Calls persist for Dubai boycott

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Politicians at both ends of Norway’s political spectrum continue to urge Norwegians to drop plans for holidays in Dubai, even though Dubai officials gave up their conviction of a young Norwegian woman who was jailed after reporting a rape. Spokesmen for Norway’s most left-wing and right-wing parties also think various aspects of Norwegian trade and relations with the United Arab Emirates should be restricted as well.

Marte Dalelv was hoping to obtain an exit visa on Tuesday and travel home to Norway on Wednesday. Her passport was returned to her on Monday, ending a nightmare that began during a business trip to Dubai in March. PHOTO: ReleaseMarte campaign

Marte Dalelv was hoping to obtain an exit visa on Tuesday and travel home to Norway on Wednesday. Her passport was returned to her on Monday, ending a nightmare that began during a business trip to Dubai in March. PHOTO: ReleaseMarte campaign

Marte Dalelv of Tønsberg was jailed and convicted of illegally drinking alcohol and engaging in extramarital sex after she contacted Dubai police to file rape charges against a male colleague. He was also convicted,  not for the rape but also for having extramarital sex and drinking. Dalelv was pardoned and released on Monday after pressure from the Norwegian government and strong international protests that her human rights had been violated.

Her alleged assailant was also pardoned and released, which caused protests to flare up again. “The fact that he was pardoned only shows once again that women’s legal standing in such countries is incredibly poor,” Ulf Leirstein, a Member of Parliament for Norway’s conservative Progress Party (Fremskrittspartiet, Frp), told newspaper Dagsavisen on Tuesday. “Norwegian tourists should think twice about whether this (Dubai) is a place they want to visit, and thereby support economically.”

Leirstein thinks Norwegians should consider their purchasing power and reflect over where they want to spend their money. He thinks Norwegians and tourists around the world should avoid all areas that practice Sharia law or where “the Koran is a part of their legal system,” including Qatar, the Maldives, Saudi Arabia, Mauritania and several other countries.

He also thinks Norwegian businesses should pull out of such countries and that Norwegian government officials should stop visiting them. Crown Prince Haakon and Crown Princess Mette-Marit and Oil & Energy Minister Ola Borten Moe are among high-ranking officials who have visited the Emirates in recent years, while companies like Hydro, Yara and Statoil have business interests there. Several thousand Norwegians are estimated to live and work on the Emirates.

Weapons ban urged, too
Norway’s left-wing party Rødt (the Reds), meanwhile, is calling for a ban on Norwegian weapon exports to Dubai. “Norwegian authorities consider human rights when deciding where weapons can be exported,” Reds leader Bjørnar Moxnes told Dagsavisen. He said the Dalelv rape case shows that Dubai authorities violate human rights and that it’s “high time” to ban weapon sales to them.

Foreign Minister Espen Barth Eide, widely credited for securing Dalelv’s release, quickly pointed out that Norway doesn’t export weapons to the Emirates, only so-called military “B-material” such as binoculars or communications equipment. Eide also rejected Leirstein’s calls for a tourism and business boycott.

“I have little faith in boycotts as a tool,” Eide said, unless they’re part of a “collective international decision” such as restrictive trade with Iran. Otherwise Eide thinks contact, cooperation and dialogue are most important, and that Norway’s “good relations” with Dubai played an important role in freeing Dalelv.

Boycott fears helped
Several Norwegian professors and experts in international relations told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK), though, that fears of a tourist boycott were behind Dubai’s decision to pardon Dalelv and seek to silence the international outcry over her arrest. “Dubai has no petroleum wealth,” noted Professor Ola Honningdal Grytten of the Norwegian management school NHH (Norges Handelshøyskole). “They’ve invested heavily in tourism and it’s important for them to be seen as modern and tourist-friendly. Dubai gave in (on the Dalelv case) to save their tourism.”

He noted that Dubai “is not a democratic state, it is a police state and a dictatorship. Islam is less fundamental than in many other Arab countries but under the surface there are some strong Islamic laws. When you break these, the punishment is harsh.”

It was the emir himself who gave the nod to pardon Dalelv, Eide noted. “Why he intervened, we don’t know for sure,” Eide told NRK, “but Norwegian authorities expressed what we meant about the conviction, and that we wanted a speedy resolution. That meant either a pardon or that her appeal would be expedited. Fortunately, we got the first.”

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund