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Ethics of Dubai and Middle East

Discussion in 'Teaching abroad' started by JoeKeenan1974, Jun 26, 2020.

  1. JoeKeenan1974

    JoeKeenan1974 New commenter

    I completely understand why people are attracted to places like Dubai.

    However, how comfortable do people feel living in a society where there are some terrible human rights abuses as documented by Amnesty International below, where there are gross inequalities between wealthy Emiratis and foreigners, treatment of workers from the Indian subcontinent, etc? Is it something that's just blanked out? Arbitrary things do happen to foreigners - do you feel safe from harassment by the authorities?


    I am interested in working abroad but find it hard to square this place ethically. Thanks for any thoughts.
  2. funkymonkey

    funkymonkey New commenter

    It's a dilemma that one has to deal with in many countries. Even the fact that local hire teachers might be earning 2/3rds less than you can be problematic. At the end of the day you have to make a choice about what you are happy to accept. If you are not comfortable with something, then don't take the job.
    The hard part is knowing that there is not much you can do about it, but at the same time, using this line of rationale is, in some ways a bit of a cop out. Personally I offset this by giving help when I can, maybe it might only be giving a homeless person a few quid or making sure I pick up the bill if out with local colleagues. Small things but its better than nothing.
  3. JoeKeenan1974

    JoeKeenan1974 New commenter

    Thanks, that's a very thoughtful response. Given the collapse on oil prices it looks like the ME gravy train will hit the buffers anyway.
  4. norwichred

    norwichred Occasional commenter


    have hear this argument a million times.

    If you refused to go to a country which practiced discrimination, and treated the disadvantaged badly, then I cannot think of many countries that you WOULD go to - including UK and US.

    As human beings we cannot change societies of countries but we can make sure that we, personally, are the best we can be and teach our children properly.

    One shall example - in Kuwait we have a Sri Lankan maid. The children are taught to treat her with respect, help her, and even though she hasn’t been working for us since February due to Covid and Curfews we are still paying her.

    Small things - we must be the best we can be.
  5. JoeKeenan1974

    JoeKeenan1974 New commenter

    Those are fair points to an extent, but I don't think it's right to dismiss the argument out of hand.

    So are you saying that there's no difference between how disadvantaged people are treated, and how human rights operate, in societies like Norway and the UAE? I find that an unconvincing line.
    T0nyGT likes this.
  6. gulfgolf

    gulfgolf Established commenter

    Excellent points above.
    I tend to think I can do more good by engaging than by disengaging.
  7. JoeKeenan1974

    JoeKeenan1974 New commenter

    Thank you all for taking the time to respond to my questions. It is very much appreciated, even if I disagree.

    I'm at the stage of my career where I'm considering options abroad. 20+ years teaching in the state sector in England and Scotland, kids the right age for such a move, and it's always something we've discussed as a family. I'm sure the excellent forums here can give me more specific information on where to consider.
  8. Karvol

    Karvol Occasional commenter

    You want a comfortable time abroad, with a decent amount of money and the trappings of an expat lifestyle (within reason)? Choose a country which has a poor human rights record and a low GDP. On the salary that you are given, you will have a great time.

    Try not to think too much about what is going on around you.

    You want to have a lifestyle little different from that of the UK with a similar standard of living and the "frustrations" that come from a populace that likes to have its voice heard and have rights? Choose Western Europe or a similary country.

    At least you will not have to worry too much about people being abused of their rights and treated like animals.

    To those who think that the only difference between Western (and other) democracies and despotic countries abroad is one of scale and severity, take your head out of your posterior. There is a reason why many wish to enter the EU/US and such countries and not the other way around.
    alex_teccy, T0nyGT, Duraz and 3 others like this.
  9. JoeKeenan1974

    JoeKeenan1974 New commenter

  10. MyOrchid

    MyOrchid Established commenter

    You can add China to that list....
  11. Mitochondria1

    Mitochondria1 Occasional commenter

    See these threads every now and again...I don't understand the purpose of them to be honest.
    Is it virtue signaling? Trying to alleviate guilt for being the one making the money for a change?
    Karvol was spot on with his post and there's nothing really to add to it.
  12. tb9605

    tb9605 Established commenter

    I grew up in Yemen (from 9 months), Kenya (from 5 years) and Tanzania (from 13 to 18), all countries with serious democratic and human rights deficeits, not to mention crippling poverty. Even though my dad was there as an aid worker (and my mum volunteered in an orphanage), I still feel deeply uncomfortable about the difference between my childhood privileges in comparison to those of the children of our servants, or the slum kids I went to Cub Scouts with. My mother confessed that Father Christmas didn't exist when I was 5; it was that or pretend he was racist when I asked why the local kids didn't get presents. I watched dawn break over the Indian Ocean and the Rift valley. I watched my parents compromise their principles and pay bribes. I saw migrating herds of wildebeest tracked by lions. I saw tribal violence and rampant electoral corruption. It was an amazing childhood and a troubling one. I am not the only one of my classmates from Kenya to feel the same.

    What's my point? Well, while as adults you may be able to rationalise your choices and you may well believe you are doing the right thing working in a country with a terrible human rights record.... but if you are a parent then it isn't just YOU that you are making the decision for. Your children will be affected by your choice.

    Oh, and don't kid yourself that by engaging you will make any difference at all. You won't. In 40 years working in some of the poorest countries in the world (add Sudan, South Sudan, Ethiopia and Uganda to the list above), very little that my Dad worked to achieve came off. Corruption and mis-management - usually by the cadre of privately educated entrached autocrats running the show - put paid to whatever globalisation/climate change didn't destroy.
  13. norwichred

    norwichred Occasional commenter

    My main issue is these arguments always pick on the Middle East when there are many many other places and countries they could use as an example.
    SPC2 and stopwatch like this.
  14. deadly lampshade

    deadly lampshade New commenter

    I feel just fine

    Easy. Don't come then.


    Have you been drinking?
    alex_teccy likes this.
  15. MyOrchid

    MyOrchid Established commenter

    Such as China.
  16. Mr robinson

    Mr robinson New commenter

    On the one hand I think that international schools make the situation worse- at least in terms of inequality. If we deliver a good education to our rich privileged local students we are just increasing their advantages over the other students who can't afford our school.
    However I assuage my guilt by trying to instil in my students a real sense of social responsibility.
    If I was a real saint I'd be working in an inner city school in the UK, but I'm just too selfish for that.
    SPC2 likes this.
  17. the hippo

    the hippo Lead commenter Community helper

    The last time I was in the Crimea, Mrs Hippo and I went for a wander round some lovely botanical gardens in Simferopol, her home town. We came to an avenue with lots of pictures and names underneath them, with some dates (nearly all from the early 1920s). Mrs Hippo told me that these were memorials for professors of botany and other educated people who liked plants. They were all murdered during the Civil War that broke out in Russia after WW1. Yes, there were some dreadful inequalities and injustices in Tsarist times, but maybe the cure was worse than the disease.

    Yes, I do think that Amnesty International does a great job and that democracy is a good thing. But is it logical, is it sensible, to expect that every country in the world could (and should) become a western-style democracy? And even if everyone could participate in free and fair elections, would all injustices and inequalities disappear?

    Well, it might be interesting to speculate about these issues, but the reality is that most international teachers are there as guests in a foreign country, so they have little or no influence on the government of the country that has given them their work permits. We have lessons to prepare, meetings to attend and assignments to mark, so righting the world's wrongs is neither our job nor our responsibility.
    markedout likes this.
  18. stopwatch

    stopwatch Lead commenter

    When I went back to visit my old secondary school, after my first year working in Saudi, my old Headteacher said that she couldn't understand how I could work in a police state. I told her that I had to 'ignore' the situation there if I was to get on with my job properly. I had primarily gone there to earn money to pay off the after effects of an expensive divorce/diminishing money pot.
    I guess that a big part of living in the Middle East is that there are a lot of injustices which occur, but you have to accept that there is little you can do about them on the grand scale and risk jail if you tried.
    As others have said, you can do things on a more minor scale - be pleasant to shopkeepers and workers and, where possible, organise events and fund raisers for those who work with you.
    I realise that some people might say you have to lack a conscience to work somewhere like Saudi, Qatar, Kuwait, UAE etc, but there are injustices in all countries, including our own. Same sh-1-t, different bucket as they say.
    markedout likes this.
  19. T0nyGT

    T0nyGT Lead commenter

    There is a HUGE difference between the ethics of Feb
    What difference does that make? Why shouldn't we pick on the middle East? You don't get away with a crime just because your neighbour committed one too
  20. SecondPlace

    SecondPlace Occasional commenter

    I was in a black gold country and had a colleague who regularly berated the morals etc. of the dynasty in charge.

    He wasn't wrong.

    But, his previous post had been in Saudi and he was moving on to a school in China...

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