After reading my ejos people sometimes ask me if Dubai is as wonderful as I make it out to be. The simple answer is yes, as those who have come to visit can attest. But the simple answer is very rarely an accurate one. The city is not all shopping malls, beaches, restaurants, five star hotels and indoor ski slopes. In fact, if you scratch a little bit behind the surface, Dubai is not at all what it appears to be. True it has a low crime rate compared to other major cities, but just like anywhere else in the world there is a dark underbelly hidden beneath the glossy exterior.
I still feel safer here than I did living in Australia. It’s perfectly safe to leave your handbag, phone or wallet in the car in clear view. Car theft is virtually non-existent. And because the consumption of alcohol outside of the home is so regulated, you very rarely hear about drunken punch ups or public violence. There are no wolf whistles emanating from construction sites, and it feels safe to walk the streets at night (even though just like other cities, some streets feel safer than others). The city is mostly inhabited by law abiding citizens – simply because the penalties for breaking the law are so harsh. Most of the time an infraction attracts a jail sentence followed by possible deportation. This provides a very satisfactory deterrent.
Nonetheless crime does exist. Open the pages of any newspaper and you can read about a number of bizarre and unsavoury cases that have gone to trial. Drug cases, burglary and theft, kidnapping, prostitution and even human trafficking. And, of course, murder. Recently I read about a Bangladeshi man who owed one of his friends a few thousand dirhams. The guy was demanding payment and the Bangladeshi man decided it would be a good idea to kill his friend and keep the money. He lured the man to his food delivery truck with the promise of payment. Instead of money though, the man received a knock to the head and was pushed into the back of the truck. The Bangladeshi man set the temperature to -4°C and left him there to die while he went home to bed for the night. Early the next morning when he went to dispose of the body he found his friend completely frozen, yet miraculously, still alive – his eyelids blinking in terror. The Bangladeshi man panicked, fetched a knife and proceeded to cut his friend’s throat from ear to ear.
This was a particularly strange case, however it’s representative of a great number of the types of crime that occur here. That is, crimes of greed, passion or opportunity, usually involving a friend or compatriot, and committed in desperation.
The most horrific crime that I’ve heard of happened about a year after we moved to Dubai. It occurred in November 2009, during Eid al-Adha, which is an Islamic feast celebrating Ibrahim’s faith and obedience to Allah in sacrificing his son, and also, Allah’s mercy – it translates literally to “Feast of the Sacrifice”. It is a very important occasion, as it is a time to bond and connect with family and close friends. People dress in their very best clothing and prepare great feasts to share with loved ones. It is a particularly joyous time for kids (kind of like Xmas for the rest of us), as they receive gifts and are free to play and run around the neighbourhood.
Pakistani father of three, Mukhtiar Ahmed Khudabaksh remembers his middle child, four year old Moosa, being particularly happy and excited that it was Eid. He remembers that at around 11am that Friday morning, Moosa was sitting right beside him eating cheese crackers, before running out of the house to join the other children playing outside. It was the last time he saw his son alive.
The next time he saw Moosa, it was to identify his body in the morgue of the local hospital. The family received no immediate information about Moosa’s death and assumed that, since he’d been found in the bathroom of the mosque next door to their house, that he’d slipped and fatally struck his head on the floor. Of course they were devastated. But they had no idea of the horror yet to come. The next day they got a call from Police saying that Moosa had been murdered by a 30 year old Emirati fishing boat captain. They had the man in custody and he had confessed to the killing. Can you even begin to imagine the shock and anger his family felt towards this man?? And those feelings would have amplified exponentially when they found out the details of how their young son died.
According to a statement made by Rashid Al Rashidi, the man charged with the murder, he’d been drinking that morning and when he’d seen Moosa playing outside he’d lured him to the nearby mosque with promises of Eid gifts. Moosa, excited at the prospect of more gifts, and having no reason to mistrust the man, followed him into the mosque where Al Rashidi led him into the bathroom. While hundreds of other men were praying in the main room, and while an Imam intoned the holy prayer, Al Rashidi raped the little boy.
Details of what happened to Moosa have not been released, and I am very grateful for that because I am haunted enough simply by the idea of what suffering that little boy had to endure. Al Rashidi confessed that Moosa was shouting in pain during his ordeal, and when he heard someone else come into the bathroom he covered Moosa’s mouth with his hands to keep him quiet. When that didn’t stop the little boy from screaming, he slammed his little head hard on the floor. Twice. He then fled the scene, leaving Moosa to die on the bathroom floor. After he was caught, he admitted to intending to rape Moosa but said that he never planned to kill him. He showed remorse during the hearings and pleaded for mercy from the victim’s family and the courts.
The reason I am writing about this is mostly for myself. It has weighed on my mind for a long time and I’ve needed to sort out in my head whether or not I believe he deserved the sentence he received – death! At 8.35am, on 10th February 2011, Rashid Al Rashidi was executed by firing squad, in front of a few witnesses, including Moosa’s parents. Did he deserve mercy when he showed none to a small, defenceless boy? As the prosecution stated, “he raped and murdered an innocent angel in the house of God”. Wasn’t Rashidi’s own death more humane and civilised than the one which he inflicted upon Moosa?
Moosa’s family will never have him back, and they will forever live with the pain of what happened to their little boy, but following the execution his father said that he had “finally found some peace”. And I understand that. After the execution, he went and prayed in the very same mosque in which his son was killed. This was not an act of forgiveness, though. From the moment he found out about what Al Rashidi had done to his son, Mukhtiar Ahmed Khudabaksh had campaigned for the death penalty and said that he could never forgive the man who killed his son. He said, “I don’t need anything in life except his death.” And he got it. Will Rashid Al Rashidi’s execution make him happy? No, probably not. But I believe that it will allow him to feel that justice has been served. That the ultimate (and appropriate) price has been paid for the crime committed against his son. Anything less would have been a miscarriage of justice.
I’m sure some of you are probably against capital punishment and, of course, everyone is entitled to their own opinion. I don’t particularly condone it, but I do think that in this case it was justified. I’d love to hear what anyone else thinks about it.
Sorry to hit you with the hard and heavy stuff today. Next month it’ll be some easy breezy reading with more adventures from Dangerous Doug. See you then.