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Archive for category Global Issues

Modern Islamic principles of the 21st century by Dr Khalid Abu al Saud, Futurist, Poet and Global Thinker from Saudi Arabia

THE DEVELOPMENT OF   MODERN ISLAMIC PRINCIPLES OF THE 21ST CENTURY, COULD BE PART OF  LAWS OF MANY ISLAMIC COUNTRIES AND THE FOUNDATION FOR OPEN DIALOGUES WITH OTHER RELIGIONS ESPECIALLY WITH CHRISTIANITY AND JUDAISM, TO REMOVE THE ISLAMOPHOBIA AND TO ERADICATE THE ROOTS OF FANATISM ,TERRORISM , ISIS AND ALQAEDA AND THE FITNAH BETWEEN RELIGIONS, ESPECIALLY BETWEEN SUNNI AND SHIAH AND TO CONVERT RELIGIONS INTO IMPORTANT PARTS OF THE SOLUTION NOT OF THE CAUSE OF MANY GLOBAL PROBLEMS IN THE  21th CENTURY, CONSIDERING THE FOLLOWING:

LET’S develop collectively,  comprehensive modern Islamic principles of the 21st century for different societies and different mazahibs, considering the following

First. The purposes of developing the comprehensive modern Islamic principles are

  1. To unite and guide the 1,5 billion Muslims in the world, to participate actively together with other nations and religions, to shape the coming global empathic planetary civilization, to prevent the coming global self-destruction.
  2. To eradicate the roots of corruption, superstition, fanatism, terrorism, dogmatism, ISIS, ALQAEDA, wars, civil wars and the deadly Fitnah especially between Sunni and Shia to prevent the coming wars between Iran and its neighboring countries.
  3. To convert modern Islam into important parts of the solution not only to the cause of religious wars, fanaticism, dogmatism and terrorism.
  4. To eradicate the roots of Islamophobia especially in America and Europe.
  5. To convert many Islamic tribal and agricultural societies into advanced, productive, prosperous, knowledge societies within 20 years.
  6. To stop the tsunamis of Atheism, immorality, and promiscuity in the world.
  7. To spread spiritual awakening.
  8. To help Muslims everywhere to identify and perceive themselves and be perceived as Muslims and as citizens, to provide meaning for their life and death.
  9. To remember God the Almighty in minds and hearts.
  10. To prevent the misuse of Islam to exploit people politically and economically.
  11. To convert brainwashed, obedient, ignorant, herd members in the world, who are confusing freedom with promiscuity, into free, creative and productive thinkers and citizens.
  12. To ask Muslims in West and East to change their perceptions about God, prophets, themselves, the old and new Islamic scholars, their worlds, their present and future, other religions, other mazahib , other countries, science and technologies, and politics.
  13. To develop modern paperless education system, using special education tablets with education programmes, can be used for face to face and online learning and as virtual super laboratory simulators, to teach Nanotechnology, Stem cell technology, Quantum technologies, quantum computer, Robotics, Genetics, Biotechnology, Vertical Aeroponic and hydroponic farming, clean energy and other important subjects.
  14. To replace the predatory capitalism of the 1% elites, who consider themselves as legitimate predators, considering America, Europe, and the whole world as preys, considering global peace as the loss of opportunity to make giant profits from wars even nuclear wars, with social moral capitalism.
  15. To stop the global warming and the coming nuclear wars.
  16. To develop the new world order for all humanity, not for the 1% elites only.
  17. To convert all strategies of domination into strategies of cooperation, to allow the use of 80% of global military budgets for peace projects and to convert Earth into the green planet of peace , justice, solidarity and abundance for 9 billion civilized humans before 2950.
  18. To prepare the optimal strategy, how to deal with the new president Donald Trump, with his unique visions about America and the world, about Islam and Muslims, about the 1% elites.
  19. To prepare humanity brain wise, politically, economically, technologically, how to deal with the technological singularly, when humans will be able to create super robots, much more intelligent than humans, able to improve and replicate themselves exponentially before 2045.
  20. To prevent the coming collapse of American dollars, manipulated by the 1% elites, to devaluate the American bonds and to buy the controlling shares of important companies cheaply, which will lead to implosion of America and the global economic disasters.
  21. The roots of the present Islamic fanaticism and dogmatism, which lead into terrorism and the wars between mathahibs and the stagnation of Islamic societies are formed mainly during the Abbasid dynasty, especially after considering philosophy as blasphemy —to be considered in preparing the modern Islamic principles.

Second. The development of the comprehensive modern Islamic principles will be based on

  1. Modern interpretations of the revelations according to the goals and wisdom of the revelations and the requirements of the 21st century, beyond mathahibs and tribal traditions, concentrating mainly on Al-Quran and true Hadiths, which are not contradicting with Al-Quran, must be interpreted holistically, not partially. During the life of the Prophet p.b.u.h, there were no mathahibs, there was only one Islam.
  2. Pro-peace, justice, good morality, solidarity, diversities, tolerance, transparency, accountability, privacy, freedom, human rights, ecology, direct democracy, meritocracy, equality, faithful secularism, interest-free economy, new fair global currency, family values, democratic civilian government implementing Islamic principles, coexistence with all religions.
  3. No coercion and compulsion in religion .
  4. To do everything to become near the Almighty, to avoid everything to become far from the Almighty.
  5. Anti-wars, fanatism, terrorism, corruption, oppression, superstition, injustice, dictatorship, promiscuity, environmental destruction, infidel secularism, nuclear weapons, trading with derivatives, monopoly, printing money covered by air, drugs.
  6. Humans are not perfect and not infallible, only the Almighty is perfect and infallible.
  7. Just and wise non-Muslim leaders are better than corrupt and unjust Muslim leaders.
  8. Modern science and technologies and Islam are not contradictory.
  9. There are no bad science and technologies, there are bad humans using science and technologies for bad purposes.
  10. The old histories about wars between Muslims and Muslims after the death of the Prophet P.B.U.H should be kept in the museum of histories, not to be used as an excuse for the deadly Fitnah, especially between Sunni and Shia.
  11. Killing one innocent human to be considered as killing all humanity.
  12. The fate of humans in the afterlife to be decided by their deeds and the Mercy of the Almighty, despite their mathahibs.
  13. The Lord of Creation beyond comprehension and comparison, far beyond Michael Anglo and tribal imaginations — He has started the creation of the universe with the Big Bang within 6 days, in which one day of the Almighty could be 2,3 bill years — In the centre of everywhere, and in the navel of nowhere, Blazing His Mercy.
  14. Money and wealth belonging to the Lord of life and death, to be earned and used wisely.
  15. Humans are the results of their thoughts, feelings, deeds, environments and fate.
  16. A human is made of trillions of cells, each cell is made of trillions of atoms, each atom is made of neutrons, protons, electrons and 99,9999999 % of empty space.
  17. The thing can be this can be that can be here can be there at the same time. Everything is nothing, nothing is not anything, emptiness is not empty according to quantum physics
  18. God will help those people, who help themselves.
  19. Islam is respecting all religions and all prophets.
  20. Humans must seek to know more about the past, nature, themselves and others to help themselves and to appreciate the Greatness of the Almighty.
  21. Humans must seek to be perfect, although they know only the Almighty is perfect.
  22. Muslims must not allow anybody to exploit Islam for politics and stealing money
  23. Should Muslims in the 21st century support the total segregation of men from women and forcing women and girls to use BURKA covering all bodies, like the followers of HAREDI JUDAISM in Israel and Taliban in Afghanistan.?
  24. Jihad to liberate or protect the country is legitimate, but Jihad mainly to get hur alain leads into ISIS.The biggest Jihad is to liberate yourself from the evils inside yourself.
  25. True faith leads always into mercy, tolerance, justice, and good deeds therefore true Islam is the way of life, based on peace, justice, solidarity, tolerance, human rights.
  26. Secularism in West was to liberate politics from the church and religious leaders, but secularism in East is to liberate religions and religious leaders from political leaders.
  27. Religions are good, if used for guiding believers into peace, good morality, justice, and good deeds, they are bad if misused for wars, corruption, terrorism and exploiting humans.
  28. The statement —-many Muslim countries are underdeveloped because they do not implement Islam —is wrong. Why are many non-Muslim countries developed and prosperous?The main reason, they are governed by corrupted leaders, who misuse the religion to exploit the countries.
  29. Muslims, especially from the Middle East must be convinced
    • To love teamwork and to respect women.
    • To stop feeling that the world, especially the West are conspiring against them, therefore they are underdeveloped.
    • To stop thinking only of the past and start thinking seriously of the future.
    • To be free, not slaves of greed, craving, fanaticism, nationalism, sports clubs.
    • Those preachers alone cannot solve problems.
    • To differentiate between JUDAISM as an old religion and Zionism as a political ideology.

Third . The main differences between Sunni and Shia

  • Shia insists not to forget the two historical events, that Ali Alaihi salam was not elected as the first  Khalifa after the death of the Prophet p.b.u.h, and the killing of Hussein alaihi alsalam and his family.
  • Shia have their own sources of true Hadiths and do not consider Muslim and Buchori as the best sources of true Hadiths.
  • Shia believes that the 12 Imams are infallible, while Sunnis believe that only God and the Prophet p.b.u.h are infallible.
  • Shia believes that the hidden twelfth Imams AL Mahdi will appear in the future to save and lead the believers.
  • Today only very fanatic Shia are cursing the Sahabah and considering Al Quran as not complete.
  • Shia are believing in many principles of Almutazila.

With good will, the above-mentioned differences could be solved easily, Sunni and to extinguish the deadly Fitna, Sunni, and Shia, which will lead into a disastrous war between Iran and its neighboring countries.If Sunni could live peacefully with Christians, why they could not live peacefully with Shia, like before

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fourth . Muslims implementing the new modern Islamic principles must  differentiate between JUDAISM as an old peaceful  religion, believing in one God and Moses as His Prophet and The TEN COMMANDMENTS-–,and Zionism as a political ideology ,created before HITLER by certain secret organizations ,to convert Judaism into fanatic nationalism ,through creating the great Zionist  Israel to control oil in the Middle East ,exploiting Jews ,Judaism ,the  leaders of America Europe and Middle East  countries , has ignited many wars and willing to ignite the coming nuclear wars . There are millions of Jews against Zionism (Rabbi Dovid Weiss, Miko Peled, Anna Baltzer ).There are millions Christian Zionists, who are not Jews, exploiting America, willing to sacrifice America for Israel.Will America say GOODBYE to the Middle East and Israel after the end of oil economy?

Fifth . Which organizations have created, financed and trained ISIS, oil ?which of them have supported the marketing of oil?What kind of lies and hypocrisy must the world tolerate?

Sixth .How to convert millions of Muslim refugees in Europe into important parts of the solution of the European population decline.

  • Removing economical and political reasons, which Forced The refugees to migrate to Europe.
  • Forcing refugees ‘ children to be educated and trained by reputable teachers, to become productive and creative citizens.
  • Forcing adult refugees to be educated and trained by reputable teachers, to become skilled farmers, technicians, and workers.
  • To encourage refugees to become active members of sport, social and political organizations and clubs.
  • Seventh  ..The basic requirements to be Muslims in the 21st century.
  • Must believe in one God the Almighty
  • Must believe in Jesus and all Prophets, especially in Prophet Mohamad P. B.U.H as the last Prophet.
  • Must believe in all Holy Books and Al-Quran as the last holy book and the true AL hadiths, which are not contradicting with Al-Quran.
  • Must believe in the five pillars of Islam and in an afterlife.
  • Must respect all religions and laws of their countries.
  • Must believe in justice, good morality, human rights and peace.
  • Must believe that Al-Qoran valid for all time and places, therefore must be interpreted according to time and places.

Eighth. The rise of consumerism, feminism, atheism, promiscuity in Western societies is weakening family values, social energy and the masculinity of men will lead to cultural death and self-destruction. Millions Muslims in Western societies, should not be marginalized and should be guided to implement the modern Islamic principles to become important parts of the solution.

Ninth . The study of ARIAN CHRISTIANITY (ARIUS), which believes in ONE GOD The Almighty and Jesus as His divine Messenger, and the study of the old ARAMAIC language, the main language of Jesus could lead to better understanding of the old holy books and the reduction of the tension between Christianity and Islam.

Tenth. Unwise leaders individually and collectively, remaking decisions and actions, mainly according to their egos, emotions, and subconscious minds, advice refusing pieces of advice, morality, leads usually into wars and disasters .wise leaders are using rational conscious minds morality, accepting rational advice, which leads usually to peace and prosperity.The main benefits of free rational discussions and dialogues before making important decisions and actions, within a real democracy.

 Eleventh .The comprehensive modern Islamic principles must be developed collectively, to be considered as Ijtihads, to be readjusted and corrected continuously.

  1. By reputable Islamic scholars, scientists, philosophers, from different countries different mathahibs.
  2. To be discussed openly and continuously in conferences, tv, newspapers, magazines, internets, social media To keep them alive in minds.
  3. To be written in English and Arabic and translated into other languages.
  4. To be published as books and e-books.
  5. To be taught in schools and universities in West and East, to eradicate the roots of Islamophobia in the world and Islamic fanaticism , dogmatism, and terrorism.
  6. To be considered by constitutions and laws of Islamic countries.

 

  • Prepared by Dr Khalid Abu al Saud
  • Futurist, Poet and global thinker from Saudi Arabia
  • Drkhalidsaud@gmail.com 00966505461523      26 Jan 2017

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NGOs – Non Government Organizations or The No Good Organizations by Dr. Kausar Talat

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NGOs – Non Government Organizations or

The No Good Organizations

An analysis of NGOs modus operandi and their influence
by
Dr. Kausar Talat
positivPakistan.org
ktalat@blogspot.com
Kausar.talat@gmail.com

 

 

Foreign Intelligence Agents Embedded in NGOs, Modern Trojan Horse To Infiltrate & Destroy Cultures & Religions

 

 

According to James Petra (1999), professor of Sociology at Binghamton University New York,
NGOs are not “non-governmental” organizations as they receive funds from abroad, work as private
sub-contractors to local governments and/or are subsidized by corporate funded private foundations
that keep close working relations with the state. Frequently NGOs openly collaborate with
governmental agencies at home or overseas. These NGOs, accountable to local people but to overseas
donors who “review” and “oversee” NGO’s performance according to their own criteria and interests as
is the recent case in Ukraine and Turkey. What is NGO in reality? How do they operate and function?
What is the purpose of its existence? How do they control and how effective they are?
A noble concept started in the 19th century, recognized by UN in 1950s appears to have grown
out of control. These self-appointed organizations are answerable to no constituency. Unelected, unselected,
ignorant of local sensitivities and cultural realities, an NGO often confront democratically
chosen authorities as well as those who voted them into office. Some even go as far as against the local
judiciary and national arm forces of the country – institutions responsible for national integrity. NGOs
such as International Crisis Group have openly interfered on behalf of the non-state characters in
Macedonia while advising open confrontation in Pakistan and Egypt. Such encroachment on state
sovereignty allows NGOs to get involved from local issues to domestic affairs and into foreign affairs of
the host country. They serve as self-appointed witnesses, judges, jury and executioner all rolled into
one. Recent behavior of the GEO TV, Jang and DAWN newspapers of media house in Pakistan is a classic
example.
Recent chaos in Pakistani society can be associated with the sudden surge of NGOs involvement
in Pakistani regional and provincial politics, especially from Britain and Scandinavian countries that
speaks to the negative effects on areas of education within the country. Over the last decade after 9/11, 2
NGOs in Pakistan have “fragmented the local education system, undermined local control of education,
and contributed to increased social inequality and division in society. Most NGOs operating in Pakistan
functions as a state agency within the state under the protection of their represented government
embassies. After denying for years, in the education sector both TCF – The Citizen Foundation and HDF
have proudly acknowledged on their web-site, collaboration with British government to teach and
promote English as language in a country that is suffering with 20 hours of load shedding daily – as if
English is the panacea of all problems in Pakistan. Most of these NGOs with an uncoordinated agenda,
create parallel projects undermining local education system, and takes away the governments’ ability to
maintain control over their own education sector. Readers must note here that from China, to
Indonesia and Malaysia to Germany, Poland and Russia – all have made remarkable progress in
educating their masses in their national language. Pakistan is the only country that delivers its
education in a foreign language.
Regardless of their cause or modus operandi, all NGOs are top-heavy with entrenched and well
paid, drawing perks and benefits of elite status bureaucracies (Ask NGOs for audited reports and that what
percentage is spent on their administration). The bulk of the income of most non-governmental organizations,
comes from – foreign governments and foundations associated with some western think tanks. In fact,
many NGOs serve as official contractors for foreign governments as did the Black Water during the
massive earthquake in northern Pakistan. A construction company using Black Water trained agents
provided help to US agencies in mapping the terrain in Kashmir while acting as charity organization
collaborating with Pakistani diaspora in USA. NGOs normally serve as long arms of their sponsoring
states – gathering intelligence, burnishing their image, and promoting their interest. There is a revolving
door between the staff of NGOs and government bureaucracies the world over making it difficult to
track the organizers.
Today there are millions of NGOs registered around the world, specifically in poor countries
under the auspices of charity organizations, policy institutions or disguised as think tanks, educators, or
even under the cover of UNO, IMF, World Bank and so on. According to Dr. Sam Vaknin in his book
Magnificent Self Love – “in critical and politically sensitive regions of the world, multiple NGOs are
receiving over 3-5 billion US dollars in funding from international financial institutions, Euro-US-Japanese
governmental agencies and local governments for various projects, from women empowerment to teach
English.” In Pakistan, eighty-seven percent of the NGOs are involved in the education sector subsidized
and supported by numerous foreign governments, specifically Scandinavian and British governments.
Most of these NGOs are assaulting Pakistan’s ideology and cultural base, challenging independence and 3
integrity of the country and its Islamic values in the name of enlightened progress and education.
Current tussle between People and GEO media house in Pakistan started when Inter-Services
Intelligence Chief General Zaheerul Islam told British ambassador bluntly not to try changing the
Pakistan ideology. British delegation was meeting the general on how to help Pakistan when they
boasted funding to GEO.

In fact he NGOs world-wide have become the latest vehicle for upward mobility (also emphasized
in O level curriculum of Pakistan) for the ambitious and already entrenched and well to do elite classes.
They are busy bodies, preachers, critics, do-gooders, and professional altruists, self-appointed, and not
answerable to any constituency. These NGOs are the parasites who feed off natural and man-made
disasters, mismanagement of the government, corruption, conflict, and strife (as in Pakistan and
exclusively in Muslim countries) all supported and directed by their sponsors to impose their agenda.
These NGO’s are the silent WMDs – Weapon of Mass Disruption – launched through social media at
will for the sole purpose of disrupting harmony in the society by increasing chaos and creating mass
hysteria about every little negative happening. Such is the case of GEO, JUNG and DAWN media houses
in Pakistan. Irony is that they are under the regulation of PEMRA a government monitoring and
regulatory authority confirming the influence of such NGOs over local governments. This influence and
strength are drawn through foreign funds via respective embassies. Mass protest in Turkey and Ukraine
as shown and promoted on western media is another classical example of the effectiveness of these
WMD attacks. NGOs wherever they exist also appear to have contradictory roles in local politics of the
host country. On one hand they criticize dictatorships and human rights violations. While on the other
hand they compete with radical socio-political and religious groups, attempting to hi-jack popular
movements; such as ‘Arab spring’ in Egypt with downfall of President Morsi, reforms in Turkey, clothing
workers in Bangladesh and other movements in the Middle East. NGOs normally flourish during three
situations either in real or through manipulated events.
First as a safe haven for dissident intellectuals pursuing the issue of human rights violations and
organizing “survival strategies” for victims. These humanitarian NGOs however, are careful not to
denounce the role of foreign entities and embassies involve with the local perpetrators of human rights
violations and political vengeance such as hanging of opposition leaders in Bangladesh and events in
Ukraine. Nevertheless the same NGOs are very vocal in other cases such as the case of Dr. Shakeel Afridi
in Pakistan guilty of espionage according to the law.
Second, the funding of the NGOs can be considered as kind of buying insurance by foreign
governments so in case the incumbent reactionaries falter. Such as the case in Egypt where US 4
sponsored NGOs activated social WMD creating artificial shortage of bread, water and petroleum – basic
needs of a common citizen – controlled by the Egyptian army but blaming the government of President
Morsi an elected representative. This was also the case with the “critical” NGOs that appeared during
the Marcos regime in the Philippines, the Pinochet regime in Chile, the Park dictatorship in Korea, and
most recently in Turkey against Tayyap Erdogan.
The third circumstance in which number of NGOs emerges and multiplies is during economic
crises provoked by free-market capitalism under the dictate of IMF and World Banks such as in Pakistan
where the situation is going to get worse in coming months along with the power crisis. It is interesting
to note here that in a country where 12-18 hours of load shedding is normal, where the industry shuts
down because of lack of electricity causing unemployment and poverty, Britain and other western
countries are more concerned with teaching English to the masses instead of assisting the government
with power generation locally.

In financial or economic hardships and during natural disasters, when the local industry comes
to a halt due to lack of capitalor energy, the jobs disappear and purchasing power of the common man
decline. In that case, as happening currently in South Asia, second job becomes a necessity. Who would
be the second job holder? Of course the wife, and the daughter, or the mother within the family to
mitigate family financial hardships disturbing the traditional family structure. Not so surprisingly these
NGOs suddenly than also become job placement agencies and consultancy disguising as a safety net for
the middle class. This safety net is further extended to potentially downwardly mobile intellectuals who
are willing to carry on the collaborative policies of NGOs, their sponsors, and agenda of other
international institutions as influencers in the society as Dr. Shakeel Afridi, who collaborated with CIA in
alleged killing of Osama Bin Laden in Pakistan or the most-recent incidence of attack on a journalist in
Pakistan. The middle-class society that used to not have much but also no one used to starve within
either, suddenly faces disruption of the families, the foundation of social fabric and harmony of the
society (WMD effects). Similarly during the on-going “war on terror “(man-made disaster) millions are
displaced in the north- west frontier of Pakistan losing their jobs. As the population displacement
spreads poverty to important swaths of the population, the very same NGOs becomes protagonist
engaging in preventative actions focusing on “survival strategies.” These NGOs while organizing soup
kitchens do not encourage mass demonstrations against food hoarders, corrupt regimes or western
policies that are the cause of all the disruption and damage to their society as it is happening in Khyber
Pakthun Khawa province of Pakistan or in Egypt.5
Majority of NGOs are proponents of Western values – women’s lib, Gay and Lesbian rights,
freedom of press and media, equality, etc. etc. Not every society finds this liberal menu palatable. The
arrival of NGOs often provokes social polarization and cultural clashes. Traditionalists in Bangladesh and
India, nationalists in Macedonia, religious zealots in Israel, Pakistan and Afghanistan clash with the
security forces everywhere. The British government spent well over 30 million dollars annually into
“Proshika,” a Bangladeshi NGO. It started as a women’s education outfit and ended up as restive and
aggressive women political lobby group with budget to rival many ministries in this impoverished
Muslim and patriarchal country. The British foreign office finances a host of NGOs – including the
fiercely ‘independent’ Global Witness – in troubled spots such as Angola and other African countries.
Most NGOs in place like Sudan, Somalia, Bangladesh, Pakistan, and in Africa have become the preferred
venue for Western aid – both humanitarian and financial. According to Red Cross more money goes
through NGOs than through World Bank. Their iron grip on food, medicine, education and unlimited
funds in case of Pakistan rendered them an alternative government imposing their values and ideologies
on poor masses. Even local businessmen, politicians, journalists and media houses (“Aman ki Asha”
operated by Jung newspaper and GEO TV in Pakistan) form NGOs to plug into Western largesse. In the
process, they award themselves with commercial advertising contracts, perks, and preferred access to
Western goods and credits.
Therefore the author appeal to the readers to think twice before putting hand in their pocket
and thinking that they are helping the poor of the world. One must think about the after effects of
NGOs – establishing schools or clinics – the effects of such projects with respect to social norm,
culture, religion and heritage of the country. One must ask the motivation and incentive that his
education assistance so generously provided to the nation. Every citizen must question the teaching and
promoting English over national language, it’s after effects on individual and society.
Having said that the author acknowledge that all fingers are not equal and so the same does not
applies to NGO’s such as Green Peace and Oxfam, and many others though politically motivated some
time. However one must be cautious and careful when asked to donate for education, human rights and
to alleviate poverty in the third world. In last 60 years so much money has been given by gracious
people that if spent wisely and for the sole purpose of which it was collected, we would have erased
illiteracy and poverty from this face of earth.
Finally, let me redefine NGO’s in the modified words of Jessica Mathews of Foreign Affairs
magazine (1997) – NGO are special interest groups that are designed and used as 
extensions of the normal foreign policy instrument of certain Western countries and
groups of countries. Unselected, unelected self- appointed altruists, with no constituency
and accountability, answerable to no-one, financed and controlled by foreign entities
with specific agenda. Russian President Vladimir Putin stated very correctly at the 43rd Munich
Conference on Security Policy in 2007, that these NGOs “are formally independent but they are
purposefully financed and therefore under control.” So all NGOs must be registered as Foreign Agents,
in the country of their operation.
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The Middle East we must confront in the future will be a Mafiastan ruled by money by Robert Fisk

Cover Photo

ROBERT FISK

 

 

Sunday 20 April 2014

The Middle East we must confront in the future will be a Mafiastan ruled by money

In Iraq, mafiosi already run almost the entire oil output of the south of the country

Saudi Arabia is giving $3bn – yes, £2bn, and now let’s have done with exchange rates – to the Pakistani government of Nawaz Sharif. But what is it for? Pakistani journalists have been told not to ask this question. Then, when they persisted, they were told that Saudi generosity towards their fellow Sunni Muslim brothers emerged from the “personal links” between the Prime Minister and the monarchy in Riyadh. Saudi notables have been arriving in Islamabad. Sharif and his army chief of staff have travelled to the Kingdom. Then Islamabad started talking about a “transitional government” for Syria – even though Pakistan had hitherto supported President Bashar al-Assad – because, as journalist Najam Sethi wrote from Lahore, “we know only too well that in matters of diplomatic relations there is no such thing as a gift, still less one of this size”.

 Now the word in Pakistan is that its government has agreed to supply Saudi Arabia with an arsenal of anti-aircraft and anti-tank missiles, which will be passed on – despite the usual end-user certificates claiming these weapons will be used only on Saudi soil – to the Salafist rebels in Syria fighting to overthrow the secular, Ba’athist (and yes, ruthless) regime of Bashar al-Assad. The American in other

words, will no longer use their rat-run of weapons from Libya to the Syrian insurgents because they no longer see it as in their interest to change the Assad government. Iraq, with its Shia majority, and Qatar – which now loathes and fears Saudi Arabia more than it detests Assad – can no longer be counted on to hold the Shias at bay. So even Bahrain must be enlisted in the Saudi-Salafist cause; his Royal Highness the King of Bahrain needs more Pakistani mercenaries in his army; so Bahrain, too – according to Najam Sethi – is preparing to invest in Pakistan.

But this is merely a reflection of a far larger movie, a Cinemascope picture with a cast of billions – I’m talking about dollars – which is now consuming the Middle East. It’s a story that doesn’t find favour with the mountebank “experts” on the cable channels nor with their White House/Pentagon scriptwriters, nor indeed with our own beloved Home Secretary who still believes that British Muslims will be “radicalised” if they fight in Syria. Sorry, m’deario, but they were already radicalised. THAT’S WHY THEY WENT TO SYRIA.

But the Taliban is no more going to take over Afghanistan than al-Qa’ida is going to rule Syria or Iraq, nor the Muslim Brotherhood Egypt. “Islamism” is not about to turn our beloved Arab and Muslim Middle Eastern world into a caliphate. That’s for The New York Times to believe.

Let’s just take a look across the region. Corruption in Afghanistan is not just legendary. This is a place where governance, law, electoral rules, tribal ritual and military affairs function only with massive bribes. It rivals North Korea in financial dishonesty (according to Transparency International). Remember the Kabul banking scandal that milked $980m (£584m) from the people (from which only $180m – £107m – was ever recovered)?

The Americans funded the Afghan warlords and then the NGOs spread their cash around the country and now, with the US withdrawal imminent – along with that of America’s NATO mercenaries – the Afghan gang bosses are not especially worried about the Taliban. Nor are they particularly concerned about women’s rights. But they are fearful that the dollars will stop flowing. A militia leader with three villas, 10 4x4s and 200 bodyguards has to find money to pay them when the Americans go home. So they will have to turn to drugs, money laundering and weapons smuggling on a massive scale. Pakistan, of course, is there to help.

 Now the word in Pakistan is that its government has agreed to supply Saudi Arabia with an arsenal of anti-aircraft and anti-tank missiles, which will be passed on – despite the usual end-user certificates claiming these weapons will be used only on Saudi soil – to the Salafist rebels in Syria fighting to overthrow the secular, Ba’athist (and yes, ruthless) regime of Bashar al-Assad. The Americans, in other words, will no longer use their rat-run of weapons from Libya to the Syrian insurgents because they no longer see it as in their interest to change the Assad government. Iraq, with its Shia majority, and Qatar – which now loathes and fears Saudi Arabia more than it detests Assad – can no longer be counted on to hold the Shias at bay. So even Bahrain must be enlisted in the Saudi-Salafist cause; his Royal Highness the King of Bahrain needs more Pakistani mercenaries in his army; so Bahrain, too – according to Najam Sethi – is preparing to invest in Pakistan.

But this is merely a reflection of a far larger movie, a Cinemascope picture with a cast of billions – I’m talking about dollars – which is now consuming the Middle East. It’s a story that doesn’t find favour with the mountebank “experts” on the cable channels nor with their White House/Pentagon scriptwriters, nor indeed with our own beloved Home Secretary who still believes that British Muslims will be “radicalised” if they fight in Syria. Sorry, m’deario, but they were already radicalised. THAT’S WHY THEY WENT TO SYRIA.

But the Taliban is no more going to take over Afghanistan than al-Qa’ida is going to rule Syria or Iraq, nor the Muslim Brotherhood Egypt. “Islamism” is not about to turn our beloved Arab and Muslim Middle Eastern world into a caliphate. That’s for The New York Times to believe.

Let’s just take a look across the region. Corruption in Afghanistan is not just legendary. This is a place where governance, law, electoral rules, tribal ritual and military affairs function only with massive bribes. It rivals North Korea in financial dishonesty (according to Transparency International). Remember the Kabul banking scandal that milked $980m (£584m) from the people (from which only $180m – £107m – was ever recovered)?

The Americans funded the Afghan warlords and then the NGOs spread their cash around the country and now, with the US withdrawal imminent – along with that of America’s NATO mercenaries – the Afghan gang bosses are not especially worried about the Taliban. Nor are they particularly concerned about women’s rights. But they are fearful that the dollars will stop flowing. A militia leader with three villas, 10 4x4s and 200 bodyguards has to find money to pay them when the Americans go home. So they will have to turn to drugs, money laundering and weapons smuggling on a massive scale. 

In Iraq, mafiosi already run the Shia port of Basra and almost the entire oil output of the south of the country. “Institutionalised kleptocracy” was a minister’s definition of al-Maliki’s government. In Syria, the rebels’ fiefdom is run by money mobs. That’s why every hostage has a price, every “Free Syrian Army” retreat – and the word “retreat” must also be placed in quotation marks – must be paid for, by the Syrian government or by the Russians or, most frequently, by the Iranians. The Syrian “civil war” is funded by Qatar and Saudi Arabia, by Libya and by Moscow and Tehran and, when it suits them, by the Americans. We’re so caught up in battlefield losses and war crimes and sarin and barrel bombs that we lose sight of the fact that the Syrian bloodbath – much like the Lebanese bloodbath of 1976-1990 – is underwritten by vast amounts of cash from foreign donors.

Just look at Egypt. The story we are supposed to swallow is that a benevolent if slightly despotic army has saved the country from an Islamist takeover. Just how President Mohamed Morsi – whose grasp of practical governance was about as hopeless as that of your average Egyptian general – was going to turn Egypt into a caliphate was anyone’s guess. Of course, our worthless political leaders – Tony Blair in the lead, naturally – are playing the “Islamist” line for the networks. Egypt was on the path to a medieval Muslim dictatorship, only rescued at the last minute by the defence minister-turned presidential candidate General al-Sisi’s belief in a “transitional government to democracy”.

Yes, the “transitional” road to democracy is all the rage these days. But the real counter-revolution in Egypt was not the overthrow of the pathetic Morsi, but what followed: the army’s re-establishment of its massive financial benefits, its shopping malls and real estates and banking, which bring in billions of dollars for the country’s military elite – and whose business dealings are now constitutionally safe from the prying eyes of any democratically-elected Egyptian government, “transitional” or otherwise. And if al-Sisi is elected the next President of Egypt – O Blessed Thought – woe betide anyone who suggests that the army, which is still the recipient of billions from the US, should clean up its multi-million dollar conglomerates.

All this is to say that the Middle East we must confront in the future – and it will be of our making as surely as the mass slaughter of its people have been primarily our responsibility – will not be a set of vicious caliphates, of Iraqistan or Syriastan or Egyptstan. No, there is one international, all-purpose name which we will be able to bestow upon almost all the states of the region, united as they have never been since the demise of the Ottoman Empire.

We will understand its masters all too well. We shall support them. We shall love them. Our Tony will understand them – Catholicism, after all, has its own history of corruption and the Vatican, as we have learned, has its own gangsters. Our enemy is not – Cameron and Hague, please take note – terror, terror, terror. It is money, money, money. Dirty money.

For the name of this brave new world will be Mafiastan. 

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USA responsible for making Pakistan most dangerous country

USA responsible for making Pakistan most dangerous country

 by

Asif Haroon Raja

 

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The US leaders and media often cite Pakistan as the most dangerous country in the world. If it is true, it didn’t attain this status at its own. Outsiders are responsible for making Pakistan a nursery of terrorism, or epicenter of terrorism, as recently described by Manmohan Singh, or the most dangerous country. Ironically, the ones responsible for converting a law abiding and peaceful country into a volatile country are today in the forefront censuring it. Till the onset of Afghan Jihad in 1980, Pakistan was a moderate and nonviolent country. It did suffer from the pangs of humiliation for having lost its most populous East Pakistan and  grieved over non-resolution of Kashmir dispute pending since January 1948 UNSC resolution. Both wounds had been inflicted upon Pakistan by its arch rival India. Pakistan had to perforce go nuclear in quest for its security because of India’s hostile posturing and nuclearisation.

 

Invasion and occupation of Afghanistan by Soviet forces in December 1979 brought five million Afghan refugees in Pakistan. These refugees disturbed the peace of Frontier Province and Balochistan where bulk got permanently settled. 2.8 million Afghan refugees have still not returned to their homes and besides becoming an economic burden, have posed serious social and security hazards. Foreign agencies carrying an agenda to destabilize Pakistan have been recruiting bulk of terrorists from within them.

 

Once the US decided to back proxy war in Afghanistan, CIA commissioned thousands of Mujahideen from all over the Muslim world and with the assistance of ISI, motivated, trained and equipped them to assist Afghan Mujahideen in their fight against Soviet forces. Large number of seminaries imparting religious training to the under privileged children were tasked to impart military and motivational training as well and prepare them for Jihad. FATA and Pashtun belt of Balochistan contiguous to Afghanistan were converted into forward bases of operation from where young Jihadists were unleashed. For next nine years the youth were continuously recruited and launched to fight the holy war against evil empire. Saudi Arabia became the chief financer of Jihad. It provided heavy funds to Sunni Madrassahs only. ISI took upon itself as the chief coordinator of the entire war effort while CIA restricted its role to providing arms, funds and intelligence only.

 

The whole free world led by USA enthusiastically applauded the heroics of holy warriors and none cared about astronomical fatalities and critical injuries suffered by them. The maimed for life, widows and orphans were patted and told that it was a holy war fought for a noble cause and huge rewards awaited them in the life hereafter. The single point agenda of the US was to defeat the Soviet forces with the help of Muslim fighters. Not a single soldier of any country including Pakistan took part in the unmatched war between a super power and rag-tag, ill-clothed and ill-equipped Mujahideen.

 

None bothered about the ill-effects this long-drawn war will have upon this region in general and Pakistan in particular acting as the Frontline State. Although Pakistan was only supporting the proxy war and was not directly involved, but it remained in a state of war and it faced continuous onslaughts of KGB-RAW-KHAD nexus as well as attacks by Soviet trained Afghan pilots and soldiers in the form of air assaults, artillery barrages and missile/rockets attacks.  Throughout the nine-year war, Pakistan faced twin threat from its eastern and western borders. By virtue of occupation of Wakhan corridor by Soviet troops, USSR had become immediate neighbor of Pakistan and had hurled repeated threats to wind up training centres and stop meddling in Afghanistan or else be prepared for dire consequences. Moscow’s age-old dream of reaching warm waters of Arabian Sea through Balochistan haunted Gen Ziaul Haq, but he stoutly held his ground. Pakistan’s relentless support ultimately enabled the Mujahideen to achieve the miracle of the 20th century. They defeated the super power and pushed out Soviet forces from Afghanistan in February 1989.

 

All foreign Jihadists who had come from other countries were not accepted by their parent countries. They had no choice but to stay put and get settled in Afghanistan and in FATA since they had collectively fought the war and had developed camaraderie with the Afghans and tribesmen. The US who had enticed and displaced them and used them as cannon fodder to achieve its interests was morally bounded to resettle them. It was honor bound to help Pakistan in overcoming the after effects of the war. FATA that had acted as the major base for cross border operations deserved uplift in socio-economic and educational fields. Afghanistan required major rehabilitation and rebuilding after its devastation. Nothing of the sort happened.

 

The US coldheartedly abandoned Afghanistan, Pakistan and Jihadists and instead embraced India which had remained the camp follower of Soviet Union since 1947 and had also partnered Soviet Union in the Afghan war and had vociferously condemned US-Pakistan proxy war. This callous act opened the doors for religious fanaticism and militarism. Pakistan suffered throughout the Afghan war and continues to suffer to this day on account of the debris left behind by Soviet forces and proxy war. By the time last Soviet soldier left Afghan soil, Pakistani society had got radicalized owing to free flow of weapons and drugs from Afghanistan and onset of armed uprising in occupied Kashmir.

 

Pakistan’s efforts to tackle the fallout effects of the war got seriously hampered because of harsh sanctions imposed by USA under Pressler Amendment in October 1989 and political instability throughout the democratic era from 1988 to 1999. Besides, Iran and Saudi Arabia started fuelling sectarianism in Pakistan throughout 1990s in a big way. Sipah-e-Muhammad Pakistan and Majlis-e-Wahadat ul Hashmeen were funded by Iran and Sipah-e-Sahabha Pakistan, now named as Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat (Sunni Deobandi) were supported by Saudi Arabia, which gave rise to religious extremism and intolerance and sharpened Shia-Sunni divide. Masjids and Imambargahs as well as religious clerics were incessantly attacked by the zealots of two communities. Threat of sectarian violence that had become menacing in Punjab in 1997-1998 had to be dealt with sternly. But the Punjab Police operation had to be curtailed because of severe pressure from Human Rights activists and NGOs on charges of extra judicial killings. Resultantly, the disease remained uncured.

        

Unseating of democratically elected heavy mandate of Nawaz Sharif led government by Gen Musharraf and the latter opting to ditch Taliban regime and to fight global war on terror at the behest of USA energized anti-Americanism, religious extremism and led to creation of Mutahida Majlis Ammal (MMA), an amalgam of six religious parties, which formed governments in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan. MMA on the quiet nurtured extremist religious groups that were also funded by foreign powers.

 

The fact that after 9/11, the US chose Pakistan to fight the war as a Frontline State is a clear cut indication that Pakistan at that time was viewed as a responsible and valued country and not a dangerous country. However, Pakistan’s nuclear program was an eyesore for India, Israel and USA. The planners had made up their minds to intentionally create anarchic conditions in Pakistan so that its nukes could be whisked away under the plea that it was unstable and couldn’t be trusted.

 

The initial attempt towards that end was to first allow bulk of Taliban and al-Qaeda leaders and their fighters to escape to FATA from Afghanistan and soon after forcing Pakistan to induct regular troops into South Waziristan (SW) to flush them out. This move created a small rivulet allowing terrorism to seep into FATA, which kept gushing in because of RAW led and CIA backed covert war at a massive scale and turning the rivulet into a river. Likewise, another rivulet was created in Balochistan. Concerted and sustained efforts were made to destabilize FATA and Balochistan and gradually sink Pakistan in sea of terrorism. Six intelligence agencies based in Kabul kept sprinkling tons of fuel on embers of religious extremism, sectarianism, ethnicity and Jihadism.

 

The US instead of helping in resolving Kashmir dispute misguided Gen Musharraf to forget about UN resolutions and float an out of box solution and try and resolve the dispute in accordance with the wishes of India. In order to woo India, Musharraf gave it in writing that he will not allow Pakistan soil to be used for terrorism against any neighboring country including India. While making this commitment unilaterally, he committed the fatal mistake of not imposing this condition on India. To further please USA and India and make the latter agree to sign peace treaty, he bridled all Jihadi groups engaged in Kashmir freedom struggle as well as in sectarianism. He also allowed India to fence the Line of Control. These moves did please India but angered Jihadis and sectarian outfits and in reaction, they hastened to join Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and turn their guns towards Pak security forces dubbed as mercenaries of USA fighting US war for dollars.

But for phenomenal clandestine support by foreign powers to the TTP in the northwest and to the BLA, BRA and BLF in the southwest, extremism and terrorism could have got controlled after major operations launched in Malakand Division including Swat, Bajaur and SW in 2009 and minor operations in other tribal agencies. The disarrayed network of TTP was helped to get re-assembled and regrouped in North Waziristan and that of Maulana Fazlullah in Kunar and Nuristan in Afghanistan. As opposed to good work done by Pak security forces in combating and curbing terrorism in Pakistan, the US-NATO forces operating in Afghanistan along with Afghan National Army kept making one blunder after another and in the process kept sinking deeper and deeper into the quagmire. Rather than correcting their follies, they chose to make Pakistan a scapegoat and declared it responsible for their failures. Rather than doing more at their end, they asked Pakistan to do more which was already doing much more than its capacity.

 

Since the aggressors underestimated their enemy they took things too lightly. Their intentions lacked sincerity and honesty and their stated objectives were totally different to their actual unspoken objectives which were commercial in nature. Above all they had no legitimate grounds to destroy a sovereign country and uproot its people which had played no role in 9/11. As a result, rather than devotedly fighting to win the war in Afghanistan, the assailants got deeply involved in drug business and other money-making schemes. The ruling regime led by Hamid Karzai became a willing partner in such shady businesses. American security contractors, defence merchants, builders and intelligence agencies started multiplying their wealth and lost their moral and professional ethics. Other than materialistic ventures, they got more involved in money-spinning covert operations against Pakistan, Iran, China and Middle East than in fighting their adversary. Taliban and al-Qaeda combine took full advantage of their self-destructive activities and opening of the second front in Iraq. After regrouping and re-settling in southern and eastern Afghanistan, they started striking targets in all parts of the country. War in Iraq helped al-Qaeda in expanding its influence in Arabian Peninsula and turning into an international organization.

 

The US has made a big mess in Afghanistan, in Iraq and in Libya and is now making another mess in Syria. It has lost the confidence of its most allied ally Pakistan by mistreating and distrusting it. Having lost on all fronts because of its tunnel vision and mercantile greed, it now wants the most dangerous country Pakistan to ignore the raw deal it gave all these years and to not only help ISAF in pulling out of Afghanistan safely but also to convince the Taliban to agree upon a negotiated political settlement. At the start of the Afghan venture, Pakistan was chosen by Washington to ensure success and in the endgame Pakistan is again being relied upon to bail it out of the mess. In the same breadth, the US is unprepared to cease drone attacks in FATA despite repeated requests that drones fuel terrorism. It is still focused on carving a lead role for India in Afghanistan. It is not prepared to stop its interference in internal affairs of Pakistan or to dissuade India from destabilizing Balochistan. Whatever socio-economic promises made are futuristic in nature and tied to conditions. US media and think tanks continue to demonize Pakistan. Its tilt towards India is too heavy and prejudicial behavior towards Pakistan conspicuous.

 

As a result of the US skewed policies with ulterior motives, Pakistan is faced with the demons of ethnicity, sectarianism, Jihadism, religious extremism and terrorism. While TTP is aligned with about 60 terrorist groups, in Balochistan there are more than two dozen terrorist groups. In Karachi, other than armed mafias, political parties have armed wings and are involved in target killings. Rangers and Police are engaged in targeted operation in Karachi and are producing productive results. 150,000 troops combating the militants in the northwest enjoy a definite edge over them. Major parts of Frontier Corps, Frontier Constabulary, Levies and Police are fighting the Baloch separatists and sectarian forces targeting Hazaras and have contained anti-state forces. All major cities are barricaded with road blocks and police piquets and yet terrorists manage to carryout acts of terror. The miscreants are fighting State forces with tenacity because of uninterrupted financial and weapons support from foreign agencies. Once external support dries up, their vigor will wane rapidly and sooner than later they will give up fighting.

 

With so many grave internal and external threats, most of which were invented and thrust upon Pakistan by foreign powers and duly exacerbated by meek and self-serving political leadership, Gen Ashfaq Pervez Kayani’s hands remained full. He has saddled the COAS chair for six years and during this period he had to face many a critical situations. It goes to his credit that he handled each crisis competently, astutely and honorably. During his eventful command, he tackled the challenge of terrorism, which he rightly described as the biggest threat to the security of Pakistan, boldly and produced pleasing results. Above all, he kept the morale of all ranks in the Army high and earned their respect and admiration. The list of his achievements is long and I have been highlighting those in my articles off and on. His successor has so far not been named but whosoever replaces him will find it difficult to fit into his shoes. I am sure he will breathe more freely and relax once he retires on November 29, 2013. We thank him for his laudable contributions and wish him sound health and happiness in all his future doings. Let us hope and pray that this senseless war comes to an end at the earliest, putting an end to chirping tongues deriving sadistic pleasure in describing Pakistan as the most dangerous country.

 

The writer is a retired Brig, defence analyst, columnist, historian and a researcher. asifharoonraja@gmail.com 

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Johann Hari, The Independent UK: The dark side of Dubai

 

Dubai was meant to be a Middle-Eastern Shangri-La, a glittering monument to Arab enterprise and western capitalism. But as hard times arrive in the city state that rose from the desert sands, an uglier story is emerging. Johann Hari reports

 

The wide, smiling face of Sheikh Mohammed – the absolute ruler of Dubai – beams down on his creation. His image is displayed on every other building, sandwiched between the more familiar corporate rictuses of Ronald McDonald and Colonel Sanders. This man has sold Dubai to the world as the city of One Thousand and One Arabian Lights, a Shangri-La in the Middle East insulated from the dust-storms blasting across the region. He dominates the Manhattan-manqué skyline, beaming out from row after row of glass pyramids and hotels smelted into the shape of piles of golden coins. And there he stands on the tallest building in the world – a skinny spike, jabbing farther into the sky than any other human construction in history.

But something has flickered in Sheikh Mohammed’s smile. The ubiquitous cranes have paused on the skyline, as if stuck in time. There are countless buildings half-finished, seemingly abandoned. In the swankiest new constructions – like the vast Atlantis hotel, a giant pink castle built in 1,000 days for $1.5bn on its own artificial island – where rainwater is leaking from the ceilings and the tiles are falling off the roof. This Neverland was built on the Never-Never – and now the cracks are beginning to show. Suddenly it looks less like Manhattan in the sun than Iceland in the desert.

Once the manic burst of building has stopped and the whirlwind has slowed, the secrets of Dubai are slowly seeping out. This is a city built from nothing in just a few wild decades on credit and ecocide, suppression and slavery. Dubai is a living metal metaphor for the neo-liberal globalised world that may be crashing – at last – into history.

I. An Adult Disneyland

Karen Andrews can’t speak. Every time she starts to tell her story, she puts her head down and crumples. She is slim and angular and has the faded radiance of the once-rich, even though her clothes are as creased as her forehead. I find her in the car park of one of Dubai’s finest international hotels, where she is living, in her Range Rover. She has been sleeping here for months, thanks to the kindness of the Bangladeshi car park attendants who don’t have the heart to move her on. This is not where she thought her Dubai dream would end.

Her story comes out in stutters, over four hours. At times, her old voice – witty and warm – breaks through. Karen came here from Canada when her husband was offered a job in the senior division of a famous multinational. “When he said Dubai, I said – if you want me to wear black and quit booze, baby, you’ve got the wrong girl. But he asked me to give it a chance. And I loved him.”

All her worries melted when she touched down in Dubai in 2005. “It was an adult Disneyland, where Sheikh Mohammed is the mouse,” she says. “Life was fantastic. You had these amazing big apartments, you had a whole army of your own staff, you pay no taxes at all. It seemed like everyone was a CEO. We were partying the whole time.”

Her husband, Daniel, bought two properties. “We were drunk on Dubai,” she says. But for the first time in his life, he was beginning to mismanage their finances. “We’re not talking huge sums, but he was getting confused. It was so unlike Daniel, I was surprised. We got into a little bit of debt.” After a year, she found out why: Daniel was diagnosed with a brain tumour.

One doctor told him he had a year to live; another said it was benign and he’d be okay. But the debts were growing. “Before I came here, I didn’t know anything about Dubai law. I assumed if all these big companies come here, it must be pretty like Canada’s or any other liberal democracy’s,” she says. Nobody told her there is no concept of bankruptcy. If you get into debt and you can’t pay, you go to prison.

“When we realised that, I sat Daniel down and told him: listen, we need to get out of here. He knew he was guaranteed a pay-off when he resigned, so we said – right, let’s take the pay-off, clear the debt, and go.” So Daniel resigned – but he was given a lower pay-off than his contract suggested. The debt remained. As soon as you quit your job in Dubai, your employer has to inform your bank. If you have any outstanding debts that aren’t covered by your savings, then all your accounts are frozen, and you are forbidden to leave the country.

“Suddenly our cards stopped working. We had nothing. We were thrown out of our apartment.” Karen can’t speak about what happened next for a long time; she is shaking.

Daniel was arrested and taken away on the day of their eviction. It was six days before she could talk to him. “He told me he was put in a cell with another debtor, a Sri Lankan guy who was only 27, who said he couldn’t face the shame to his family. Daniel woke up and the boy had swallowed razor-blades. He banged for help, but nobody came, and the boy died in front of him.”

Karen managed to beg from her friends for a few weeks, “but it was so humiliating. I’ve never lived like this. I worked in the fashion industry. I had my own shops. I’ve never…” She peters out.

Daniel was sentenced to six months’ imprisonment at a trial he couldn’t understand. It was in Arabic, and there was no translation. “Now I’m here illegally, too,” Karen says I’ve got no money, nothing. I have to last nine months until he’s out, somehow.” Looking away, almost paralysed with embarrassment, she asks if I could buy her a meal.

She is not alone. All over the city, there are maxed-out expats sleeping secretly in the sand-dunes or the airport or in their cars.

“The thing you have to understand about Dubai is – nothing is what it seems,” Karen says at last. “Nothing. This isn’t a city, it’s a con-job. They lure you in telling you it’s one thing – a modern kind of place – but beneath the surface it’s a medieval dictatorship.”

II. Tumbleweed

Thirty years ago, almost all of contemporary Dubai was desert, inhabited only by cactuses and tumbleweed and scorpions. But downtown there are traces of the town that once was, buried amidst the metal and glass. In the dusty fort of the Dubai Museum, a sanitised version of this story is told.

In the mid-18th century, a small village was built here, in the lower Persian Gulf, where people would dive for pearls off the coast. It soon began to accumulate a cosmopolitan population washing up from Persia, the Indian subcontinent, and other Arab countries, all hoping to make their fortune. They named it after a local locust, the daba, who consumed everything before it. The town was soon seized by the gunships of the British Empire, who held it by the throat as late as 1971. As they scuttled away, Dubai decided to ally with the six surrounding states and make up the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

The British quit, exhausted, just as oil was being discovered, and the sheikhs who suddenly found themselves in charge faced a remarkable dilemma. They were largely illiterate nomads who spent their lives driving camels through the desert – yet now they had a vast pot of gold. What should they do with it?

Dubai only had a dribble of oil compared to neighbouring Abu Dhabi – so Sheikh Maktoum decided to use the revenues to build something that would last. Israel used to boast it made the desert bloom; Sheikh Maktoum resolved to make the desert boom. He would build a city to be a centre of tourism and financial services, sucking up cash and talent from across the globe. He invited the world to come tax-free – and they came in their millions, swamping the local population, who now make up just 5 per cent of Dubai. A city seemed to fall from the sky in just three decades, whole and complete and swelling. They fast-forwarded from the 18th century to the 21st in a single generation.

If you take the Big Bus Tour of Dubai – the passport to a pre-processed experience of every major city on earth – you are fed the propaganda-vision of how this happened. “Dubai’s motto is ‘Open doors, open minds’,” the tour guide tells you in clipped tones, before depositing you at the souks to buy camel tea-cosies. “Here you are free. To purchase fabrics,” he adds. As you pass each new monumental building, he tells you: “The World Trade Centre was built by His Highness…”

But this is a lie. The sheikh did not build this city. It was built by slaves. They are building it now.

III. Hidden in plain view

There are three different Dubais, all swirling around each other. There are the expats, like Karen; there are the Emiratis, headed by Sheikh Mohammed; and then there is the foreign underclass who built the city, and are trapped here. They are hidden in plain view. You see them everywhere, in dirt-caked blue uniforms, being shouted at by their superiors, like a chain gang – but you are trained not to look. It is like a mantra: the Sheikh built the city. The Sheikh built the city. Workers? What workers?

Every evening, the hundreds of thousands of young men who build Dubai are bussed from their sites to a vast concrete wasteland an hour out of town, where they are quarantined away. Until a few years ago they were shuttled back and forth on cattle trucks, but the expats complained this was unsightly, so now they are shunted on small metal buses that function like greenhouses in the desert heat. They sweat like sponges being slowly wrung out.

Sonapur is a rubble-strewn patchwork of miles and miles of identical concrete buildings. Some 300,000 men live piled up here, in a place whose name in Hindi means “City of Gold”. In the first camp I stop at – riven with the smell of sewage and sweat – the men huddle around, eager to tell someone, anyone, what is happening to them.

Sahinal Monir, a slim 24-year-old from the deltas of Bangladesh. “To get you here, they tell you Dubai is heaven. Then you get here and realise it is hell,” he says. Four years ago, an employment agent arrived in Sahinal’s village in Southern Bangladesh. He told the men of the village that there was a place where they could earn 40,000 takka a month (£400) just for working nine-to-five on construction projects. It was a place where they would be given great accommodation, great food, and treated well. All they had to do was pay an up-front fee of 220,000 takka (£2,300) for the work visa – a fee they’d pay off in the first six months, easy. So Sahinal sold his family land, and took out a loan from the local lender, to head to this paradise.

As soon as he arrived at Dubai airport, his passport was taken from him by his construction company. He has not seen it since. He was told brusquely that from now on he would be working 14-hour days in the desert heat – where western tourists are advised not to stay outside for even five minutes in summer, when it hits 55 degrees – for 500 dirhams a month (£90), less than a quarter of the wage he was promised. If you don’t like it, the company told him, go home. “But how can I go home? You have my passport, and I have no money for the ticket,” he said. “Well, then you’d better get to work,” they replied.

Sahinal was in a panic. His family back home – his son, daughter, wife and parents – were waiting for money, excited that their boy had finally made it. But he was going to have to work for more than two years just to pay for the cost of getting here – and all to earn less than he did in Bangladesh.

He shows me his room. It is a tiny, poky, concrete cell with triple-decker bunk-beds, where he lives with 11 other men. All his belongings are piled onto his bunk: three shirts, a spare pair of trousers, and a cellphone. The room stinks, because the lavatories in the corner of the camp – holes in the ground – are backed up with excrement and clouds of black flies. There is no air conditioning or fans, so the heat is “unbearable. You cannot sleep. All you do is sweat and scratch all night.” At the height of summer, people sleep on the floor, on the roof, anywhere where they can pray for a moment of breeze.

The water delivered to the camp in huge white containers isn’t properly desalinated: it tastes of salt. “It makes us sick, but we have nothing else to drink,” he says.

The work is “the worst in the world,” he says. “You have to carry 50kg bricks and blocks of cement in the worst heat imaginable … This heat – it is like nothing else. You sweat so much you can’t pee, not for days or weeks. It’s like all the liquid comes out through your skin and you stink. You become dizzy and sick but you aren’t allowed to stop, except for an hour in the afternoon. You know if you drop anything or slip, you could die. If you take time off sick, your wages are docked, and you are trapped here even longer.”

He is currently working on the 67th floor of a shiny new tower, where he builds upwards, into the sky, into the heat. He doesn’t know its name. In his four years here, he has never seen the Dubai of tourist-fame, except as he constructs it floor-by-floor.

Is he angry? He is quiet for a long time. “Here, nobody shows their anger. You can’t. You get put in jail for a long time, then deported.” Last year, some workers went on strike after they were not given their wages for four months. The Dubai police surrounded their camps with razor-wire and water-cannons and blasted them out and back to work.

The “ringleaders” were imprisoned. I try a different question: does Sohinal regret coming? All the men look down, awkwardly. “How can we think about that? We are trapped. If we start to think about regrets…” He lets the sentence trail off. Eventually, another worker breaks the silence by adding: “I miss my country, my family and my land. We can grow food in Bangladesh. Here, nothing grows. Just oil and buildings.”

Since the recession hit, they say, the electricity has been cut off in dozens of the camps, and the men have not been paid for months. Their companies have disappeared with their passports and their pay. “We have been robbed of everything. Even if somehow we get back to Bangladesh, the loan sharks will demand we repay our loans immediately, and when we can’t, we’ll be sent to prison.”

This is all supposed to be illegal. Employers are meant to pay on time, never take your passport, give you breaks in the heat – but I met nobody who said it happens. Not one. These men are conned into coming and trapped into staying, with the complicity of the Dubai authorities.

Sahinal could well die out here. A British man who used to work on construction projects told me: “There’s a huge number of suicides in the camps and on the construction sites, but they’re not reported. They’re described as ‘accidents’.” Even then, their families aren’t free: they simply inherit the debts. A Human Rights Watch study found there is a “cover-up of the true extent” of deaths from heat exhaustion, overwork and suicide, but the Indian consulate registered 971 deaths of their nationals in 2005 alone. After this figure was leaked, the consulates were told to stop counting.

At night, in the dusk, I sit in the camp with Sohinal and his friends as they scrape together what they have left to buy a cheap bottle of spirits. They down it in one ferocious gulp. “It helps you to feel numb”, Sohinal says through a stinging throat. In the distance, the glistening Dubai skyline he built stands, oblivious.

IV. Mauled by the mall

I find myself stumbling in a daze from the camps into the sprawling marble malls that seem to stand on every street in Dubai. It is so hot there is no point building pavements; people gather in these cathedrals of consumerism to bask in the air conditioning. So within a ten minute taxi-ride, I have left Sohinal and I am standing in the middle of Harvey Nichols, being shown a £20,000 taffeta dress by a bored salesgirl. “As you can see, it is cut on the bias…” she says, and I stop writing.

Time doesn’t seem to pass in the malls. Days blur with the same electric light, the same shined floors, the same brands I know from home. Here, Dubai is reduced to its component sounds: do-buy. In the most expensive malls I am almost alone, the shops empty and echoing. On the record, everybody tells me business is going fine. Off the record, they look panicky. There is a hat exhibition ahead of the Dubai races, selling elaborate headgear for £1,000 a pop. “Last year, we were packed. Now look,” a hat designer tells me. She swoops her arm over a vacant space.

I approach a blonde 17-year-old Dutch girl wandering around in hotpants, oblivious to the swarms of men gaping at her. “I love it here!” she says. “The heat, the malls, the beach!” Does it ever bother you that it’s a slave society? She puts her head down, just as Sohinal did. “I try not to see,” she says. Even at 17, she has learned not to look, and not to ask; that, she senses, is a transgression too far.

Between the malls, there is nothing but the connecting tissue of asphalt. Every road has at least four lanes; Dubai feels like a motorway punctuated by shopping centres. You only walk anywhere if you are suicidal. The residents of Dubai flit from mall to mall by car or taxis.

How does it feel if this is your country, filled with foreigners? Unlike the expats and the slave class, I can’t just approach the native Emiratis to ask questions when I see them wandering around – the men in cool white robes, the women in sweltering black. If you try, the women blank you, and the men look affronted, and tell you brusquely that Dubai is “fine”. So I browse through the Emirati blog-scene and found some typical-sounding young Emiratis. We meet – where else? – in the mall.

Ahmed al-Atar is a handsome 23-year-old with a neat, trimmed beard, tailored white robes, and rectangular wire-glasses. He speaks perfect American-English, and quickly shows that he knows London, Los Angeles and Paris better than most westerners. Sitting back in his chair in an identikit Starbucks, he announces: “This is the best place in the world to be young! The government pays for your education up to PhD level. You get given a free house when you get married. You get free healthcare, and if it’s not good enough here, they pay for you to go abroad. You don’t even have to pay for your phone calls. Almost everyone has a maid, a nanny, and a driver. And we never pay any taxes. Don’t you wish you were Emirati?”

I try to raise potential objections to this Panglossian summary, but he leans forward and says: “Look – my grandfather woke up every day and he would have to fight to get to the well first to get water. When the wells ran dry, they had to have water delivered by camel. They were always hungry and thirsty and desperate for jobs. He limped all his life, because he there was no medical treatment available when he broke his leg. Now look at us!”

For Emiratis, this is a Santa Claus state, handing out goodies while it makes its money elsewhere: through renting out land to foreigners, soft taxes on them like business and airport charges, and the remaining dribble of oil. Most Emiratis, like Ahmed, work for the government, so they’re cushioned from the credit crunch. “I haven’t felt any effect at all, and nor have my friends,” he says. “Your employment is secure. You will only be fired if you do something incredibly bad.” The laws are currently being tightened, to make it even more impossible to sack an Emirati.

Sure, the flooding-in of expats can sometimes be “an eyesore”, Ahmed says. “But we see the expats as the price we had to pay for this development. How else could we do it? Nobody wants to go back to the days of the desert, the days before everyone came. We went from being like an African country to having an average income per head of $120,000 a year. And we’re supposed to complain?”

He says the lack of political freedom is fine by him. “You’ll find it very hard to find an Emirati who doesn’t support Sheikh Mohammed.” Because they’re scared? “No, because we really all support him. He’s a great leader. Just look!” He smiles and says: “I’m sure my life is very much like yours. We hang out, have a coffee, go to the movies. You’ll be in a Pizza Hut or Nando’s in London, and at the same time I’ll be in one in Dubai,” he says, ordering another latte.

But do all young Emiratis see it this way? Can it really be so sunny in the political sands? In the sleek Emirates Tower Hotel, I meet Sultan al-Qassemi. He’s a 31-year-old Emirati columnist for the Dubai press and private art collector, with a reputation for being a contrarian liberal, advocating gradual reform. He is wearing Western clothes – blue jeans and a Ralph Lauren shirt – and speaks incredibly fast, turning himself into a manic whirr of arguments.

“People here are turning into lazy, overweight babies!” he exclaims. “The nanny state has gone too far. We don’t do anything for ourselves! Why don’t any of us work for the private sector? Why can’t a mother and father look after their own child?” And yet, when I try to bring up the system of slavery that built Dubai, he looks angry. “People should give us credit,” he insists. “We are the most tolerant people in the world. Dubai is the only truly international city in the world. Everyone who comes here is treated with respect.”

I pause, and think of the vast camps in Sonapur, just a few miles away. Does he even know they exist? He looks irritated. “You know, if there are 30 or 40 cases [of worker abuse] a year, that sounds like a lot but when you think about how many people are here…” Thirty or 40? This abuse is endemic to the system, I say. We’re talking about hundreds of thousands.

Sultan is furious. He splutters: “You don’t think Mexicans are treated badly in New York City? And how long did it take Britain to treat people well? I could come to London and write about the homeless people on Oxford Street and make your city sound like a terrible place, too! The workers here can leave any time they want! Any Indian can leave, any Asian can leave!”

But they can’t, I point out. Their passports are taken away, and their wages are withheld. “Well, I feel bad if that happens, and anybody who does that should be punished. But their embassies should help them.” They try. But why do you forbid the workers – with force – from going on strike against lousy employers? “Thank God we don’t allow that!” he exclaims. “Strikes are in-convenient! They go on the street – we’re not having that. We won’t be like France. Imagine a country where they the workers can just stop whenever they want!” So what should the workers do when they are cheated and lied to? “Quit. Leave the country.”

I sigh. Sultan is seething now. “People in the West are always complaining about us,” he says. Suddenly, he adopts a mock-whiny voice and says, in imitation of these disgusting critics: “Why don’t you treat animals better? Why don’t you have better shampoo advertising? Why don’t you treat labourers better?” It’s a revealing order: animals, shampoo, then workers. He becomes more heated, shifting in his seat, jabbing his finger at me. “I gave workers who worked for me safety goggles and special boots, and they didn’t want to wear them! It slows them down!”

And then he smiles, coming up with what he sees as his killer argument. “When I see Western journalists criticise us – don’t you realise you’re shooting yourself in the foot? The Middle East will be far more dangerous if Dubai fails. Our export isn’t oil, it’s hope. Poor Egyptians or Libyans or Iranians grow up saying – I want to go to Dubai. We’re very important to the region. We are showing how to be a modern Muslim country. We don’t have any fundamentalists here. Europeans shouldn’t gloat at our demise. You should be very worried…. Do you know what will happen if this model fails? Dubai will go down the Iranian path, the Islamist path.”

Sultan sits back. My arguments have clearly disturbed him; he says in a softer, conciliatory tone, almost pleading: “Listen. My mother used to go to the well and get a bucket of water every morning. On her wedding day, she was given an orange as a gift because she had never eaten one. Two of my brothers died when they were babies because the healthcare system hadn’t developed yet. Don’t judge us.” He says it again, his eyes filled with intensity: “Don’t judge us.”

V. The Dunkin’ Donuts Dissidents

But there is another face to the Emirati minority – a small huddle of dissidents, trying to shake the Sheikhs out of abusive laws. Next to a Virgin Megastore and a Dunkin’ Donuts, with James Blunt’s “You’re Beautiful” blaring behind me, I meet the Dubai dictatorship’s Public Enemy Number One. By way of introduction, Mohammed al-Mansoori says from within his white robes and sinewy face: “Westerners come her and see the malls and the tall buildings and they think that means we are free. But these businesses, these buildings – who are they for? This is a dictatorship. The royal family think they own the country, and the people are their servants. There is no freedom here.”

We snuffle out the only Arabic restaurant in this mall, and he says everything you are banned – under threat of prison – from saying in Dubai. Mohammed tells me he was born in Dubai to a fisherman father who taught him one enduring lesson: Never follow the herd. Think for yourself. In the sudden surge of development, Mohammed trained as a lawyer. By the Noughties, he had climbed to the head of the Jurists’ Association, an organisation set up to press for Dubai’s laws to be consistent with international human rights legislation.

And then – suddenly – Mohammed thwacked into the limits of Sheikh Mohammed’s tolerance. Horrified by the “system of slavery” his country was being built on, he spoke out to Human Rights Watch and the BBC. “So I was hauled in by the secret police and told: shut up, or you will lose you job, and your children will be unemployable,” he says. “But how could I be silent?”

He was stripped of his lawyer’s licence and his passport – becoming yet another person imprisoned in this country. “I have been blacklisted and so have my children. The newspapers are not allowed to write about me.”

Why is the state so keen to defend this system of slavery? He offers a prosaic explanation. “Most companies are owned by the government, so they oppose human rights laws because it will reduce their profit margins. It’s in their interests that the workers are slaves.”

Last time there was a depression, there was a starbust of democracy in Dubai, seized by force from the sheikhs. In the 1930s, the city’s merchants banded together against Sheikh Said bin Maktum al-Maktum – the absolute ruler of his day – and insisted they be given control over the state finances. It lasted only a few years, before the Sheikh – with the enthusiastic support of the British – snuffed them out.

And today? Sheikh Mohammed turned Dubai into Creditopolis, a city built entirely on debt. Dubai owes 107 percent of its entire GDP. It would be bust already, if the neighbouring oil-soaked state of Abu Dhabi hadn’t pulled out its chequebook. Mohammed says this will constrict freedom even further. “Now Abu Dhabi calls the tunes – and they are much more conservative and restrictive than even Dubai. Freedom here will diminish every day.” Already, new media laws have been drafted forbidding the press to report on anything that could “damage” Dubai or “its economy”. Is this why the newspapers are giving away glossy supplements talking about “encouraging economic indicators”?

Everybody here waves Islamism as the threat somewhere over the horizon, sure to swell if their advice is not followed. Today, every imam is appointed by the government, and every sermon is tightly controlled to keep it moderate. But Mohammed says anxiously: “We don’t have Islamism here now, but I think that if you control people and give them no way to express anger, it could rise. People who are told to shut up all the time can just explode.”

Later that day, against another identikit-corporate backdrop, I meet another dissident – Abdulkhaleq Abdullah, Professor of Political Science at Emirates University. His anger focuses not on political reform, but the erosion of Emirati identity. He is famous among the locals, a rare outspoken conductor for their anger. He says somberly: “There has been a rupture here. This is a totally different city to the one I was born in 50 years ago.”

He looks around at the shiny floors and Western tourists and says: “What we see now didn’t occur in our wildest dreams. We never thought we could be such a success, a trendsetter, a model for other Arab countries. The people of Dubai are mighty proud of their city, and rightly so. And yet…” He shakes his head. “In our hearts, we fear we have built a modern city but we are losing it to all these expats.”

Adbulkhaleq says every Emirati of his generation lives with a “psychological trauma.” Their hearts are divided – “between pride on one side, and fear on the other.” Just after he says this, a smiling waitress approaches, and asks us what we would like to drink. He orders a Coke.

VI. Dubai Pride

There is one group in Dubai for whom the rhetoric of sudden freedom and liberation rings true – but it is the very group the government wanted to liberate least: gays.

Beneath a famous international hotel, I clamber down into possibly the only gay club on the Saudi Arabian peninsula. I find a United Nations of tank-tops and bulging biceps, dancing to Kylie, dropping ecstasy, and partying like it’s Soho. “Dubai is the best place in the Muslim world for gays!” a 25-year old Emirati with spiked hair says, his arms wrapped around his 31-year old “husband”. “We are alive. We can meet. That is more than most Arab gays.”

It is illegal to be gay in Dubai, and punishable by 10 years in prison. But the locations of the latest unofficial gay clubs circulate online, and men flock there, seemingly unafraid of the police. “They might bust the club, but they will just disperse us,” one of them says. “The police have other things to do.”

In every large city, gay people find a way to find each other – but Dubai has become the clearing-house for the region’s homosexuals, a place where they can live in relative safety. Saleh, a lean private in the Saudi Arabian army, has come here for the Coldplay concert, and tells me Dubai is “great” for gays: “In Saudi, it’s hard to be straight when you’re young. The women are shut away so everyone has gay sex. But they only want to have sex with boys – 15- to 21-year-olds. I’m 27, so I’m too old now. I need to find real gays, so this is the best place. All Arab gays want to live in Dubai.”

With that, Saleh dances off across the dancefloor, towards a Dutch guy with big biceps and a big smile.

VII. The Lifestyle

An expat paradise run on slave labour.

When we posted our 10 Worst Cities to Visit in the World some people got really annoyed that Dubai was on the list.

One guy wrote:

This is a stupid list and it makes me want to punch the author in the nuts.

Dubai. This city rocks. Sure, it’s super crazy and in the middle of the desert, but it’s so trippy that if you put yourself in the Disney state of mind, you will love it. I spent a week there in December and was like ‘This place rocks.’

But as this excellent article from Johann Hari reports, Dubai is so dazzling that it blinds people to the despotic regime which masquerades as a Middle Eastern Disneyland. Hari interviews an expatriate reduced to living in the street because of debts who says:

“The thing you have to understand about Dubai is – nothing is what it seems,” Karen says at last. “Nothing. This isn’t a city, it’s a con-job. They lure you in telling you it’s one thing – a modern kind of place – but beneath the surface it’s a medieval dictatorship.”

Why Dubai is Such a Disgusting Place

Here´s how it goes: Before oil was discovered in the region, the United Arab Emirates didn’t exist, the area was ruled by whichever tribe was strongest at the time. A few small towns traded on the coast and the interior was left to the Bedouin who eked out a living as best they could by smuggling, hiring themselves as mercenaries and raising and raiding camels.

Having endured thousands of years of this threadbare existence, the Gulf was turned on its head by the revelation that unimaginable wealth lay beneath the sands. Foreign companies came in, luxurious contracts were signed and in the space of a few years, no local ever needed to worry about working for a living again.

In fact, not many of them ever worried about working again, period. Millions of Indians, Pakistanis, Filipinos and Africans were brought in by labour contractors to do all the dirty work for them. Today in the U.A.E, all the cooking, cleaning, serving, construction, retail and general dogsbody work is done by immigrants. Yes, the same could be said of Mexicans in the US or Polish in the UK but in the U.A.E, the immigrant workforce often amounts to slave labour – their passports get confiscated by their employer and they cannot even leave the country, much less get paid.

An Expat Paradise?

What Johann Hari brings out so well in his article is that it’s not just the Arabs who display such astonishing callousness, but also the expatriates who rely upon immigrant maids to do everything for them.

`I asked a British woman called Hermione Frayling what the best thing about Dubai was. ‘Oh, the servant class!’ she trilled. ‘You do nothing. They’ll do anything!’

I used to know smugglers who made their living from taking out suitcases full of pills for expats to party in Dubai and it sounded like a fun place to hang out. And it probably is, provided you get drunk every night, hang out only with other expats and never think about how the whole slave society works.

But anyway, go and read the original article which should leave you in little doubt that Dubai is, without doubt, one of the worst cities in the world.

All the guidebooks call Dubai a “melting pot”, but as I trawl across the city, I find that every group here huddles together in its own little ethnic enclave – and becomes a caricature of itself. One night – in the heart of this homesick city, tired of the malls and the camps – I go to Double Decker, a hang-out for British expats. At the entrance there is a red telephone box, and London bus-stop signs. Its wooden interior looks like a cross between a colonial clubhouse in the Raj and an Eighties school disco, with blinking coloured lights and cheese blaring out. As I enter, a girl in a short skirt collapses out of the door onto her back. A guy wearing a pirate hat helps her to her feet, dropping his beer bottle with a paralytic laugh.

I start to talk to two sun-dried women in their sixties who have been getting gently sozzled since midday. “You stay here for The Lifestyle,” they say, telling me to take a seat and order some more drinks. All the expats talk about The Lifestyle, but when you ask what it is, they become vague. Ann Wark tries to summarise it: “Here, you go out every night. You’d never do that back home. You see people all the time. It’s great. You have lots of free time. You have maids and staff so you don’t have to do all that stuff. You party!”

They have been in Dubai for 20 years, and they are happy to explain how the city works. “You’ve got a hierarchy, haven’t you?” Ann says. “It’s the Emiratis at the top, then I’d say the British and other Westerners. Then I suppose it’s the Filipinos, because they’ve got a bit more brains than the Indians. Then at the bottom you’ve got the Indians and all them lot.”

They admit, however, they have “never” spoken to an Emirati. Never? “No. They keep themselves to themselves.” Yet Dubai has disappointed them. Jules Taylor tells me: “If you have an accident here it’s a nightmare. There was a British woman we knew who ran over an Indian guy, and she was locked up for four days! If you have a tiny bit of alcohol on your breath they’re all over you. These Indians throw themselves in front of cars, because then their family has to be given blood money – you know, compensation. But the police just blame us. That poor woman.”

A 24-year-old British woman called Hannah Gamble takes a break from the dancefloor to talk to me. “I love the sun and the beach! It’s great out here!” she says. Is there anything bad? “Oh yes!” she says. Ah: one of them has noticed, I think with relief. “The banks! When you want to make a transfer you have to fax them. You can’t do it online.” Anything else? She thinks hard. “The traffic’s not very good.”

When I ask the British expats how they feel to not be in a democracy, their reaction is always the same. First, they look bemused. Then they look affronted. “It’s the Arab way!” an Essex boy shouts at me in response, as he tries to put a pair of comedy antlers on his head while pouring some beer into the mouth of his friend, who is lying on his back on the floor, gurning.

Later, in a hotel bar, I start chatting to a dyspeptic expat American who works in the cosmetics industry and is desperate to get away from these people. She says: “All the people who couldn’t succeed in their own countries end up here, and suddenly they’re rich and promoted way above their abilities and bragging about how great they are. I’ve never met so many incompetent people in such senior positions anywhere in the world.” She adds: “It’s absolutely racist. I had Filipino girls working for me doing the same job as a European girl, and she’s paid a quarter of the wages. The people who do the real work are paid next to nothing, while these incompetent managers pay themselves £40,000 a month.”

With the exception of her, one theme unites every expat I speak to: their joy at having staff to do the work that would clog their lives up Back Home. Everyone, it seems, has a maid. The maids used to be predominantly Filipino, but with the recession, Filipinos have been judged to be too expensive, so a nice Ethiopian servant girl is the latest fashionable accessory.

It is an open secret that once you hire a maid, you have absolute power over her. You take her passport – everyone does; you decide when to pay her, and when – if ever – she can take a break; and you decide who she talks to. She speaks no Arabic. She cannot escape.

In a Burger King, a Filipino girl tells me it is “terrifying” for her to wander the malls in Dubai because Filipino maids or nannies always sneak away from the family they are with and beg her for help. “They say – ‘Please, I am being held prisoner, they don’t let me call home, they make me work every waking hour seven days a week.’ At first I would say – my God, I will tell the consulate, where are you staying? But they never know their address, and the consulate isn’t interested. I avoid them now. I keep thinking about a woman who told me she hadn’t eaten any fruit in four years. They think I have power because I can walk around on my own, but I’m powerless.”

The only hostel for women in Dubai – a filthy private villa on the brink of being repossessed – is filled with escaped maids. Mela Matari, a 25-year-old Ethiopian woman with a drooping smile, tells me what happened to her – and thousands like her. She was promised a paradise in the sands by an agency, so she left her four year-old daughter at home and headed here to earn money for a better future. “But they paid me half what they promised. I was put with an Australian family – four children – and Madam made me work from 6am to 1am every day, with no day off. I was exhausted and pleaded for a break, but they just shouted: ‘You came here to work, not sleep!’ Then one day I just couldn’t go on, and Madam beat me. She beat me with her fists and kicked me. My ear still hurts. They wouldn’t give me my wages: they said they’d pay me at the end of the two years. What could I do? I didn’t know anybody here. I was terrified.”

One day, after yet another beating, Mela ran out onto the streets, and asked – in broken English – how to find the Ethiopian consulate. After walking for two days, she found it, but they told her she had to get her passport back from Madam. “Well, how could I?” she asks. She has been in this hostel for six months. She has spoken to her daughter twice. “I lost my country, I lost my daughter, I lost everything,” she says.

As she says this, I remember a stray sentence I heard back at Double Decker. I asked a British woman called Hermione Frayling what the best thing about Dubai was. “Oh, the servant class!” she trilled. “You do nothing. They’ll do anything!”

VIII. The End of The World

The World is empty. It has been abandoned, its continents unfinished. Through binoculars, I think I can glimpse Britain; this sceptred isle barren in the salt-breeze.

Here, off the coast of Dubai, developers have been rebuilding the world. They have constructed artificial islands in the shape of all planet Earth’s land masses, and they plan to sell each continent off to be built on. There were rumours that the Beckhams would bid for Britain. But the people who work at the nearby coast say they haven’t seen anybody there for months now. “The World is over,” a South African suggests.

All over Dubai, crazy projects that were Under Construction are now Under Collapse. They were building an air-conditioned beach here, with cooling pipes running below the sand, so the super-rich didn’t singe their toes on their way from towel to sea.

The projects completed just before the global economy crashed look empty and tattered. The Atlantis Hotel was launched last winter in a $20m fin-de-siecle party attended by Robert De Niro, Lindsay Lohan and Lily Allen. Sitting on its own fake island – shaped, of course, like a palm tree – it looks like an immense upturned tooth in a faintly decaying mouth. It is pink and turreted – the architecture of the pharaohs, as reimagined by Zsa-Zsa Gabor. Its Grand Lobby is a monumental dome covered in glitterballs, held up by eight monumental concrete palm trees. Standing in the middle, there is a giant shining glass structure that looks like the intestines of every guest who has ever stayed at the Atlantis. It is unexpectedly raining; water is leaking from the roof, and tiles are falling off.

A South African PR girl shows me around its most coveted rooms, explaining that this is “the greatest luxury offered in the world”. We stroll past shops selling £24m diamond rings around a hotel themed on the lost and sunken continent of, yes, Atlantis. There are huge water tanks filled with sharks, which poke around mock-abandoned castles and dumped submarines. There are more than 1,500 rooms here, each with a sea view. The Neptune suite has three floors, and – I gasp as I see it – it looks out directly on to the vast shark tank. You lie on the bed, and the sharks stare in at you. In Dubai, you can sleep with the fishes, and survive.

But even the luxury – reminiscent of a Bond villain’s lair – is also being abandoned. I check myself in for a few nights to the classiest hotel in town, the Park Hyatt. It is the fashionistas’ favourite hotel, where Elle Macpherson and Tommy Hilfiger stay, a gorgeous, understated palace. It feels empty. Whenever I eat, I am one of the only people in the restaurant. A staff member tells me in a whisper: “It used to be full here. Now there’s hardly anyone.” Rattling around, I feel like Jack Nicholson in The Shining, the last man in an abandoned, haunted home.

The most famous hotel in Dubai – the proud icon of the city – is the Burj al Arab hotel, sitting on the shore, shaped like a giant glass sailing boat. In the lobby, I start chatting to a couple from London who work in the City. They have been coming to Dubai for 10 years now, and they say they love it. “You never know what you’ll find here,” he says. “On our last trip, at the beginning of the holiday, our window looked out on the sea. By the end, they’d built an entire island there.”

My patience frayed by all this excess, I find myself snapping: doesn’t the omnipresent slave class bother you? I hope they misunderstood me, because the woman replied: “That’s what we come for! It’s great, you can’t do anything for yourself!” Her husband chimes in: “When you go to the toilet, they open the door, they turn on the tap – the only thing they don’t do is take it out for you when you have a piss!” And they both fall about laughing.

IX. Taking on the Desert

Dubai is not just a city living beyond its financial means; it is living beyond its ecological means. You stand on a manicured Dubai lawn and watch the sprinklers spray water all around you. You see tourists flocking to swim with dolphins. You wander into a mountain-sized freezer where they have built a ski slope with real snow. And a voice at the back of your head squeaks: this is the desert. This is the most water-stressed place on the planet. How can this be happening? How is it possible?

The very earth is trying to repel Dubai, to dry it up and blow it away. The new Tiger Woods Gold Course needs four million gallons of water to be pumped on to its grounds every day, or it would simply shrivel and disappear on the winds. The city is regularly washed over with dust-storms that fog up the skies and turn the skyline into a blur. When the dust parts, heat burns through. It cooks anything that is not kept constantly, artificially wet.

Dr Mohammed Raouf, the environmental director of the Gulf Research Centre, sounds sombre as he sits in his Dubai office and warns: “This is a desert area, and we are trying to defy its environment. It is very unwise. If you take on the desert, you will lose.”

Sheikh Maktoum built his showcase city in a place with no useable water. None. There is no surface water, very little acquifer, and among the lowest rainfall in the world. So Dubai drinks the sea. The Emirates’ water is stripped of salt in vast desalination plants around the Gulf – making it the most expensive water on earth. It costs more than petrol to produce, and belches vast amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere as it goes. It’s the main reason why a resident of Dubai has the biggest average carbon footprint of any human being – more than double that of an American.

If a recession turns into depression, Dr Raouf believes Dubai could run out of water. “At the moment, we have financial reserves that cover bringing so much water to the middle of the desert. But if we had lower revenues – if, say, the world shifts to a source of energy other than oil…” he shakes his head. “We will have a very big problem. Water is the main source of life. It would be a catastrophe. Dubai only has enough water to last us a week. There’s almost no storage. We don’t know what will happen if our supplies falter. It would be hard to survive.”

Global warming, he adds, makes the problem even worse. “We are building all these artificial islands, but if the sea level rises, they will be gone, and we will lose a lot. Developers keep saying it’s all fine, they’ve taken it into consideration, but I’m not so sure.”

Is the Dubai government concerned about any of this? “There isn’t much interest in these problems,” he says sadly. But just to stand still, the average resident of Dubai needs three times more water than the average human. In the looming century of water stresses and a transition away from fossil fuels, Dubai is uniquely vulnerable.

I wanted to understand how the government of Dubai will react, so I decided to look at how it has dealt with an environmental problem that already exists – the pollution of its beaches. One woman – an American, working at one of the big hotels – had written in a lot of online forums arguing that it was bad and getting worse, so I called her to arrange a meeting. “I can’t talk to you,” she said sternly. Not even if it’s off the record? “I can’t talk to you.” But I don’t have to disclose your name… “You’re not listening. This phone is bugged. I can’t talk to you,” she snapped, and hung up.

The next day I turned up at her office. “If you reveal my identity, I’ll be sent on the first plane out of this city,” she said, before beginning to nervously pace the shore with me. “It started like this. We began to get complaints from people using the beach. The water looked and smelled odd, and they were starting to get sick after going into it. So I wrote to the ministers of health and tourism and expected to hear back immediately – but there was nothing. Silence. I hand-delivered the letters. Still nothing.”

The water quality got worse and worse. The guests started to spot raw sewage, condoms, and used sanitary towels floating in the sea. So the hotel ordered its own water analyses from a professional company. “They told us it was full of fecal matter and bacteria ‘too numerous to count’. I had to start telling guests not to go in the water, and since they’d come on a beach holiday, as you can imagine, they were pretty pissed off.” She began to make angry posts on the expat discussion forums – and people began to figure out what was happening. Dubai had expanded so fast its sewage treatment facilities couldn’t keep up. The sewage disposal trucks had to queue for three or four days at the treatment plants – so instead, they were simply drilling open the manholes and dumping the untreated sewage down them, so it flowed straight to the sea.

Suddenly, it was an open secret – and the municipal authorities finally acknowledged the problem. They said they would fine the truckers. But the water quality didn’t improve: it became black and stank. “It’s got chemicals in it. I don’t know what they are. But this stuff is toxic.”

She continued to complain – and started to receive anonymous phone calls. “Stop embarassing Dubai, or your visa will be cancelled and you’re out,” they said. She says: “The expats are terrified to talk about anything. One critical comment in the newspapers and they deport you. So what am I supposed to do? Now the water is worse than ever. People are getting really sick. Eye infections, ear infections, stomach infections, rashes. Look at it!” There is faeces floating on the beach, in the shadow of one of Dubai’s most famous hotels.

“What I learnt about Dubai is that the authorities don’t give a toss about the environment,” she says, standing in the stench. “They’re pumping toxins into the sea, their main tourist attraction, for God’s sake. If there are environmental problems in the future, I can tell you now how they will deal with them – deny it’s happening, cover it up, and carry on until it’s a total disaster.” As she speaks, a dust-storm blows around us, as the desert tries, slowly, insistently, to take back its land.

X. Fake Plastic Trees

On my final night in the Dubai Disneyland, I stop off on my way to the airport, at a Pizza Hut that sits at the side of one of the city’s endless, wide, gaping roads. It is identical to the one near my apartment in London in every respect, even the vomit-coloured decor. My mind is whirring and distracted. Perhaps Dubai disturbed me so much, I am thinking, because here, the entire global supply chain is condensed. Many of my goods are made by semi-enslaved populations desperate for a chance 2,000 miles away; is the only difference that here, they are merely two miles away, and you sometimes get to glimpse their faces? Dubai is Market Fundamentalist Globalisation in One City.

I ask the Filipino girl behind the counter if she likes it here. “It’s OK,” she says cautiously. Really? I say. I can’t stand it. She sighs with relief and says: “This is the most terrible place! I hate it! I was here for months before I realised – everything in Dubai is fake. Everything you see. The trees are fake, the workers’ contracts are fake, the islands are fake, the smiles are fake – even the water is fake!” But she is trapped, she says. She got into debt to come here, and she is stuck for three years: an old story now. “I think Dubai is like an oasis. It is an illusion, not real. You think you have seen water in the distance, but you get close and you only get a mouthful of sand.”

As she says this, another customer enters. She forces her face into the broad, empty Dubai smile and says: “And how may I help you tonight, sir?”

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