Rape in Dubai sets off outcry in Norway

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News this week that a young Norwegian woman had been jailed in Dubai after reporting a rape there last spring has led to strong protests, also against the Norwegian government. Critics claim Norwegian officials should lodge a formal protest with the Dubai authorities for violating the woman’s human rights, while Norway’s foreign minister claims he already has “reacted strongly.”

News that Marte Deborah Dalelv (24) had been jailed in Dubai after reporting a rape there last spring has led to strong protests, also against the Norwegian government. PHOTO: FreeMarte campaign via NRK

News that Marte Deborah Dalelv (24) had been jailed in Dubai after reporting a rape there last spring has led to strong protests, also against the Norwegian government. PHOTO: FreeMarte campaign via NRK

The case has continued to dominate media coverage in Norway and has been picked up internationally, after Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) first reported on Wednesday that the woman had been sentenced this week to one year and four months in prison in Dubai. Judges in the Gulf city that’s emerged as a major tourist destination in recent years ruled that she was guilty of illegally drinking alcohol and, by being raped, was also guilty of engaging in extramarital sex.

Went public with her story
Rape victims are rarely identified in Norwegian media, but the woman herself decided to go public with her story. Marte Deborah Dalelv of Tønsberg, about an hour’s drive southwest of Oslo, told NRK and other media outlets including newspaper VG that she has appealed the ruling but still feels like a fugitive in Dubai because authorities there seized her passport. She meanwhile has been given refuge at the Norwegian Seamans Church in Dubai.

Her story took another dramatic turn on Friday after she revealed that she also was “suspended” from her job with a Qatar-based home furnishings company called The One. It had recruited her from Norway, as it reportedly has recruited many other Scandinavian design graduates, but made moves to fire her after her arrest, for her allegedly “unacceptable and improper behavioural” (sic) during her business trip to Dubai. Now the Norwegian design schools that have cooperated with The One are considering cutting all ties with the firm, after Dalelv claimed it did nothing to help her and instead effectively fired her. Nor did any company official contact her family back home in Norway. The company did not respond to NRK’s requests for comment.

“If it’s correct that this woman was fired after having reported (the rape), that The One failed to contact her family even though they knew about the situation, and that they don’t look out for the best interests of their employees, then we don’t want to have any connection with this firm,” Vibecke Osfoss, marketing and communications chief at Westerdals School in Oslo, told NRK.

‘Gross misconduct’
Dalelv told NRK that her immediate boss in Qatar arrived at the hotel where she was being questioned by police after reporting the rape in March, reportedly by a colleague also based in the Middle East. The One’s press manager also was present, Dalelv said, and accompanied her to the police station. “The last I heard from them, though, was ‘Marte, we can’t get you out,'” Dalelv told NRK.

Shortly after that she received a “suspension letter” that the company itself wrote was “based on the incident report of 6th March 2013 issued by the Police Authorities in Dubai.” Even though The One’s website (external link) claims to value “the happiness of our staff” along with its customers, the company accused her of “gross misconduct on the job in direct violation of the Company’s policy,” with a final decision regarding her termination to be taken by “senior management.”

While Dalelv describes her situation as “unreal,” calls were rising in Norway for the Norwegian government to put more pressure on authorities in Dubai. The Gulf emirate has become a popular tourist destination for Norwegians, especially in the winter, but few seem aware of how dangerous it can be if they’re accused of taking a drink outside hotels, for example, or become victims of sexual assault.

“Dubai can appear very western and pulsating with tourists, full of action and fun,” one Norwegian who lives in Dubai told NRK, “but in reality, there are completely different rules that apply, completely shocking rules.” Those rules, he claimed on the grounds he not be identified for fear of retribution, follow Sharia law and violate what’s viewed as human rights elsewhere.

He cited numerous cases where foreign housemaids are raped by their wealthy local employers, but they’re the ones prosecuted and jailed for illegal sexual relations. The young Norwegian woman, he said, has basically found herself in the same situation. Tourists from other countries have also landed in trouble: A British woman was arrested for extramarital sex after also being raped in January 2010. Another British woman was arrested and jailed for a month for having kissed a man while at a restaurant next to the Jumeirah Beach complex.

“It can seem modern here, and the comfort level is high,” the Norwegian resident said, “but it’s a Muslim country and folks must realize that before they travel.” In many ways, the United Arab Emirates, for all their flashy development, he said, “are still stuck in the Middle Ages.”

Foreign ministry now protesting
Foreign Minister Espen Barth Eide told NRK late Thursday that he has “reacted strongly” to Dalelv’s story and claimed her prison sentence in Dubai “collides with our sense of justice.” Eide said that he now is “working further” on her case.

“It can’t be that a woman who reports a rape gets convicted herself,” Eide told NRK.

He noted that her sentence hasn’t taken effect because she has filed an appeal. “We will continue to offer assistance to this woman until the appeal is heard, where the outcome hopefully will be better,” Eide said.

Dag Øistein Endsjø, a professor of religion at the University of Bergen, published a commentary on Friday in which he accused Eide and other government officials of not reacting strongly enough. Eide responded that he and his colleagues will now “make it clear” to the authorities in Dubai that they must not punish rape victims the way they have Dalelv and others. It wasn’t clear whether Norway would advise Norwegians against traveling to Dubai or the other states in the United Arab Emirates.

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund

  • humilityarrow

    The West should discourage all travel to Dubai for any reason and do no business there as well. No more tourism, no more business trips, no more investment.

    • Jimmy Hoffa

      And no more business with firms who do business in Dubai, Any firm who has an office in Dubai or does business with Dubai should not be allowed to do contract or sub contract work with the United States government. We need to make it clear in no uncertain terms that this sort of thing in unacceptable on any level. Sure they can keep up with their middle age ways but we don’t have to support it.

      • Tom Just Olsen

        “this sort of thing in unacceptable on any level..”


        To me Dubai is a swealthering hot, cement dusty and utterly uncharming building site. Now we see that they have no decent law and order.
        Why go there?

    • guest53

      from the almost nothing I know about Dubai, that would be akin to telling people not to go to Beverly Hills. guessing it’s super rich and super luxurious, low crime and therefore appealing to tourists

      • george408

        For those tourists, visiting tall buildings and camel ride is more important than their dignity.This is not about Islam, it is about the extreme arrogance of Gulf states rulers.

        • guest53

          different countries have different laws. at least their laws are clearly spelled out and it’s good in cases like this, where the victim can use media to get the message out that female rape victims are considered a criminal in that country. no way a person can always prevent rape, but it’s helpful for other innocent citizens to know what to expect and either to avoid the country or go with plenty of backup, if they still need to or are determined to go. I define backup as family members; go with your family and expect to spend entire visit in that country with your family by your side. this strategy assumes it’s more difficult to rape an entire family than one lone defenseless or drugged woman and so entire family more likely to leave unscathed…

  • The story has many blanks so I can’t understand it very well, why was she charged over extramarital sex, why Arabas are jailing her, who’s the man she’s accusing, it’s very important to specify if they had a relationship as workmates or she met him there, etc; the media has to be more clear ’cause the information provided isn’t clear.

    • makkapakka17

      she is charged over extramarital sex because she claimed to be raped (i.e., had sex) but failed to produce four male witnesses to the act, which are required under sharia law. By claiming to be raped but not producing the witnesses, she incriminated herself. It doesn’t matter who she had sex with; the crime was having sex without being married. (And no, I do NOT agree with this; I am just explaining it to you.)

  • Cohort Seven

    Islam is fundamentally an evil political system masquerading as a religion.

    • Eurocentric

      The fundamentals of Islam are in property acquisition. It’s all about jihad/war,more for the winning of more and more property (which includes human property, especially the women as “wives”) than any form of spiritual enlightenment. But the one thing most of the west fails to understand about Islamic teaching is the practice – and encouragement to practice – “taqqiyeh”, which is “deceit.” Islam openly advocates using taqqiyeh, knowing how liberal western thinking, with especially Christian belief in universal love and tolerance, gulps it all up with astonishing naivety. It’s all about things like: We’re “refugees” but actually we’re here to multiply and slowly build the strength to take Europe as part of the caliphate. Taqqiyeh is key because our own mentality can’t grasp the meaning of universal deceit just as Muslims don’t get our education girls. Of course there are very nice Muslims, those we see as “moderate”. Does it strike nobody that these “moderates” are for the most part extremely reluctant to condemn any of the atrocities (or what the west perceives as atrocities, for the Koran’s idea of a fun day out is beheading, beheading and more beheading). Moderates are themselves targets, for if there are no infidel heads to lop off, any other will do. All very well those saying it’s the west’s fault for not doing anything for these poor people. They see this very attitude as western weakness to be exploited even more. Sooner you get the idea of taqqiyeh, the sooner you will see that Islam LIKES being in an oppressive environment. After all, most of it didn’t need exploitative westerners for that; they do such a fine job of it in every single Muslim country in existence. Of course it’s sad for those of us brought up to be open-minded, to feel for the underdog. All misplaced when it comes to understanding a mentality so fundamentally at odds with that concept.

      • Erwin Schrödinger

        The key is to figure out how to defend ourselves against Islam without being (or at least appearing) discriminatory and unreasonable. One hopeful development is that more people in the West are learning about Islam. Also, a fairly large percentage of Muslims want the Western social and legal structure and prefer to keep their religion separate from issues of civic governance. It is not as large a percentage as one might want, but it is a start. Also, a certain percentage of Muslims convert to another religion when they come to Europe or the United States. The numbers are suppressed but I think they are much larger than the Islamic community is willing to admit. Yes, Islam is very large and growing, but it is impossible to verify the numbers that come from various countries. If you look at Africa, Islam used to be much larger than Christianity. Christianity has grown from 9% of Africans in 1900 to 49% now. In sub-Saharan African it is approaching 70%. Two thirds of the world’s nations are predominantly Christian. Despite apocalyptic statements in some quarters, I do not see that fraction dropping and it actually may increase. Christianity is growing quite fast in China, for example, and Islam is not. One problem is that we have somehow entered a “retro” era in which large numbers of people want to return to their “roots.” In the past most immigrants to the United States wanted to assimilate and blend in. Many, probably most, still do but a large number wants to retain their foreign character which, in the case of Islam, includes very different ideas about the place of religion. Also, a large number of religious people in virtually all religions are shifting toward a more “fundamentalist” approach. Thus, the fastest growing segment of Judaism is Orthodoxy. The very conservative Christian churches attract gigantic numbers of adherents. It would be surprising if the same tendencies did not exist in Islam. But this probably is a temporary phenomenon. At least I hope so.

      • Jesse Cambre

        Wow! One of the most reasonable and lucid statements I have read in quite a while! Thanks.

  • makkapakka17

    If she can produce four (male) witnesses to the rape, then she will go free; if she cannot, then she incriminated herself by admitting to sexual activity outside of marriage. Alternately two women can be substituted for one male witness. (Women are often confused, and therefore need a second one to remind themselves of the true situation, at least according to Muslim jurists.) This is the standard under sharia. If you don’t like it, don’t go to countries with a sharia-based legal system.

    • Eurocentric

      Exactly, so long as the same is applicable to all you Muslims seeking a “better life” in our regions, hating our ways, demanding your rules to be applicable in our countries, and bombing whatever stands in your way. You stay out of our countries and we’ll gladly stay out of yours.

  • Eurocentric

    How silly is THIS for an argument, typical of the knee bending the west is performing to behaviour that should not be acceptable in the 21st century, such as female genital mutilation, slavery, the extermination of rhinos because the shape of the horn suggests it helps virility. Surely there has to be a limit on how much a modern society can tolerate as “just a cultural issue.” Humanity is supposed to have developed over the centuries, not remained ignorant of reality, of old tribal beliefs in the superior of one gender over another. Differences can be tolerated to a reasonable extent, but not where they trample on the rights of any other grouping, be it women, be it rhinos, be it modern day witches. Religion has to change, too. We don’t burn witches any more. Stop beating wives. Simple.

    • Michael Lee

      Knee-bending? Are you saying that national sovereignty only applies to Western countries?

      I am not saying that you can disagree with what is being done here. Only that it is unreasonable for Dubai to have the same laws that we do.

      It is easy to say: “Change your ~1400 year-old tradition. Simple.” But tradition and religion tend to be very resilient things. I don’t think Western Europe in the 1400s made any instantaneous leap of progress.

  • Polycarp210

    This sure is appalling but isn’t it that Norway love Muslims and Islam? Then they should not be complaining about this and get a load of Islam!

    • Reason

      Why are the western politicians lying to us about true nature of Islam?

  • Michael Lee

    Oh, I thought you knew. In her source interview with Norwegian VG, she explained how the rape occurred. She was drunk.

    Also, can we please stop assuming people have biases against women?

  • sufi wisdom

    shame on dubi letting this woman go throw hell,all tourist company’s must flag dubi as an unsafe destination.

    • myduty

      As a general point of clarification, drinking in Dubai is not illegal. The laws around alcohol use are very vague and subject to interpretation. Anyone may buy a certain amount of alcohol in the arrivals area of the airport and consume it in private. Also, alcohol is available for sale in nearly all hotels as well as many restaurants, usually those with some association with a hotel or falling under some other “exception.” Furthermore, Dubai requires visit/work visa’s for most non-western nationalities, but there are exceptions such as for Chinese, Thai and select other nationalities. This allows people (women) from these countries to enter the UAE to engage in the oldest profession known. And everyone, and I mean everyone, knows which bars allow (sponsor) this activity. So, for some poor woman who came to Dubai on legitimate business to be put through this after being raped is highly arbitrary and hypocritical to say the least. Right or wrong the laws should be enforced with consistency and fairness…

  • Robert Neve

    One was bad. Get rid of them all! Did we stop all trade with Ireland because they let a woman die rather than give her an abortion? No. You know what happens when you start trying to tell other cultures how they should be and what they should do? They ignore you, dig in their heels and refuse to change and then you end up sending drones into their country to “help” them by removing the “bad” elements.

  • Robert Neve

    And imposed such just and noble laws as “if you get married you must first let the lord of the land have your wife before you”. The witch hunts, death to gays etc etc Oh yeh we were just so enlightened.

    • Eurocentric

      I think there”s only one answer for this. You’re defending something that is still happening with something that is no longer happening because yes, we have become more enlightened… not fully yet, but heck, you can’t even begin to compare the rule of law with the burying of a woman up to her neck in sand and encouraging 4, 6, 8 year old boys to help stone her to death. No solid proof needed, no trial, no defense. And that’s in countries with access to every technological, medical and scientific advance that their petrodollar money can buy. Give me our less than perfect enlightenment any day to the barbarity of “sharia”.

      • Robert Neve

        I’m not defending anything. I am trying to point out to the OP that the crusaders were not champions of enlightenment. They were in fact religious savages that attacked a culture which was advancing science while their own culture imprisoned such people. Islamic countries have lots there way in the years for sure but that doesn’t mean they can’t improve. But they won’t do that while we’re trying to force them. Besides which we should watch we don’t go back to our savage ways. Breivik and the edl show there are people like that about. Hell the US is on a course pretty much leading it on just such a path where religion rules and crusades are acceptable.

  • Michael Lee

    My point was that their society likely does not even consider sex while intoxicated to be rape. I mean, their society forbids the drinking of alcohol in general.

    I originally heard of this story on Reddit. Here is the original source:

    Excerpt from Google Translate:
    “The 24-year-old Norwegian Marte Deborah Dalelv have worked in a shop in Qatar since 2011. In March this year, she was on a kickoff trip in Dubai with the job. Along with some other Norwegian women would she look like in a pub last night. A male colleague also came along. It was a wet evening. When she got back to the hotel, she was pretty drunk, writes VG.”

    • tornado171

      Thanks Mike, I see it now and thanks for putting up with me.

  • Michael Lee

    You don’t need to spam. And I am pretty sure she admitted to the drinking, hence why she was charged for it. I posted the source above. Now let’s see if you’re a big fan of the truth. -_-”

    Banned from the conversation? What?

  • burtone76

    I don’t think that this needs to turn into a thing on any one religion. However, the point you made about the Hitler is spot on. Also, many laws were put in place in Germany leading up to the Holocaust. As part of global community, things of this nature need to be brought to the light. If people in UAE want to have these laws on the books that is fine, however they need to realize that this will drive away people from other countries who don’t want to be caught in an arbitrary legal system. Also, it definitely becomes “Calling the Kettle Black” if anyone from the UAE comments on policies of other countries if they don’t listen to those outside of their own country. For example, a person from the UAE can’t say “the West doesn’t understand shouldn’t tell us what to do” but then complain about the laws against the religious symbols in France or minarets in Switzerland or any rules or laws in modern countries.

  • Michael Lee

    I sent you my source. I was telling the truth. And you call me bigot and compare me to the Taliban? Great. I think we’re done here. You can consider yourself banned from my portion of the conversation.

  • Eurocentric

    “Failing to consider sex while intoxicated as rape.” Mr. Lee, this is a people who kill their own sisters for just laughing at a boy’s joke. Surely rape in such a setting, for any reason, would strike such people as worthy of punishment, but no, the underlying issue is misogyny and power – both a common feature in all religions, but none quite so oppressive as Islam.

    • Robert Neve

      Course not. We should follow examples of great atheist men like Stalin, map, Bonaparte. Or maybe you’d prefer a Christian example like say Hitler? He was very fond of turning a nation against 1 particular religion too.

    • Michael Lee

      I don’t think so. Dubai is quite moderate as far as Muslim nations go.

      But it is true that most Muslims nations are really dependent on Sharia for their law. As far as I am aware, there are very strict punishments for rape in Sharia, but with one caveat: You need a witness or the accused must confess to their crime. In the more strict countries, this must be a male witness. This is because he-said, she-said always favors the defendant.

      We have a similar system, but we have embraced the use of DNA technology and tend to favor the woman’s testimony.

  • Robert Neve

    Not trying to use it as an excuse. The OP brought up the crusades and I was merely taking his rose glasses off.

  • Truth

    Why the hell you even go to those countries?

  • rohit

    In cities like mumbai, women Falsely cry rape even when there is no rape. In dubai, a raped woman cannot even complain. What contrast!!

  • Bartholomune Stedworth

    I want NATO to respond with military force, to go in to the UAE and get her out. Or Norway should invade the UAE and get her back, or at least send in a special forces rescue team.

    • Robert Neve

      The west will not and can not start a war because a country enforces it’s laws even if we don’t like them. However in this case, just like all the other cases involving foreigners, Dubai has pardoned her and she will be allowed to leave.

  • Obi rayner

    Cut them off , cut them out , Isolate them for the full term of the prison sentence.No rewards , no remorse for bigotry. They deserve nothing from us.

  • Jerome P

    online news in UAE says, that she charged her boss for the rape and that it happened in his hotel room. She slept voluntarily in his bed while he sleeps on the couch and that she woke up during the night while him “on top” of her.

    It’s going to be very hard for her to win the case. She will need a lot of Norwegian Government help to get her out of this mess.

  • Olga Rostropovich

    The story is simple. She was drunk, and then made sex. This is a normal
    story for a norwegian woman in Norway, which always ends with a good
    money compensation. It always happens, But this time, the woman did it
    in the wrong place, it is Dubai ! where public se and drinking alcohol
    are banned. Before 4 months ago, a british couple were put in jail in
    Dubai because they made sex in the car !

    So the law is clear in
    Dubai. I am quite sure that there is no need to rape a woman in Dubai
    because prostitution is available in the hotels and massage clubs and
    you can find all kinds of girls (all ages you want) from all world with
    different prices. So, it is quite clear that the norwegian woman created
    the story of raping to get large amount of money as a compensation from
    a rich arabian prince or a business man. This happened before several times in Arabian Gulf countries !!

  • Aisha

    for crying out loud, why should the girl be locked up after her report. Is there no pity at all on her, considering what happened to her?.
    Its really a shame!

  • Andy

    She is lucky to escape with such a light sentence. I see too many western women who arrive in Dubai and immediately think they should get drunk and behave promiscuously. The saying, “when in Rome, act like a Roman” is very important and should be heeded to by all. Keep your women behaving properly and they will not have to go to jail in Dubai

  • LordArthur

    I find the sexism in the laws of Arabia very unfair and morally wrong.Why can’t Dubai and all the other Muslim country’s learn to respect women like how we do in the developed world???

  • Robin Ludvig Isomaa

    Firstly, the law prohibiting extramarital sex is just crazy. Secondly, the way they interpret the concept of guilt is insane. While we in the West have our own culture of victim blaming, i.e. psychologically punishing rape victims, these bastards actually prosecute them! Although none is right or even defendable, it’s better to say “your clothing may have caused this” than “gotcha you seductive whore, enjoy prison”. Is it wrong to call Western rape culture “better”?