Hello from the Dubai tourism board!

Diz and Mil.

Friends, one of Our People is in serious trouble.

Mildred’s partner, Diz, has been arrested in Dubai for melatonin, an over-the-counter aid for jet lag. You can read the full story here, on Mildred’s LJ. I quote:

We kind of knew he would be profiled because he has long hair and looks oriental (they are very racist against Asians in Dubai, and ultra-conservative). He knew the score going in: prescription drugs are illegal, dress conservatively and detox for a week (even trace amounts of either illegal or prescription drugs in the urine are prosecuted as ‘drug smuggling’. I’m not joking). They found melatonin on him, which he bought over the counter in the US. Legally, you can even buy it over the counter in Dubai. They arrested him, anyway.

He was strip searched, forced to do a urine test and thrown in jail. In their search they dug into the bottom of his bag and came up with a few fragments of dirt, which they allege is hashish, which is totally outrageous. They also claimed that the melatonin was actually drugs, which was equally, clearly absurd.

The sentence if convicted is a blanket four years, with a minimum of six months in prison in one of Dubai’s squalid, third world facilities.

I can’t think of a less deserving person for this to have happened to, this being the guy who offers shelter to his friends, campaigns for animal rights and subscribes to daily_puppy. Diz’s drug test came back negative and the melatonin has been cleared, but the authorities are still detaining him over the clump of dirt, which they’re still testing. We are all hoping that, in the next week, Diz will be released with an apology and sent home. If not, we are ready to wage all-out media war to bring him home.

Travelers need to know the image of Dubai a safe, modern tourist destination is a mirage. I don’t care if they have The Hydropolis, I don’t want any of you going there. What happened to Diz can happen to anyone, and now we’re just keeping our fingers crossed as we wait for news.

Please see Mildred’s LJ post for further details about this story. Please read the post before asking questions. Thank you everyone for your support! A special thanks to Warren Ellis for helping spread the word.

31 Responses to “Hello from the Dubai tourism board!”

  1. biorequiem:Zoetica Ebb » Hello from the Dubai tourism board! Says:

    […] is a direct cross-post from Coilhouse, my appologies to anyone who is reading it […]

  2. Daniel Says:

    Oh my. This is terrible. I read Mildred’s journal as well, but please post updates. If it comes down to “all-out media war”, I want to know. I have a considerable amount of readers on my blogs and would absolutely help.

  3. kat Says:

    Having been arrested in Latvia, for something equally asinine, this is not a fun position. I’m sure that the U.S. embassy and consular offices have already been contacted in Dubai (if not, do so my friend). It would also be a good idea to write a note to the UAE embassy in DC. They’re more apt to pay attention if any form of media will cover the event. This is all of course assuming he is American. If he is not, the same process should be undergone for whatever country he’s from. Good luck to him, I had the advantage (or disadvantage some might say) of being a woman.

  4. Lauren Says:

    I commented this at the LJ.

    Reposted. Let’s hope things get better.

  5. Tequila Says:

    Read this on Mildred’s LJ…hell of a thing to wake up to and worse still realize how easy this can happen to anybody. One hopes for the best of course but I’ve no doubt that whatever goes down each will do what they can to see this made right.

  6. Milly von Hilly Says:

    @ Daniel, thanks so much for that, and if the tide turns against us we will certainly need all the help we can get. Thanks for your support.

    @ Kat, I’m really sorry to that this happened to you as well. I’ve heard a lot of detention stories coming from women in Dubai and they mirror that of the men. He is German, which has made this a bit tricky, but the consulate has been fantastic. We’re letting them handle his case until he’s released, or, in the event that they charge him, until he needs legal help. Thanks so much for your advice.

    @ Lauren: got it, and thank you again!

    @ Tequila: It’s great to know we have your support in this, and if things take a turn for the worse you’ll hear it on Coilhouse/my blog first. Thank you again.

  7. Skerror Says:

    Ugh…that’s just insane. My heart goes out to you all. I hope Dubai will come to its senses. I’ll keep an eye out as well in case this situation gets any more sour…

  8. mer Says:

    This is terrible… please keep us updated. I am sure the embassy will do anything in their hands. Courage!

  9. Paul Komoda Says:

    The circumstances surrounding this nightmarish predicament are disgusting beyond my ability to articulate. All this shit’s in my head over this, and I’m not sure where to start.
    Nadya imparted the news to me this weekend, and I was very concerned about Diz’s whereabouts in the intervening days when I hadn’t heard
    of anything.
    Reading your LJ, and it clarified the specifics for me. Even though the situation seems to be in a bit of a holding pattern( good to see that he’s weathering this with relative good spirits), this mind-fuck game the”authorities”in that cultural anus of the world, are playing only earns my revulsion, both as an individual free-thinker and as an Asian American.
    My friends are similarly outraged, and extend their sympathies.
    I’ll be paying close attention to further developments, and will be prepared to support you and Diz in any way I can.

  10. catwalk_ghost Says:

    It’s so terrible and sick! Please keep everybody updated about what have happened. I’ll try to do what I can to support Diz. Good luck and courage!

  11. john colby Says:

    Its just an awafull country i would never go there . I feel just like the opening scene to midnight express…

  12. cappy Says:

    Yeah… folks, if you don’t want shit like this to happen to you, don’t fly to the more uncivilized parts of the world, okay? What did you think was going to happen?

  13. Nadya Says:

    Cappy, the difference is that Dubai actually bills itself as progressive, fun tourist destination and runs massive campaigns to get people to visit. As it says on Yahoo Travel, “Dubai is able to boast an Arabian experience in a protected, open-minded city.” Their tourism board has worked hard to create this perception, and thousands of people fall for it every year. Many who come to Dubai don’t have an experience like this, but the reality is that truly awful things can happen if you go there. Terrible things can happen to a traveler in any city, of course, but there are few places where the law can abuse foreign travelers so strongly while that same place tries to project the most attractive image to specifically draw foreign travelers. We just don’t want any more of our friends to fall victim to this false perception

  14. Milly von Hilly Says:

    Thanks for all of the support, it’s what has been keeping us going through this ordeal.

    @Cappy: I take your point, but in Europe Dubai is billed as a majour tourist destination and spend billions on advertising their resorts and touting their open-minded-ness. I think that many holiday makers do their research before coming to Dubai and still end up in the sort of situation Diz has found himself in.
    You know you run a risk when you go to places like China, Jamaica, Thailand, etc, but if you’re smart, and do your research you should have an amazing experience out of it. Unfortunately, what is happening in Dubai is vastly under-reported and many innocent people are ensnared by the way Dubai has advertised itself. We would like to raise awareness of this issue.
    To answer your (probably rhetorical) question: No, we absolutely did not think this would happen. He did what he was supposed to do, and he’s a good, professional, well-spoken guy.
    But you have a good point to make: be careful when you chose a holiday destination and go out of your way to research the bad as well as the good before you decide to board that plane.

  15. Io Says:

    That is un-fucking thinkable. Should this not be cleared up once the testing of the dirt is done, you’ve got a Georgia media girl on your side.

  16. Josh Ellis Says:

    I got Warren’s email this morning and tried to think of anything useful I could do — like phoning up the Dubai embassy as a journalist and asking them if they’d care to comment on the situation.

    However, retarded as the situation is, it’s not really surprising. Dubai is a semi-constitutional monarchy which is almost a practical theocracy. Countries like that tend to be appalling fascist shitholes, no matter how much money their petrocrats throw at making big tacky buildings. Medievalism is still medievalism, even if Frank Gehry’s designing the auto-de-fe.

    I live in Vegas, and I suspect Dubai is like the Vegas of the Arab world: on the surface it’s Partytown, but underneath it’s vastly conservative and creepy. Both places are in a schizoid struggle between their obsession with bringing in tourist money and not being “corrupted” by those tourists and their desire to, y’know, have fun.

    What happened is appalling, and I’m sorry as hell about your dude, Mildred, but it seems like the typical kind of bullshit pulled by countries that haven’t quite made the leap all the way out of the Third World.

    They’ll hold him until they figure out that it’s dirt in his bag, let him go without apologizing, and that will be that. And they’ll keep pulling shit like this until they finally do it to the wrong person or murder a Westerner, and their tourism starts nose-diving. At which point they’ll retreat into fundamentalism again. It’s stupid and tedious and obvious, but the people who run Dubai aren’t the smartest tools in the shed — merely some of the richest — and so it’s almost unavoidable.

    How many people you know wanna go to Singapore in the wake of that dumb shit who got himself caned back in the 1990s? You’d think they’d figure out that beating visitors for minor douchebaggery was a major PR failure…but again, underneath that progressive exterior, places like Dubai and Singapore are barely out of the fucking Dark Ages.

    Welcome to how globalism really works: the 21st century can fly right into the 12th century.

    Good luck. And if you can think of anything us little people can actually do to help, do let me know.

  17. A. Says:

    This is really horrible :(

    But I think it’s great of you guys to make it known to everyone. I’m one of the many others who has fallen for the image that their tourism board has been trying to project and had no idea stuff like this happens.

    Needless to say I won’t be travelling to that part of the world anytime soon.

  18. D Says:

    That’s a horrible souvenir to bring home whatever happens in the next few days.

    A few days. Sounds so easy but must be hell on him.

    I’m stunned that they don’t realize idiocy like this has an impact.

    Yes, Dubai spent a lot of PR cash in europe to make their corner of the world seem cosy.

    Friend’s brother worked there past five years as the exec for the Dubai branch of a european company. As a blonde with blue eyes he’s not really treated as fully human either, quite regardless of income etc.

  19. Mark Says:

    If you’d like any general advice from a friend of mine currently living there, I’ll happily give him a shout. He’s certainly not, I’m afraid, in any position to help out with the legal side of things, but he’s an English guy who’s been living and working over there for about a year now – I’m sure he could at least help create a clearer picture of the environment, if you’d find that at all comforting.

    Either way, good luck sorting this out – I’m very confident Diz will be fine. The authorities will quickly tire, when they realise there’s no grounds for a charge, of trying to make a ludicrous example of an innocent individual they simply didn’t dig the look of.

  20. Mark Says:

    edit to last comment: I’ve just read the LJ post in full, and realised that you already seem to have good contacts over there in terms of people who know the culture and ‘systems’ – so I’m sure my friend over there wouldn’t be able to tell you anything you don’t already know. Of course, the offer still stands if useful!

  21. Joansie Says:

    Wow, I am surprised to hear this. I had wanted to go to Dubai for a while, and before this I’ve heard nothing but awesome things about Dubai tourism. Good to know something like this can happen before booking a trip…

  22. ampersandpilcrow Says:

    A friend of mine who’s native to the area says this sort of thuggery is depressingly common in Dubai, to the point where she once saw the authorities harshly search every Indian coming off a plane.

    I hope he’s released soon.

    For what it’s worth, if the charges go forward, I’ll do everything I can to help throw in on media war and get the word out.

  23. lucylle Says:

    I don’t know if this will help but Lorenzo Bassano (case blog is in italian), an Italian director of advertising had a similar misadventure… he was found having traces of hashish in a pocket of a pair of trousers and for that was detained, jailed went to trial and was found guilty of drug posession/smuggling, which meant facing the same 4 years your friend is risking…
    Ultimately, and in my opinion thanks to the HUGE amount of mass media attention (both he and his brother work in the media business and have plenty of friends in the right places to call attention and gather resources/money for his case) the sultan of Dubai issued a pardon and he was sent back to Italy.

    Taking this as an example, I think the petition, along with trying to get media attention and coverage on the case is the best way act as Dubai doesn’t want the negative publicity this entails and will try to prevent it by closing the matter quickly and quietly. Hopefully all the people involving their time and efforts in this will make the difference…. in the mean time, I wish good luck to Diz and hope that his stay in Dubai won’t be long.

  24. Misbegotten Harlot Says:

    That has to be one of the most frustrating and frightening situations for both the detained and his loved ones. My father works over in Southern Africa and he’s told me a lot of horror stories about airport personnel just taking luggage and opening it on the tarmac and going through it and taking what they want and then leaving you to clean up the mess -incidents such as these create such a negative impression of a country and it’s people, which of course in turn does nothing to promote any sort of a positive relationship with them. I will hold the good thought and keep my fingers crossed that this ends soon and, while I know it won’t be entirely without consequence, with as minimal an amount of rigmarole as is possible.

  25. Morgana Says:

    Im so sorry this has happened, I signed the Petition I hope he gets released soon, have all my support and if there is anything I can do please do tell me, big hugs xxxxx

  26. Christopher Jon Says:

    I definitely send my support and will try to spread the word!

  27. Nicola Says:

    signed petition, supported on myspace and facebook.
    i hope things clear up
    im so sorry about this.

  28. D Says:

    2411 signatures is good but not great. Pity that nothing much has happened yet, keep us updated here as well? An e-hug to you both.

  29. Ben Morris Says:

    Bullshit such as this is more than infuriating. I reiterate previous comments: anything than we can do to help, just ask.

  30. gry planszowe Says:

    Ciekawa strona, trafilem tu przypadkowo, ale od dzis bede wpadal czesciej, pozdro

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