Thursday, March 28, 2013

UAE: Harrassment, Prosecution of Expats Rising for Drinking Alcohol, Lunch with Women Not Married To

According to The Mirror, a British woman and a teacher in Abu Dhabi, was arrested earlier this week for having lunch at the home of a man who was not her husband and for consuming alcohol therein.

The woman appeared at Abu Dhabi's Misdemeanor Court where she told a judge that she had only entered the Syrian man’s house after accompanying another male colleague there for lunch.

The court was told that the Syrian, who has also been detained, had thrown his wife out of the house last week.

Unfortunately, the estranged wife of the Syrian called police and reported that she had been forced out of the home.

COMMENT: When police went to the house the next day to speak to the man they found the British woman enjoying an after-lunch drink with the accused, at which point Abu Dhabi police arrested both of them and remanded them into custody. 

The teacher’s male colleague says he invited the woman to the Syrian’s house and that the two defendants did not know each other before that meeting. The male teacher had left the home before the police arrived.

The Syrian's wife, who is the legal owner of the home, pressed charges against the British woman for entering her property without permission. She later dropped the charge, yet the expat teacher is still charged with drinking alcohol without a license and being alone in the company of a man other than her husband or close relative.

Although most outsiders think of the UAE as a "wide-open" country with a burgeoning nightlife, the reality is that the only way that resident expats can legally drink in the UAE is to obtain a personal "liquor license" so that you can purchase alcohol in stores, 5-star hotel restaurants and bars in all emirates except Sharjah, where you can only drink in your home or in an expat hangout called the Sharjah Wanderers. 

Despite what you may have heard, only RESIDENT expats can legally obtain a "liquor license."  Visitors cannot.

During Ramadan, no alcohol is served during daylight (fasting) hours. Dubai and Abu Dhabi permit bars to serve alcohol at night, but bands stop playing, background music is off or quiet, no dancing is allowed and nightclubs are usually closed. On certain holy days in the Islamic calendar, no alcohol is served publicly in any of the UAE.

Do not under any circumstance drink and drive in the UAE. That's why they have taxis. If you're caught drinking and driving you WILL go to jail.

The consumption of alcohol is ONLY legal for non-Muslims in Abu Dhabi within licensed restaurants, pubs, clubs, or private venues. Additionally, non-Muslim expats living in Abu Dhabi with residence status can apply for an alcohol licence, which entitles them to purchase alcohol from specialized stores and then consume their beverage of choice at home.

For legal purposes, if planning to consume alcohol in Abu Dhabi it's best to have a license, even if only planning to drink in licensed establishes.

This DOES NOT make an expat exempt from charges of public drunkenness, an arrestable offense in Abu Dhabi. 

Moreover, expats who expect family members to visit on a visitor's visa, be exceptionally careful if planning to consume alcohol. Those on a tourist visa cannot purchase an alcohol license, which makes consumption technically illegal.

Sexual relationships outside of marriage are strictly illegal. You can be arrested and jailed for having sex in any form with someone you are not married to.

Dancing in public is considered provocative and indecent.

Publicly photographing women without their permission is frowned upon. Furthermore, it's illegal to take pictures of military, airport or government installations in the emirate.

Kissing, hugging and generally displaying affection in public is against the law. It's fine for a married couple to hold hands in public, but anything beyond that will result in serious repercussions.

It's strictly illegal and forbidden to bring drugs into Abu Dhabi. Even the slightest, residual amount (a marijuana seed stuck in the rubber sole of your shoe) can result in arrest, a four-year imprisonment and then deportation.

Expats bringing prescription drugs to Abu Dhabi should bring a doctor's note and should make an effort to notify authorities beforehand.

By far, the best policy for expats is to NOT drive if they're going to drink.

To be safe, obtain a "liquor license" and drink only at home. If you're caught by the police drinking without a license, the fine can be US$136 or more.

Sadly, a foreign expat new to the UAE may assume they can drink anywhere where alcohol is served. Not so. Get a "liquor license" first. 

Finally, if you are convicted of any crime in the UAE, you could well find yourself being deported, as you have only those rights provided to you in the UAE. Being deported for cause is not a good thing.