x Abu Dhabi, UAE Friday 21 July 2017

Momentum toward growth of a civil society

Sultan Al Qassemi's opinion article The sacrifice of our troops and a need for civil society (February 28) focused on the lack of public awareness about our troop contingent in Afghanistan.

Readers praise UAE military personnel for distributing humanitarian aid to Afghan civilians and helping in the reconstruction effort.
Readers praise UAE military personnel for distributing humanitarian aid to Afghan civilians and helping in the reconstruction effort.

Sultan Al Qassemi's opinion article The sacrifice of our troops and a need for civil society (February 28) focused on the lack of public awareness about our troop contingent in Afghanistan. The reason why we don't hear about the UAE servicemen in Afghanistan is that their mission is peaceful. They are not involved in the fighting. On the contrary, we hear about US soldiers a lot in the media here and in the US because they are mainly there to fight the Taliban. Another reason is when American soldiers are killed, the media will report this and their families will soon know about it. Thank God our Emirati soldiers' mission is to feed the people and help in the construction of Afghanistan - not to create an enemy. Most of all, the Afghans look at our soldiers as their brothers. Osama Kadir, Abu Dhabi

I foresee much debate emanating from this article as a point of origin. What is clear is that the dominant issues that arise from the channels of mass media are in tune with the public image of the UAE. From what I know in brief conversations with Emiratis, the younger generation wants to channel the spirit of nationalism to demonstrate that there is more to the UAE than just a shopper's and vacationer's paradise. However, how they are making their voices heard to the expat population and the world outside the UAE is unclear.

I was born and raised in the UAE and call this place home and have always done so. But in order to support the community here, we need a dissemination of information to know what is going on. Core issues are discussed in shisha cafes and more officially in forums such as the POAG (Promise Of Another Generation) organisation here in Dubai at the Shelter. What needs to be addressed is this gap in information and the ability of the next generation to bring the community - both local and expat - closer together by feeding them this information.

The mass media channels need to be integrated into these solutions. Groups do exist and people do take an interest despite the mass media not reflecting this greater awareness, but they are still small in number. I am sure that these organisations will grow over time. No one wants their troops away from home and no one wants to be kept in the dark when it comes to the place they call home. Rome was not built in a day, but that does not mean that they did not start somewhere. Gaurav Dhar, Dubai

I had heard of Turkish troops in Afghanistan, but only last month did I learn about Emirati troops. Their true peacekeeping mission, like for the Turkish troops, is a lonely sacrifice in a region where rhetoric itself has become a shadow reality.

While there is open public debate in Turkey about its Afghan presence, there seems to have been no debate about Emirati troops in the UAE or GCC. As a whole the GCC's consumerist, hyper-capitalist societies seem to have no stomach for public debate. The suggestion for a C-Span like channel for the UAE Federal Council is timely. Not all democratic debate is divisive, and it can act as a safety valve for stresses built up in society, besides giving people a chance to be heard. Athar Mian, Abu Dhabi

In reference to the article Cabbies quit over 'false promises' (February 28), it is really a sorry state of affairs for cab drivers in UAE. Hearing some of the sob stories of the drivers brings tears in your eyes. They are cheated at every step of the process right from recruitment in their home countries to the calculation of their end-of-month incentives.

Driving a cab in the UAE is by far the most tension-filled and stressful job. They often work 18 hour days for a measly take-home pay. They get a raw deal. The taxi companies must be more driver-friendly. The same will be reflected in the drivers' attitudes. Now it seems like a lose-lose situation for the drivers and passengers. Who seems to be winning? Take a guess. Ravikiran MA, Abu Dhabi

I found The silence of the victims leaves sex crimes in the dark (February 22) to be a very interesting article. I would like to add that the lack of knowledge we have about our rights as individuals doubles the fear within. I am a victim myself and for once I tried to have the courage and report it. Believe me, you don't want to know how disappointed I am with the result. As I am writing these lines I am shivering as if it happened this very second. MJ, Dubai