x Abu Dhabi, UAE Friday 21 July 2017

London is safe if you take care, say Emirati students

Emirati students believe London is no more dangerous than any big city in Europe or America

LONDON // Emirati students living in London and their parents have dismissed fears that the city is exceptionally dangerous.

But they warn compatriots to better blend in with locals and alter their behaviour, especially after two attacks in the city this month on Emiratis.

Many UAE nationals have taken to social media to express their concerns about London’s violent crime.

Student S A, 20, said the brutality of the robberies was shocking but she did not think there was any plot to attack Emiratis.

“London is a big city and big cities are dangerous,” she said. “I think that both situations happened because [the victims] were targetable.

“When you live here long enough, you understand not to dress a certain way and that makes you less of a tempting option for robbers.

“East London, where I live, is dangerous but it’s largely populated by students and young people.

“Because of that robbers don’t go to that area, because they won’t get as much as they would in one of the posher areas.”

In the early hours of Tuesday Ali Al Tamimi, his wife and their guest, all Emiratis, were attacked after seven armed men beat down the door of their rented flat in Paddington.

At one stage the wife, 47, was ordered to sit down while one of the bandits put a gun to her head and another pointed his knife at her.

Mr Al Tamimi, 51, suffered minor injuries that did not require treatment after several attempts to stab him. One of the intruders ordered Mr Al Tamimi to be shot after he removed the mask of another.

Police said cash of more than Dh17,000, two passports, handbags and a bank card were stolen, but that the crime was not racially motivated.

On April 6, three Emirati sisters were attacked in their hotel room in Marble Arch.

Khuloud Al Najjar, 36, lost her left eye and now has only 5 per cent of her brain function. Her sister, Ohoud, 34, suffered two skull fractures, a broken left arm and a fractured cheekbone. Fatima, 31, has a fractured skull and a ruptured left eardrum.

Three men have been charged with the crime and will reappear in court in July.

S A said avoiding crime was a matter of not being conspicuous.

“Our parents and people back home are more worried than we are,” she said. “You learn to live and to be careful, and you know how not to attract unwanted attention.”

R R, an Emirati whose daughter is at university in London, said that parents must teach their children about how to conduct themselves when living and travelling abroad.

“Education starts with the parents,” she said. “I’ve been telling my kids since they were little not to dress up or stand out and this is not just specifically for London, this is for everywhere around the world.

“But when we are in London, she knows … to dress like [British people] and not like us – jeans and flip-flops and when you walk around, keep your eyes straight ahead and be careful.”

From her experiences, R R said many people from the Gulf perhaps acted without enough due concern when travelling abroad.

“Let’s go into the lifestyle of some Gulf citizens when they go to London,” she said. “They always go to extremes and show off.

“She is either getting revenge on her husband by spending all his money or she’s competing with her friends. It’s about time we stopped that.”

But R R said many of her friends are concerned that two families from the UAE should have been attacked within such a short time.

“We are asking, ‘Why Emiratis?’ We have a fear that someone is focusing on us to harm Emiratis,” she said.

“That’s a big question for us.”

nalwasmi@thenational.ae