|Prof. Karabus: In transit|
The UAE is made up of several separate emirates. The two largest are Dubai and Abu Dhabi who have not always gotten along so nicely together; their armed forces faced off against each other for a while in the late seventies [source]. They were impoverished fly-specks before gigantic oil and gas reserves were discovered in the sixties. They are no longer poor.
It would be nice to say their phenomenal wealth has been used consistently for good. It would be even nicer if the mythology they like to spin about their leaders were true, but it is not. For instance, the UAE's first president and acknowledged driving force, the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, is described in glowing terms on one of its newspaper's websites: "His firmly-held belief in Islam... was fundamental to his views and actions... He was a firm believer in the need for dialogue between different faiths and cultures, rejecting the intolerant views of those who would seek to promote divisions... His faith was fundamental to his views and actions [including] the duty entrusted to us by God Almighty, who commands us to treat all living creatures with dignity and respect". Nice sentiments. Keep those last words in mind as we push ahead.
Zayed's founding (in 1999) and funding of the notorious Zayed Center for Coordination and Follow-Up, a so-called think-tank that is now defunct, demonstrated motivations of a different sort. The Center [says Wikipedia] "became embroiled in controversy when it became known that it also disseminated and provided a platform for anti-American, anti-Semitic, and extreme anti-Israel views."
Its speakers were said [according to Wikipedia] to have described Jews as "enemies of all nations" and "cheaters whose greed knows no bounds." The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, an infamous anti-Semitic forgery created in the 19th century to vilify Jews, was held up as a factual account of a Jewish plan to "control the world."
Israel was accused by Zayed Center officials of developing an ethnic bomb that will kill only Arabs, an accusation echoed just last week in a wave of claims to identical effect that were published throughout the Iranian government-controlled media. See our blog post "9-Oct-12: The serious message behind the vile idiocy".
The Zayed people asserted for good measure that the Mossad was responsible for the assassination of John F. Kennedy and for the Watergate scandal as well. There's more [here, for instance], but you get the picture.
And (here we get to our point) some Zayed speakers accused Israel of trying to sterilize Palestinian children by lacing the water "used by some Palestinian schools" with chemicals.
Matters came to something of a head in 2004 when Harvard Divinity School decided to return a $2.5 million gift from Sheik Zayed [source] "after 18 months of controversy over the donor's alleged connection to anti-Semitic and anti-US propaganda... Sheikh Zayed gave the money to Harvard in 2000 to endow a professorship of Islamic studies." But note that the London School of Economics was not quite so unctuous, and kept and spent a similar cash gift from the same source: we wrote about it in our blog two years ago: see "26-Nov-10: Gifts and good relations".
Now fast forward to today's UAE and Dubai, where the statelet's huge airline, Emirates, has just done a deal with Qantas to essentially take over the Australian airline's steering wheel. With the Australian government blessing the deal a few days ago [report], it looks like full steam ahead. And according to a UAE business news website story from six days ago headlined "No alternative to Emirates deal: Qantas", the Flying Kangaroo is already thoroughly and irretrievably locked in.
So it appears Australians headed for Europe on the nation's flag-carrier will be traveling through the Dubai airport henceforth, instead of via gorgeous Singapore and its magnificent Changi Airport. The reasons are all about business, money and saving Qantas.
But at what price? People who pass through Dubai are going to need to be a bit more sensitive to some of the ways it is different from other major air route junctions. That's what Prof. Karabus learned, only a little too late. He is 77 years old, and a world-renowned paediatric oncologist from Cape Town, South Africa. During his term as head of oncology at the Red Cross Children’s Hospital in that city, the mortality rate of children with leukaemia was reduced from 80 to 20 percent. He has dedicated most of his working life to needy children in some of the most disadvantaged areas in South Africa. According to The Guardian, he "dedicated himself to saving the lives of black children from cancer throughout the apartheid era... [and] pioneered treatment for cancer and blood disorders at the Red Cross hospital in Cape Town, where he worked for 35 years, and trained numerous doctors at Cape Town University". None of the newspapers reporting on his plight have mentioned his religious faith so - given the nature of the people he is up against - we will see that as a policy to emulate.
For five weeks in 2002, he worked as a medical locum at the Sheikh Khalifa Medical City in Abu Dhabi during which he treated a three-year old child with terminal blood cancer. Medical professionals involved in the treatment at the time, quoted in a South African news report, are certain that the child received the best possible care from Karabus. Her death was unavoidable.
On August 18, 2012, a decade later, Prof. Karabus passed through Dubai International airport as a transit passenger, returning from his son's wedding in Canada. Here's what the South African paper says:
He then discovered, for the first time, that he was a convicted felon and alleged “fugitive from justice” and has since experienced the full might of the United Arab Emirates criminal justice system. Unbeknown to him, he had been charged, tried, convicted and sentenced in absentia for manslaughter in that country 10 years ago... Without his knowledge, he was convicted in the UAE criminal courts on charges of manslaughter and falsifying documents. It is alleged the patient was not given a platelet transfusion when required and that it was this, and not her terminal cancer, that led to her death. The specifics of the case are still unclear but it is alleged that Karabus falsified a document saying that the transfusion had been ordered. He was sentenced without being asked to mount a defence, to three years and six months imprisonment and ordered to pay so-called “blood money”. [More]
His lawyers made four applications for bail in the past month. All were rejected, evidently because [report] "the prosecution could not find the hospital files that contained the evidence". Meanwhile he was held in Al Wathba, Abu Dhabi's central prison [source].
“He was shackled at his last court appearance, and his spirit is broken. It is infuriating that this will be all people remember about him despite his many years of service to public health care in South Africa and abroad. “
The prison is described [here] this way:
Al-Wathba prison in Abu Dhabi is notorious for its human rights abuse, stoning to death, lashings, overcrowding. Inmates sleep in cells designed for 8 which held 22 with 3 lice infested blankets on a cement floor.
This past Thursday, bail was finally granted [source] on the fifth attempt. As of four days ago, his family had still not been able to speak with him [report].
This story would enrage us even if the founder of the regime had not been famed for insisting his underlings "treat all living creatures with dignity and respect". There is not much dignity, and even less respect, in what is being done to the distinguished Prof. Karabus. An online petition here, asking for the elderly oncologist's release, had gotten 11,225 signatures when we signed it an hour ago. As happens so often in life, there is not much we ordinary people can do to express our fury in the face of outrageous injustice by people with power. Signing a petition is one (please do). Letting the good people at Qantas, one of the world's really good airlines, know [as a Sydney lawyer did] how the special relationship with Emirates, Dubai and Abu Dhabi feels to us, is another.