x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 16 January 2018

Tap-water solidarity?

Dubai jail detainees raised some complaints last weekend, but their grievances do not seem likely to win them much sympathy.

What can we make of the grievances that some 20 people who were being detained at the Bur Dubai police station raised last weekend?

There are, no doubt, many things that prisoners dislike about being prisoners, although we understand that, as the story yesterday implied, not all jails are created equal.

In many cases, there surely are grievances with which anyone can sympathise. But in this kerfuffle, the protesters' demands do not seem likely to attract much sympathy: one of the principal grievances was to regain the right, recently abolished, to have food delivered from restaurants. Prisoners did not want the jail rations. They also wanted to be able to smoke cigarettes. And they complained of being given tap water instead of bottled.

Let us put aside the temptation to make jokes about hiding a hacksaw in the hummus, and eschew the obvious questions about how much a jail would charge for a 1.5-litre bottle of water.

Jail conditions should be a serious social issue. In this case, at least detainees did not follow through on their threats to start fires and smash surveillance cameras. Just as well; if they had done so authorities might have unplugged the television too.