which 10,000 lives are thought to have been lost.[26] This assured the integrity of the Caliphate and the unification of the Arabian Peninsula under the newly emerging Rashidun Caliphate.

In 637, Julfar (in the area of today's Ras Al Khaimah) was an important port that was used as a staging post for the Islamic invasion of the Sasanian Empire.[28] The area of the Al Ain/Buraimi Oasis was known as Tu'am and was an important trading post for camel routes between the coast and the Arabian interior.[26]

The earliest Christian site in the UAE was first discovered in the 1990s, an extensive monastic complex on what is now known as Sir Bani Yas Island and which dates back to the 7th century. Thought to be Nestorian and built in 600 AD, the church appears to have been abandoned peacefully in 750 AD.[30] It forms a rare physical link to a legacy of Christianity which is thought to have spread across the peninsula from 50 to 350 AD following trade routes. Certainly, by the 5th century, Oman had a bishop named John – the last bishop of Oman being Etienne, in 676 AD.[31]

The harsh desert environment led to the emergence of the "versatile tribesman", nomadic groups who subsisted due to a variety of economic activities, including animal husbandry, agriculture and hunting.

With the expansion of European colonialism, Portuguese, English and Dutch forces appeared in the Persian Gulf region.

The southern coast of the Persian Gulf was known to the British as the "Pirate Coast",[37][38] as boats of the Al Qawasim federation harassed British-flagged shipping from the 17th century into the 19th.[39] The charge of piracy is disputed by modern Emirati historians, including the current Ruler of Sharjah, Sheikh Sultan Al Qasim i, in his 1986 book The Myth of Arab Piracy in the Gulf.[40]

British bloody expeditions to protect the Indian trade led to campaigns against Ras Al Khaimah and other harbours along the coast, including the Persian Gulf Campaign of 1809 and the more successful campaign of 1819. The following year, Britain and a number of local rulers signed a maritime truce, giving rise to the term Trucial States, which came to define the status of the coastal emirates. A further treaty was signed in 1843 and, in 1853 the Perpetual Treaty of Maritime Truce was agreed. To this was added the 'Exclusive Agreements', signed in 1892, which made the Trucial States a British protectorate.[41]

Under the 1892 treaty, the trucial sheikhs agreed not to dispose of any territory except to the British and not to enter into relationships with any foreign government other than the British without their consent.

In 1869, the Qubaisat tribe settled at Khawr al Udayd and tried to enlist the support of the Ottomans, whose flag was occasionally seen flying there. Khawr al Udayd was claimed by Abu Dhabi at that time, a claim supported by the British. In 1906, the British Political Resident, Percy Cox, confirmed in writing to the ruler of Abu Dhabi, Zayed bin Khalifa Al Nahyan ('Zayed the Great') that Khawr al Udayd belonged to his sheikhdom.[43]

During the 19th and early 20th centuries, the pearling industry thrived, providing both income and employment to the people of the Persian Gulf. The First World War had a severe impact on the industry, but it was the economic depression of the late 1920s and early 1930s, coupled with the invention of the cultured pearl, that wiped out the trade. The remnants of the trade eventually faded away shortly after the Second World War, when the newly-independent Government of India imposed heavy taxation on pearls imported from the Arab states of the Persian Gulf. The decline of pearling resulted in extreme economic hardship in the Trucial States.[44]

In 1922, the British government secured undertakings from the rulers of the Trucial States not to sign concessions with foreign companies without their consent.

The British set up a development office that helped in some small developments in the emirates.

In 1953, a subsidiary of BP, D'Arcy Exploration Ltd, obtained an offshore concession from the ruler of Abu Dhabi.

Meanwhile, onshore exploration was hindered by territorial disputes.

PDTC continued its onshore exploration away from the disputed area, drilling five more bore holes that were also dry.

By 1966, it had become clear the British government could no longer afford to administer and protect what is now the United Arab Emirates. British MPs debated the preparedness of the Royal Navy to defend the sheikhdoms. Secretary of State for Defence Denis Healey reported that the British Armed Forces were seriously overstretched and in some respects dangerously under-equipped to defend the sheikhdoms. On 24 January 1968, British Prime Minister Harold Wilson announced the government's decision, reaffirmed in March 1971 by Prime Minister Edward Heath, to end the treaty relationships with the seven Trucial Sheikhdoms, that had been, together with Bahrain and Qatar, under British protection. Days after the announcement, the ruler of Abu Dhabi, Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, fearing vulnerability, tried to persuade the British to honour the protection treaties by offering to pay the full costs of keeping the British Armed Forces in the Emirates. The British Labour government rejected the offer.[56] After Labour MP Goronwy Roberts informed Sheikh Zayed of the news of British withdrawal, the nine Persian Gulf sheikhdoms attempted to form a union of Arab emirates, but by mid-1971 they were still unable to agree on terms of union even though the British treaty relationship was to expire in December of that year.[57]

Fears of vulnerability were realized the day before independence.

Originally intended to be part of the proposed Federation of Arab Emirates, Bahrain became independent in August, and Qatar in September 1971.

A 19 year old Emirati boy from Abu Dhabi, Abdullah Mohammed Al Maainah, designed the UAE flag in 1971.

The UAE supported military operations from the US and other coalition nations engaged in the war against the Taliban in Afghanistan (2001) and Saddam Hussein in Iraq (2003) as well as operations supporting the Global War on Terror for the Horn of Africa at Al Dhafra Air Base located outside of Abu Dhabi. The air base also supported Allied operations during the 1991 Persian Gulf War and Operation Northern Watch. The country had already signed a military defense agreement with the U.S. in 1994 and one with France in 1995.[65][66] In January 2008, France and the UAE signed a deal allowing France to set up a permanent military base in the emirate of Abu Dhabi.[67] The UAE joined international military operations in Libya in March 2011.

On 2 November 2004, the UAE's first president, Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, died. His eldest son, Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, succeeded as Emir of Abu Dhabi. In accordance with the constitution, the UAE's Supreme Council of Rulers elected Khalifa as president. Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan succeeded Khalifa as Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi.[68] In January 2006, Sheikh Maktoum bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the prime minister of the UAE and the ruler of Dubai, died, and the crown prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum assumed both roles.

The first ever national elections were held in the UAE on 16 December 2006.

Geography


The United Arab Emirates is situated in Middle East, bordering the Gulf of Oman and the Persian Gulf, between Oman and Saudi Arabia; it is in a strategic location slightly south of the Strait of Hormuz, a vital transit point for world crude oil.[70]

The UAE lies between 22°30' and 26°10' north latitude and between 51° and 56°25′ east longitude.

The UAE coast stretches for more than 650 km (404 mi) along the southern shore of the Persian Gulf. Most of the coast consists of salt pans that extend far inland. The largest natural harbor is at Dubai, although other ports have been dredged at Abu Dhabi, Sharjah, and elsewhere. Numerous islands are found in the Persian Gulf, and the ownership of some of them has been the subject of international disputes with both Iran and Qatar. The smaller islands, as well as many coral reefs and shifting sandbars, are a menace to navigation. Strong tides and occasional windstorms further complicate ship movements near the shore. The UAE also has a stretch of the Al Bāţinah coast of the Gulf of Oman, although the Musandam Peninsula, the very tip of Arabia by the Strait of Hormuz, is an exclave of Oman separated by the UAE.

South and west of Abu Dhabi, vast, rolling sand dunes merge into the Rub al-Khali (Empty Quarter) of Saudi Arabia. The desert area of Abu Dhabi includes two important oases with adequate underground water for permanent settlements and cultivation. The extensive Liwa Oasis is in the south near the undefined border with Saudi Arabia. About 100 km (62 mi) to the northeast of Liwa is the Al-Buraimi oasis, which extends on both sides of the Abu Dhabi-Oman border. Lake Zakher is a human-made lake near the border with Oman.

Prior to withdrawing from the area in 1971, Britain delineated the internal borders among the seven emirates in order to preempt territorial disputes that might hamper formation of the federation.

The oases grow date palms, acacia and eucalyptus trees. In the desert, the flora is very sparse and consists of grasses and thorn bushes. The indigenous fauna had come close to extinction because of intensive hunting, which has led to a conservation program on Bani Yas Island initiated by Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan in the 1970s, resulting in the survival of, for example, Arabian Oryx, Arabian camel and leopards. Coastal fish and mammals consist mainly of mackerel, perch, and tuna, as well as sharks and whales.

The climate of the UAE is subtropical-arid with hot summers and warm winters.

On 28 December 2004, there was snow recorded in the UAE for the very first time, in the Jebel Jais mountain cluster in Ras al-Khaimah.[76] A few years later, there were more sightings of snow and hail.[77][78] The Jebel Jais mountain cluster has experienced snow only twice since records began.[79]

Politics


The United Arab Emirates is a federal constitutional monarchy made up from a federation of seven hereditary tribal absolute monarchy-styled political system called Sheikhdoms. It is governed by a Federal Supreme Council made up of the ruling Sheikhs of Abu Dhabi, Ajman, Fujairah, Sharjah, Dubai, Ras al-Khaimah and Umm al-Quwain. All responsibilities not granted to the national government are reserved to the individual emirate.[80] A percentage of revenues from each emirate is allocated to the UAE's central budget.[81] The United Arab Emirates uses the title Sheikh instead of Emir to refer to the rulers of individual emirates. The title is used due to the sheikhdom styled governing system in adherence to the culture of tribes of Arabia, where Sheikh means leader, elder, or the tribal chief of the clan who partakes in shared decision making with his followers.

The President and Prime Minister are elected by the Federal Supreme Council. Usually, a sheikh from Abu Dhabi holds the presidency and a sheikh from Dubai the prime minister-ship. All prime ministers but one have served concurrently as vice president. Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan is the UAE founding father and widely accredited for unifying the seven emirates into one country. He was the UAE's first president from the nation's founding until his death on 2 November 2004. On the following day the Federal Supreme Council elected his son, Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, to the post. Abu Dhabi's crown prince, Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, is the heir apparent but will still require the election of Federal Supreme Council to assume presidency.[82]

The federal government is composed of three branches:

The UAE eGovernment is the extension of the UAE Federal Government in its electronic form.[83] The UAE's Council of Ministers (Arabic: مجلس الوزراء‎) is the chief executive branch of the government presided over by the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister, who is appointed by the Federal Supreme Council, appoints the ministers. The Council of Ministers is made up of 22 members and manages all internal and foreign affairs of the federation under its constitutional and federal law.[84] The UAE is the only country in the world that has a Ministry of Tolerance,[85] Ministry of Happiness,[86] and Ministry of Artificial Intelligence.[87] The UAE also has a National Youth Council, which is represented in the UAE cabinet through the Minister of Youth.[88][89]

The UAE legislative is the Federal National Council which convenes nationwide elections every 4 years. The FNC consists of 40 members drawn from all the emirates. Each emirate is allocated specific seats to ensure full representation. Half are appointed by the rulers of the constituent emirates, and the other half are elected to serve two-year terms. However, the FNC is restricted to a largely consultative role.[90] A directive was issued stating that as of the 2019 election, half of the FNC members would be allocated to females.[91]

The UAE is frequently described as an "autocracy".[92][93] According to The New York Times, the UAE is "an autocracy with the sheen of a progressive, modern state".[94] The UAE ranks poorly in freedom indices measuring civil liberties and political rights. The UAE is annually ranked as "Not Free" in Freedom House's annual Freedom in the World report, which measures civil liberties and political rights.[95] The UAE also ranks poorly in the annual Reporters without Borders' Press Freedom Index.

Sheikh Zayed was asked by The New York Times in April 1997 on why there is no elected democracy in the United Arab Emirates, in which he replied:

The UAE has extensive diplomatic and commercial relations with other countries.

The UAE is a member of the United Nations and several of its specialized agencies (ICAO, ILO, UPU, WHO, WIPO); as well as the World Bank, IMF, Arab League, Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), OPEC, Organization of Arab Petroleum Exporting Countries, and the Non-Aligned Movement and is an observer in Organisation Internationale de la Francophonie.

The UAE maintains close relations with Egypt and is Egypt's largest investor from the Arab world.[97] Pakistan was the first country to formally recognize the UAE upon its formation and continues to be one of its major economic and trading partners.[98] China and UAE are also strong international allies, with significant cooperation across economic, political and cultural aspects.[99][100][101][102] The largest expatriate presence in the UAE is Indian.[103][104] Following British withdrawal from the UAE in 1971 and the establishment of the UAE as a state, the UAE disputed rights to three islands in the Persian Gulf against Iran, namely Abu Musa, Greater Tunb, and Lesser Tunb. The UAE tried to bring the matter to the International Court of Justice, but Iran dismissed the notion.[105] The dispute has not significantly impacted relations because of the large Iranian community presence and strong economic ties.[106] The UAE also has a long and a close relationship with UK and Germany, and a large number of their nationals reside in the UAE.[107][108] Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair serves as a funded adviser to the Mubadala Development Company, a wholly owned investment vehicle of the government of Abu Dhabi.[109] In November 2018, the United Kingdom threatened the UAE with "serious diplomatic consequences" after it sentenced a British academic Matthew Hedges to life in prison for allegedly spying for the UK government.[110]

The United Arab Emirates and the United States enjoy very close strategic ties.

It was reported in 2019 that UAE's National Electronic Security Authority (NESA) has enlisted the help of American and Israeli experts in its targeting of political leaders, activists and the governments of Qatar, Turkey and Iran. According to Reuters their surveillance activities have also targeted American citizens.[113]

The UAE was one of only three countries to recognise the Taliban as Afghanistan's legitimate government (Pakistan and Saudi Arabia were the other two countries).[114] At the encouragement of the United States, the UAE attempted to host a Taliban embassy under three conditions which include denouncing Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, recognizing the Afghan constitution, and renouncing violence and laying down their weapons.[115] The Taliban refused all three conditions, and the UAE withdrew its offer.[115] The UAE rescinded diplomatic relations with the Taliban after 11 September attacks in 2001 (alongside Pakistan).

The United Arab Emirates has been actively involved in Saudi-led intervention in Yemen and has supported Yemen's internationally recognized government as well as the separatist Southern Transitional Council in Yemen against the Houthi takeover in Yemen.[116][117] The Saudi-led coalition has been repeatedly accused of conducting indiscriminate and unlawful airstrikes on civilian targets.[118] During Sheikh Al-Nahyan's visit to France in November 2018, a group of rights activists filed a lawsuit against the crown prince accusing him of "war crimes and complicity in torture and inhumane treatment in Yemen".[119] An Associated press report implicated that the United Arab Emirates made gains against Al Qaeda in Yemen by making payments and recruiting them in fighting the Houthis, instead of military intervention.[120][121][122] The UAE, as part of the Saudi-led intervention in Yemen, landed troops on the island of Socotra.[123]

The UAE and Saudi Arabia became close allies when Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud became King of Saudi Arabia in 2015 and Mohammed bin Salman as Crown Prince in 2017.[124] In June 2017, the UAE alongside multiple middle eastern and African countries cut diplomatic ties with Qatar due to allegations of Qatar being a state sponsor of terrorism, resulting in the Qatar diplomatic crisis. The UAE backed Saudi Arabia in its 2018 dispute with Canada.[125] The UAE also backed Saudi Arabia's statement about the death of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.[126]

Pope Francis became the first pontiff from the Holy See to visit the Arabian Peninsula on a trip to Abu Dhabi in 2019 and held papal mass to more than 120,000 attendees in the Zayed Sports City Stadium.[127]

As a result of the successful foreign policy of the United Arab Emirates, the Emirati passport became the largest individual climber in Henley & Partners Passport Index in 2018 over the past decade, increasing its global rank by 28 places.[128] According to the Henley Passport Index, as of 28 March 2019, Emirati citizens had visa-free or visa on arrival access to 165 countries and territories, ranking the Emirati passport 21nd in the world in terms of travel freedom.[129] According to The Passport Index, however, the UAE passport ranks 1st in the world with access to 167 countries.[130]

The United Arab Emirates military was formed in 1971 from the historical Trucial Oman Scouts, a long symbol of public order on Eastern Arabia and commanded by British officers. The Trucial Oman Scouts were turned over to the United Arab Emirates as the nucleus of its defence forces in 1971 with the formation of the UAE and was absorbed into the Union Defence Force.

Although initially small in number, the UAE armed forces have grown significantly over the years and are presently equipped with some of the most modern weapon systems, purchased from a variety of military advanced countries, mainly France, the US and the UK.

Some of the UAE military deployments include an infantry battalion to the United Nations UNOSOM II force in Somalia in 1993, the 35th Mechanised Infantry Battalion to Kosovo, a regiment to Kuwait during the Iraq War, demining operations in Lebanon, Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan, American-led intervention in Libya, American-led intervention in the Syria, and the Saudi-led intervention in Yemen. The active and effective military role despite its small active personnel has led the UAE military to be nicknamed as "Little Sparta" by United States Armed Forces Generals and former US defense secretary James Mattis.[132]

Examples of the military assets deployed include the enforcement of the no-fly-zone over Libya by sending six UAEAF F-16 and six Mirage 2000 multi-role fighter aircraft,[133] ground troop deployment in Afghanistan,[134] 30 UAEAF F-16s and ground troops deployment in Southern Yemen,[135] and helping the US launch its first airstrikes against ISIL targets in Syria.[136]

The UAE has begun to produce a greater amount of military equipment in a bid to reduce foreign dependence and help with national industrialisation.

The UAE introduced a mandatory military conscription for adult males since 2014 for 16 months to expand its reserve force.[139] The highest loss of life in the history of UAE military occurred on Friday 4 September 2015, in which 52 soldiers were killed in Marib area of central Yemen by a Tochka missile which targeted a weapons cache and caused a large explosion.[140]

The United Arab Emirates is divided into seven emirates.

Abu Dhabi has an area of 67,340 square kilometres (26,000 square miles), which is 86.7% of the country's total area, excluding the islands.

There is an Omani exclave surrounded by UAE territory, known as Wadi Madha. It is located halfway between the Musandam peninsula and the rest of Oman in the Emirate of Sharjah. It covers approximately 75 square kilometres (29 square miles) and the boundary was settled in 1969. The north-east corner of Madha is closest to the Khor Fakkan-Fujairah road, barely 10 metres (33 feet) away. Within the Omani exclave of Madha, is a UAE exclave called Nahwa, also belonging to the Emirate of Sharjah. It is about eight kilometres (5.0 miles) on a dirt track west of the town of New Madha. It consists of about forty houses with its own clinic and telephone exchange.

Law


The UAE has a federal court system.

Flogging is a punishment for criminal offences such as adultery, premarital sex and alcohol consumption.[141][142][143] According to Sharia court rulings, flogging ranges from 80 to 200 lashes.[141][144][145] Verbal abuse pertaining to a person's honour is illegal and punishable by 80 lashes.[146] Between 2007 and 2014, many people in the UAE were sentenced to 100 lashes.[147][148][149][151][152][153][154][155] More recently in 2015, two men were sentenced to 80 lashes for hitting and insulting a woman.[156] In 2014, an expatriate in Abu Dhabi was sentenced to 10 years in prison and 80 lashes after alcohol consumption and raping a toddler.[157] Alcohol consumption for Muslims is illegal and punishable by 80 lashes; many Muslims have been sentenced to 80 lashes for alcohol consumption.[158][159][160][160][162][163][164][165][166][167][168] Sometimes 40 lashes are given.[169] Illicit sex is sometimes penalized by 60 lashes.[170][172] 80 lashes is the standard number for anyone sentenced to flogging in several emirates.[173] Sharia courts have penalized domestic workers with floggings.[174] In October 2013, a Filipino housemaid was sentenced to 100 lashes for illegitimate pregnancy.[154] Drunk-driving is strictly illegal and punishable by 80 lashes; many expatriates have been sentenced to 80 lashes for drunk-driving.[175][176][177][178][179][180][181] In Abu Dhabi, people have been sentenced to 80 lashes for kissing in public.[182] Under UAE law, premarital sex is punishable by 100 lashes.[183]

Stoning is a legal punishment in the UAE. In May 2014, an Asian housemaid was sentenced to death by stoning in Abu Dhabi.[184][185][186] Other expatriates have been sentenced to death by stoning for committing adultery.[187] Between 2009 and 2013, several people were sentenced to death by stoning.[188][183] Abortion is illegal and punishable by a maximum penalty of 100 lashes and up to five years in prison.[190] In recent years, several people have retracted their guilty plea in illicit sex cases after being sentenced to stoning or 100 lashes.[191][192] The punishment for committing adultery is 100 lashes for unmarried people and stoning to death for married people.[190]

Sharia courts have exclusive jurisdiction over family law cases and also have jurisdiction over several criminal cases including adultery, premarital sex, robbery, alcohol consumption and related crimes.

Apostasy is a crime punishable by death in the UAE.[195][196] Blasphemy is illegal; expatriates involved in insulting Islam are liable for deportation.[197] UAE incorporates hudud crimes of Sharia (i.e., crimes against God) into its Penal Code – apostasy being one of them.[198] Article 1 and Article 66 of UAE's Penal Code requires hudud crimes to be punished with the death penalty;[198][199] therefore, apostasy is punishable by death in the UAE.

In several cases, the courts of the UAE have jailed women who have reported rape.[200][201][202][203][204][155] For example, a British woman, after she reported being gang raped by three men, was charged with the crime of "alcohol consumption".[202][204] Another British woman was charged with "public intoxication and extramarital sex" after she reported being raped,[201] while an Australian woman was similarly sentenced to jail after she reported gang rape in the UAE.[201][202] In another recent case, an 18-year Emirati girl withdrew her complaint of gang rape by six men when the prosecution threatened her with a long jail term and flogging.[206] The woman still had to serve one year in jail.[207] In July 2013, a Norwegian woman, Marte Dalelv, reported rape to the police and received a prison sentence for "illicit sex and alcohol consumption".[201]

Emirati women must receive permission from a male guardian to marry and remarry.[208] This requirement is derived from the UAE's interpretation of Sharia, and has been federal law since 2005.[208] In all emirates, it is illegal for Muslim women to marry non-Muslims.[209] In the UAE, a marriage union between a Muslim woman and non-Muslim man is punishable by law, since it is considered a form of "fornication".[209]

Kissing in public is illegal and can result in deportation.[210] Expats in Dubai have been deported for kissing in public.[211][212][213] In Abu Dhabi, people have been sentenced to 80 lashes for kissing in public.[182] A new federal law in the UAE prohibits swearing in Whatsapp and penalizes swearing by a 250,000 AED fine and imprisonment;[215] expatriates are penalized by deportation.[215][216][217][218] In July 2015, an Australian expatriate was deported for swearing on Facebook.[219][220][221][222][223]

Homosexuality is illegal and is a capital offence in the UAE.[224][225] In 2013, an Emirati man was on trial for being accused of a "gay handshake".[225] Article 80 of the Abu Dhabi Penal Code makes sodomy punishable with imprisonment of up to 14 years, while article 177 of the Penal Code of Dubai imposes imprisonment of up to 10 years on consensual sodomy.[226]

Amputation is a legal punishment in the UAE due to the Sharia courts.[227][228][229][230][231] Crucifixion is a legal punishment in the UAE.[232][233][234] Article 1 of the Federal Penal Code states that "provisions of the Islamic Law shall apply to the crimes of doctrinal punishment, punitive punishment and blood money."[235] The Federal Penal Code repealed only those provisions within the penal codes of individual emirates which are contradictory to the Federal Penal Code. Hence, both are enforceable simultaneously.[236]

During the month of Ramadan, it is illegal to publicly eat, drink, or smoke between sunrise and sunset.[237] Exceptions are made for pregnant women and children. The law applies to both Muslims and non-Muslims,[237] and failure to comply may result in arrest.[238] Dancing in public is illegal in the UAE.[239][240][241]

Flogging and stoning are legal punishments in the UAE. The requirement is derived from Sharia law, and has been federal law since 2005.[242] Some domestic workers in the UAE are victims of the country's interpretations of Sharia judicial punishments such as flogging and stoning.[174] The annual Freedom House report on Freedom in the World has listed the United Arab Emirates as "Not Free" every year since 1999, the first year for which records are available on their website.[95]

The UAE has escaped the Arab Spring; however, more than 100 Emirati activists were jailed and tortured because they sought reforms.[69][243][244] Since 2011, the UAE government has increasingly carried out forced disappearances.[245][246][247][248][249][250] Many foreign nationals and Emirati citizens have been arrested and abducted by the state. The UAE government denies these people are being held (to conceal their whereabouts), placing these people outside the protection of the law.[244][246][251] According to Human Rights Watch, the reports of forced disappearance and torture in the UAE are of grave concern.[247]

The Arab Organization for Human Rights has obtained testimonies from many defendants, for its report on "Forced Disappearance and Torture in the UAE", who reported that they had been kidnapped, tortured and abused in detention centres.[246][251] The report included 16 different methods of torture including severe beatings, threats with electrocution and denying access to medical care.[246][251]

In 2013, 94 Emirati activists were held in secret detention centres and put on trial for allegedly attempting to overthrow the government.[252] Human rights organizations have spoken out against the secrecy of the trial.

Repressive measures were also used against non-Emiratis in order to justify the UAE government's claim that there is an "international plot" in which UAE citizens and foreigners were working together to destabilize the country.[251] Foreign nationals were also subjected to a campaign of deportations.[251] There are many documented cases of Egyptians and other foreign nationals who had spent years working in the UAE and were then given only a few days to leave the country.[251]

Foreign nationals subjected to forced disappearance include two Libyans[256] and two Qataris.[251][257] Amnesty reported that the Qatari men have been abducted by the UAE government and the UAE government has withheld information about the men's fate from their families.[251][257] Amongst the foreign nationals detained, imprisoned and expelled is Iyad El-Baghdadi, a popular blogger and Twitter personality.[251] He was arrested by UAE authorities, detained, imprisoned and then expelled from the country.[251] Despite his lifetime residence in the UAE, as a Palestinian citizen, El-Baghdadi had no recourse to contest this order.[251] He could not be deported back to the Palestinian territories, therefore he was deported to Malaysia.[251]

In 2007, the UAE government attempted to cover up information on the rape of a French teenage boy by three Emirati locals, one of whose HIV-positive status was hidden by Emirati authorities.[258] Diplomatic pressure led to the arrest and conviction of the Emirati rapists.[259]

In April 2009, a video tape of torture smuggled out of the UAE showed Sheikh Issa bin Zayed Al Nahyan torturing a man (Mohammed Shah Poor) with whips, electric cattle prods, wooden planks with protruding nails and running him over repeatedly with a car.[260] In December 2009, Issa appeared in court and proclaimed his innocence.[261] The trial ended on 10 January 2010, when Issa was cleared of the torture of Mohammed Shah Poor.[262] Human Rights Watch criticised the trial and called on the government to establish an independent body to investigate allegations of abuse by UAE security personnel and other persons of authority.[263] The US State Department has expressed concern over the verdict and said all members of Emirati society "must stand equal before the law" and called for a careful review of the decision to ensure that the demands of justice are fully met in this case.[264]

In recent years, a large number of Shia Muslim expatriates have been deported from the UAE.[265][266][267] Lebanese Shia families in particular have been deported for their alleged sympathy for Hezbollah.[268][269][270][271][272][273] According to some organizations, more than 4,000 Shia expatriates have been deported from the UAE in recent years.[274][275]

The issue of sexual abuse among female domestic workers is another area of concern, particularly given that domestic servants are not covered by the UAE labour law of 1980 or the draft labour law of 2007.[276] Worker protests have been suppressed and protesters imprisoned without due process.[277] In its 2013 Annual Report, Amnesty International drew attention to the United Arab Emirates' poor record on a number of human rights issues. They highlighted the government's restrictive approach to freedom of speech and assembly, their use of arbitrary arrest and torture, and UAE's use of the death penalty.[278]

In 2012, Dubai police subjected three British citizens to beatings and electric shocks after arresting them on drugs charges.[279] The British Prime Minister, David Cameron, expressed "concern" over the case and raised it with the UAE President, Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, during his 2013 state visit to the UK.[280] The three men were pardoned and released in July 2013.[281]

In a report released on 12 July 2018, Amnesty International urged for 'war crimes' probe on UAE-run prisons in Yemen.[282]

On 10 September 2018, Yemeni detainees in a UAE-run prison underwent a hunger strike to protest their detention.

Migrant workers are excluded from the UAE's collective labour rights, hence migrants are vulnerable to forced labour.

In 2013, police arrested a US citizen and some UAE citizens, in connection with a YouTube parody video which allegedly portrayed Dubai and its residents in a bad light. The video was shot in areas of Satwa, Dubai, and featured gangs learning how to fight using simple weapons, including shoes, the aghal, etc. In 2015, nationals from different countries were put in jail for offences. An Australian woman was accused of 'writing bad words on social media', after she had posted a picture of a vehicle parked illegally. She was later deported from the UAE.[219]

The State Security Apparatus in the UAE has been accused of a series of atrocities and human rights abuses including enforced disappearance, arbitrary arrests and torture,[290]

Freedom of association is also severely curtailed.

The UAE has a modest dress code.

People are also requested to wear modest clothing when entering mosques, such as the Sheikh Zayed Mosque in Abu Dhabi. Mosques which are open to tourists provide modest clothing for men and women if needed.

Media


The UAE's media is annually classified as "not free" in the Freedom of the Press report by Freedom House.[296] The UAE ranks poorly in the annual Press Freedom Index by Reporters without Borders. Dubai Media City and twofour54 are the UAE's main media zones. The UAE is home to some pan-Arab broadcasters, including the Middle East Broadcasting Centre and Orbit Showtime Network. In 2007, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum decreed that journalists can no longer be prosecuted or imprisoned for reasons relating to their work.[297] At the same time, the UAE has made it illegal to disseminate online material that can threaten "public order".[298]

Criticism of the government is not allowed.

Economy


UAE has the second largest economy in the GCC (after Saudi Arabia),[300] with a gross domestic product (GDP) of $377 billion (1.38 trillion AED) in 2012.

Although UAE has the most diversified economy in the GCC, the UAE's economy remains extremely reliant on oil.

UAE law does not allow trade unions to exist.[310] The right to collective bargaining and the right to strike are not recognised, and the Ministry of Labour has the power to force workers to go back to work. Migrant workers who participate in a strike can have their work permits cancelled and be deported.[310] Consequently, there are very few anti-discrimination laws in relation to labour issues, with Emiratis – other GCC Arabs – getting preference in public sector jobs despite lesser credentials than competitors and lower motivation. In fact, just over eighty percent of Emirati workers hold government posts, with many of the rest taking part in state-owned enterprises such as Emirates airlines and Dubai Properties.[59]

Transport


Dubai International Airport was the busiest airport in the world by international passenger traffic in 2014, overtaking London Heathrow.[312] A 1,200 km (750 mi) country-wide railway is under construction which will connect all the major cities and ports.[313] The Dubai Metro is the first urban train network in the Arabian Peninsula.[314] The major ports of the United Arab Emirates are Khalifa Port, Zayed Port, Port Jebel Ali, Port Rashid, Port Khalid, Port Saeed, and Port Khor Fakkan.[315]

Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Sharjah, Ajman, Umm Al Quwain, and Ras Al Khaimah are connected by the E11 highway, which is the longest road in the UAE. In Dubai, in addition to the metro, Dubai Tram and Palm Jumeirah Monorail also connect specific parts of the city.

Telecommunications


The UAE is served by two telecommunications operators, Etisalat and Emirates Integrated Telecommunications Company ("du"). Etisalat operated a monopoly until du launched mobile services in February 2007.[316] Internet subscribers were expected to increase from 0.904 million in 2007 to 2.66 million in 2012.[317] The regulator, the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority, mandates filtering websites for religious, political and sexual content.[318]

5G wireless services were installed nationwide in 2019 through a partnership with Huawei[319]

Culture


Emirati culture is based on Arabian culture and has been influenced by the cultures of Persia, India, and East Africa.[320] Arabian and Persian inspired architecture is part of the expression of the local Emirati identity.[321] Persian influence on Emirati culture is noticeably visible in traditional Emirati architecture and folk arts.[320] For example, the distinctive wind tower which tops traditional Emirati buildings, the barjeel has become an identifying mark of Emirati architecture and is attributed to Persian influence.[320] This influence is derived both from traders who fled the tax regime in Persia in the early 19th Century and from Emirati ownership of ports on the Persian coast, for instance the Al Qassimi port of Lingeh.[322]

The United Arab Emirates has a diverse society.[323] Major holidays in the United Arab Emirates include Eid al Fitr, which marks the end of Ramadan, and National Day (2 December), which marks the formation of the United Arab Emirates.[324] Emirati males prefer to wear a kandura, an ankle-length white tunic woven from wool or cotton, and Emirati women wear an abaya, a black over-garment that covers most parts of the body.[325]

Ancient Emirati poetry was strongly influenced by the 8th-century Arab scholar Al Khalil bin Ahmed.

The list of museums in the United Arab Emirates includes some of regional repute, most famously Sharjah with its Heritage District containing 17 museums,[327] which in 1998 was the Cultural Capital of the Arab World.[328] In Dubai, the area of Al Quoz has attracted a number of art galleries as well as museums such as the Salsali Private Museum.[329] Abu Dhabi has established a culture district on Saadiyat Island. Six grand projects are planned, including the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi and the Louvre Abu Dhabi.[330] Dubai also plans to build a Kunsthal museum and a district for galleries and artists.[331]

Emirati culture is a part of the culture of Eastern Arabia. Liwa is a type of music and dance performed locally, mainly in communities that contain descendants of Bantu peoples from the African Great Lakes region.[326] The Dubai Desert Rock Festival is also another major festival consisting of heavy metal and rock artists.[332] The cinema of the United Arab Emirates is minimal but expanding.

The traditional food of the Emirates has always been rice, fish and meat.

Popular cultural Emirati dishes include threed, machboos, khubisa, khameer and chabab bread among others while Lugaimat is a famous Emirati dessert.

With the influence of western culture, fast food has become very popular among young people, to the extent that campaigns have been held to highlight the dangers of fast food excesses.[334] Alcohol is allowed to be served only in hotel restaurants and bars.

Sports


Formula One is particularly popular in the United Arab Emirates, and is annually held at the Yas Marina Circuit. The race takes place in the evening, and was the first ever Grand Prix to start in daylight and finish at night.[336] Other popular sports include camel racing, falconry, endurance riding, and tennis.[337] The emirate of Dubai is also home to two major golf courses: The Dubai Golf Club and Emirates Golf Club.

In the past, child camel jockeys were used, leading to widespread criticism.

Football is a popular sport in the UAE. Al Nasr, Al Ain, Al Wasl, Sharjah, Al Wahda, and Shabab Al Ahli are the most popular teams and enjoy the reputation of long-time regional champions.[340] The United Arab Emirates Football Association was established in 1971 and since then has dedicated its time and effort to promoting the game, organising youth programmes and improving the abilities of not only its players, but also the officials and coaches involved with its regional teams. The UAE qualified for the FIFA World Cup in 1990, along with Egypt. It was the third consecutive World Cup with two Arab nations qualifying, after Kuwait and Algeria in 1982, and Iraq and Algeria again in 1986. The UAE has won the Gulf Cup Championship twice: the first cup won in January 2007 held in Abu Dhabi and the second in January 2013, held in Bahrain.[341] The country hosted the 2019 AFC Asian Cup. The UAE team went all the way to the semi-finals, where they were defeated by the eventual champions, Qatar.

Cricket is one of the most popular sports in the UAE, largely because of the expatriate population from the SAARC countries, the United Kingdom, and Australia. The Sharjah Cricket Association Stadium in Sharjah has hosted four international test cricket matches so far.[342] Sheikh Zayed Cricket Stadium in Abu Dhabi has also hosted international cricket matches. Dubai has two cricket stadiums (Dubai Cricket Ground No. 1 and No. 2) with a third, the DSC Cricket Stadium, as part of Dubai Sports City. Dubai is also home to the International Cricket Council.[343] The UAE national cricket team qualified for the 1996 Cricket World Cup and narrowly missed out on qualification for the 2007 Cricket World Cup. They qualified for the 2015 Cricket World Cup held in Australia and New Zealand.[344][345] The 14th edition of the Asia Cup Cricket tournament was held in the UAE in September 2018.[346]

Education


The education system through secondary level is monitored by the Ministry of Education in all emirates except Abu Dhabi, where it falls under the authority of the Abu Dhabi Education Council. It consists of primary schools, middle schools and high schools. The public schools are government-funded and the curriculum is created to match the United Arab Emirates' development goals. The medium of instruction in the public school is Arabic with emphasis on English as a second language. There are also many private schools which are internationally accredited. Public schools in the country are free for citizens of the UAE, while the fees for private schools vary.

The higher education system is monitored by the Ministry of Higher Education.

The UAE has shown a strong interest in improving education and research.

Demographics


According to an estimate by the World Bank, the UAE's population in 2018 stands at 9.543 million.

The UAE is ethnically diverse.

About 88% of the population of the United Arab Emirates is urban.[363] The average life expectancy was 76.7 in 2012, higher than for any other Arab country.[365] With a male/female sex ratio of 2.2 males for each female in the total population and 2.75 to 1 for the 15–65 age group, the UAE's gender imbalance is second highest in the world after Qatar.[366]

Islam is the largest and the official state religion of the UAE. The government follows a policy of tolerance toward other religions and rarely interferes in the activities of non-Muslims.[369] By the same token, non-Muslims are expected to avoid interfering in Islamic religious matters or the Islamic upbringing of Muslims.

The government imposes restrictions on spreading other religions through any form of media as it is considered a form of proselytizing. There are approximately 31 churches throughout the country, one Hindu temple in the region of Bur Dubai,[370] one Sikh Gurudwara in Jebel Ali and also a Buddhist temple in Al Garhoud.

Based on the Ministry of Economy census in 2005, 76% of the total population was Muslim, 13% Christian, and 11% other (mainly Hindu).[209] Census figures do not take into account the many "temporary" visitors and workers while also counting Baha'is and Druze as Muslim.[209] Among Emirati Muslim citizens, 97% are Sunni, while 3% are Shi'a, mostly concentrated in the emirates of Sharjah and Dubai.[209] Omani immigrants are mostly Ibadi, while Sufi influences exist too.[371]

Arabic is the national language of the United Arab Emirates. The Gulf dialect of Arabic is spoken natively by the Emirati people.[372]Joh]]ince the area was occupied by the British until 1971, English is the primarylingua franca

Health


The life expectancy at birth in the UAE is at 76.96 years.[373] Cardiovascular disease is the principal cause of death in the UAE, constituting 28% of total deaths; other major causes are accidents and injuries, malignancies, and congenital anomalies.[348] According to World Health Organisation data from 2014, 37.2% of adults in the UAE are clinically obese, with a Body mass index (BMI) score of 30 or more.[375]

In February 2008, the Ministry of Health unveiled a five-year health strategy for the public health sector in the northern emirates, which fall under its purview and which, unlike Abu Dhabi and Dubai, do not have separate healthcare authorities.

The introduction of mandatory health insurance in Abu Dhabi for expatriates and their dependants was a major driver in reform of healthcare policy. Abu Dhabi nationals were brought under the scheme from 1 June 2008 and Dubai followed for its government employees. Eventually, under federal law, every Emirati and expatriate in the country will be covered by compulsory health insurance under a unified mandatory scheme.[377] The country has benefited from medical tourists from all over the Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf. The UAE attracts medical tourists seeking plastic surgery and advanced procedures, cardiac and spinal surgery, and dental treatment, as health services have higher standards than other Arab countries in the Persian Gulf.[378]

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