Dubai, Asharq Al-Awsat – Dubai police chief, Lieutenant General Dahi Khalfan, denied that the United Arab Emirates [UAE] has deported any Syrian nationals from the country against the backdrop of the Syrian revolution. He comprehensively denied claims that hundreds of Syrian nationals have had their visas revoked and been deported to Syria for demonstrating in solidarity with the Syrian revolution outside of the Syrian embassy in Dubai, stressing that 8 people did have their UAE residency visas revoked but this had nothing to do with the demonstrations.
Responding to media reports that the UAE had deported “100 Syrian families” back to Syria, the Dubai police chief asked “what evidence is there of this? Let them provide us with the names of those they claim were deported from the UAE. Dubai has not cancelled anybody’s visa for any reason relating to the Syrian revolution.”
This was all part of a verbal confrontation that erupted between the UAE and the Muslim Brotherhood. The dispute began after Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi – who has strong ties to Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood – criticized the UAE for reportedly revoking the residence permits of Syrian nationals who had taken part in demonstrations outside of Syria’s embassy in Dubai earlier this year, something that the UAE denies. In response to this, Dubai Police Chief Lieutenant General Dahi Khalfan threatened to issue an international arrest warrant for Sheikh al-Qaradawi if he repeated his criticism of the UAE. Muslim Brotherhood spokesman, Mahmud Ghazlan, later said that the “entire Muslim world” would take action against the UAE if it issued an arrest warrant for the Egyptian imam. This statement, in turn, was the subject of regional condemnation. UAE Foreign Affairs Minister Abdullah Bin Zayed al-Nahyan criticized the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood, calling on the “brotherly Egyptian government” to “explain its stand over Ghazlan’s disgraceful comments against the UAE” adding “Ghazalan’s statements regretfully provide evidence of bad intent.”
This crisis ultimately drew the attention of Arab League Secretary-General Nabil Elaraby, who called on “all political forces to resort to wisdom and prudence and to avoid hostile attitudes and irresponsible statements that can be detrimental to relations between Arab countries.”
The Muslim Brotherhood issued an official statement on Monday stating that they are prepared to hold talks with the UAE in order to clear up any misunderstanding. The Muslim Brotherhood’s statement claimed that the comments attributed to Ghazlan’s were fabricated and exaggerated in order to create political tensions at a crucial time. The Egyptian state-run news agency MENA also quoted an Egyptian diplomatic source who stressed that there are no problems between Egypt and the UAE and that the Muslim Brotherhood spokesman’s comments reflect the opinion of his organization, not that of the Egyptian government.
Attempting to further defuse the crisis, the Syrian National Council [SNC] denied asking Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi to intervene and mediate in the dispute between the Syrian opposition and the UAE government, over the alleged deportation of Syrian nationals. The SNC stressed “we do not need a mediator between us and the UAE, with whom we have strong ties.”
The Dubai police chief praised the SNC statement, and reiterated the denial that any Syrian nationals residing in the UAE were deported or expelled for taking part in anti-Assad demonstrations in Syria.
Lieutenant General Dahi Khalfan stressed that “nobody can be deported unless the residency is cancelled by the visa sponsor…and we have not deported anybody to Syria.” He clarified that in the UAE “anybody who is confirmed to have links to a certain organization is told to leave, whether he is Syrian or not”. Khalfan stressed that this case had been blown completely out of proportion by social media.
The Dubai police chief told Asharq Al-Awsat that “the SNC statement came at a very important time, for some UAE citizens were beginning to believe that the SNC had called on certain parties to mediate…they were beginning to believe what is being claimed in the media, that the UAE has thrown 100 [Syrian] families out onto the street”
He added “we thank the SNC for this statement because it has clarified the situation and resolved the confusion which was afflicting the Emirati people and created a problem in the region.”
Lieutenant General Dahi Khalfan also expressed his sympathy with regards to the situation in Syria and the suffering of the Syrian people, saying “we feel a great sense of loss, and our hearts are filled with sadness every day with regards to what is happening in Syria, and what happened in Baba Amr.
He added “the Syrians are our people and nobody can deny our love for them.”