"Al Binghal bighal," said one police officer to another: "Bengalis are animals".
It was my second week in Al Sadr Prison in Abu Dhabi when I had to make a visit to the clinic. As per procedure, I had to be searched before being returned to my cell. I stood in a line made mostly of Asian workers; an officer sat on a chair as prisoner after prisoner stepped up towards him.
But this was no airport-style frisking – the prisoners were roughed up and manhandled, their clothes nearly torn off. In my time at al-Sadr Prison in Abu Dhabi, I saw Asians regularly get punched, slapped, and insulted, and they do not dare protest, or they'd get even worse treatment.
The coming days will bring a lot of more details, and much of the analysis will be understandably passionate and angry. But once everyone’s anger, fear, and disgust subsides, if there’s anything to remind ourselves of, it’s that this problem can’t be disowned or exported any more. These terrorists are not «foreigners» from «out there» – these are products of these very societies.
On 26 December, I reported the latest speech by Islamic State (Isis) leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi on Twitter. A Russian media outlet made the incredible mistake of reporting that I was him, and that caught on in several more papers. Before the end of the week, even Twitter briefly blocked me before realising its mistake.
But as well as being incredibly sloppy journalism, it's quite poignant that I was confused with the IS (Daesh) chief, seeing how the two "Baghdadis" are ideological competitors. I am an Arab Spring activist who campaigns for an Arab world in which human rights are inviolable; he is the theocratic leader of a terrorist organisation pretending to be an Islamic State.
Three recent contributions to the debate on Saudi Arabia:
Saudi Arabia Is the Problem and Solution to Extremism (NYT Room for Debate)
To Have an Ally in the Middle East, the U.S. Needs a Strategic Vision (NYT Room for Debate)
The Next Front in the Saudi-Iran War (Foreign Policy)