We don’t know our rights, UAE youth say

Many young people say government entities are not doing enough to teach them about their rights as a citizen.

From left: Al Murr Al Marri, Ahmad Al Emadi, Mohammed Al Awadi, Khaled Jassem Sabt and Hamad Al Mansoor, talk to The National about the need for authorities to educate youngsters about UAE laws and citizens’ rights.  Jeffrey E Biteng / The National
Beta V.1.0 - Powered by automated translation

DUBAI // Teenagers and young adults are calling on authorities to provide them with more information about their rights and the country’s laws, saying government bodies are failing to educate them.

Dubai Police last month held a conference at Dubai Men’s College during which they urged drugs users to come forward. Many students at the school were unaware, however, that users would not be prosecuted if they admitted addiction.

“If you know someone who needs help, they shouldn’t hesitate to come forward. We will help them,” said Lt Col Juma Al Shamsi.

“We always try to take the road of rationality and understanding before prosecution.”

Emirati Ahmed Al Mesmari, 24, a civil engineering student at Dubai Men’s College, said after the lecture that he had assumed that anyone who admitted using drugs would be punished.

“I had no clue that if a person admits to having a drug problem, he will not be prosecuted. This is news to me,” he said. “I used to live in Australia, where I knew what my rights were, but in the UAE, I have yet to see some sort of manual or list of rights that I, as a citizen, have.

“I know we have them, I just don’t know what they are.”

Other students interviewed by The National said authorities could do more to explain individuals’ rights.

Hamad Ustadi, 19, also a civil engineering student, said: “I was once driving back home at about 2.30am during Ramadan and a police officer stopped me for no apparent reason. I was scared and I did not do anything wrong.

“The officer asked where I was coming from, after which he told me to be on my way.

“Why did he stop me? What are my rights in this situation?”

Mr Ustadi said he followed Dubai Police’s Twitter account but had learnt more about UAE laws from family and friends.

“When my friends and I sit around, we talk about these issues. We hear that one of us was fined for something, and we learn about a new law,” he said, adding he had attended Dubai Police awareness campaigns.

“Dubai Police does come to the school and give lectures but it’s hard to pay attention and learn anything when they are so boring.

“There needs to be a more interesting approach to grab the students’ attention.”

Al Murr Al Marri, 21, an applied communications student at the college, said a fresh approach was needed by police to get the message across to young people.

“There is no emotional connection with the audience, and I think most people learn about laws when they themselves have committed an offence they were not aware of,” he said.

“I was once pulled over in the desert and had my car confiscated for 30 days, on the spot, for reckless driving. When the officer pulled me over, I told him there were no pedestrians or road signs, why was I being fined? I didn’t even know I was doing something wrong.”

Several other students agreed that police awareness campaigns had to be more engaging, but engineering student Hamad Al Mansoor, 21, said the government did a good job of keeping people informed.

“Social media plays a big role, because the police have a lot of services that allow the public to reach them,” he said.

Col Eid Mohammed Thani Hareb, director of Dubai Police’s anti-narcotics department, said the force attempted to reach young people in a variety of ways.

“There is a special department called Awareness and Prevention that deals with these issues,” he said. “We always try to reach the youth through different mediums, and have given lectures and introduced campaigns in private and public schools, as well as private and public universities.

“During these lectures, we explain to them everything they would need to know about drugs and their consequences. We also try to reach the public through social media such as Facebook and Twitter.

“And we have a hotline – 800 400 400 – on which we can also be contacted. We make it our duty to always reply to those who contact us via social media.”

Ezzeldin Othman, of Ezz law firm, said schools and universities should educate their students about the law.

“I have not encountered cases of young people getting in trouble because they were not aware of what the UAE law states,” he said.

“However, I do think that children and young adults should know more about the law.

“I don’t believe they know enough at all. Universities and schools should take the initiative and educate these young people.”