Dubai authorities say those involved in a nude photoshoot on a balcony that went viral and sparked an offensive in the city will be deported.
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates – Those involved in a nude photoshoot on a high-rise balcony in Dubai will be deported, authorities said Tuesday, after the images went viral and sparked an offensive in the Arab Gulf sheikh.
Dubai authorities detained at least 11 Ukrainian women posing naked in broad daylight along with a Russian photographer on charges of public debauchery and pornography production. Earlier this week, images and videos of naked women spread across social media and sent a wave of commotion across the emirate, where a legal code based on Islamic law, or Shariah, has landed foreigners in jail for more docile crimes.
After an unusually swift investigation, Dubai Attorney General Essam Issa al-Humaidan announced that those responsible for the photoshoot would be sent back to their countries, without elaborating. Dubai police have refused to identify the detainees. More than a dozen women appeared in the widely shared video. Ukrainian and Russian authorities confirmed the arrest of their citizens on Tuesday, but the nationalities of the other detainees were not immediately known.
Speedy deportation is rare for the legal system in Dubai, an absolutely ruled sheikh. These cases usually go to trial or are resolved prior to deportation.
“The prosecutor ordered the deportation of the accused for their behavior contrary to public morals,” al-Humaidan said, adding that the women’s group had been accused of violating the country’s public decency law.
Dubai is one of the world’s top destinations for Instagram influencers and models, filling their social media with stylish bikini selfies of the coastal emirate’s luxury hotels and man-made islands. But the city’s branding as a dazzling foreign tourist destination has at times sparked controversy and clashed with the sheikh’s strict rules governing behavior and public expression.
The nude photoshoot scandal came just days before Ramadan, the holiest month on the Muslim calendar, and when Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky landed in nearby Doha, Qatar, for an official state visit. Over the years, Dubai has been increasingly touted as a popular destination for Russians on vacation. Signs in Cyrillic are a common sight in the city’s major shopping malls.
The generally pro-Kremlin tabloid Life identified the arrested Russian man as the head of an information technology company in Russia’s Ivanovo region, though his firm denied it had anything to do with the photoshoot. The Associated Press was unable to determine whether those arrested had legal representation or to contact an attorney for them.
Stanislav Voskresensky, the governor of Ivanovo, asked the Russian Foreign Ministry and the Russian ambassador to the United Arab Emirates to offer their support to the Russian.
“We are not abandoning ours,” Voskresensky wrote on social media.
It is not the first time that foreign social media influencers, amateurs and professionals, have attracted unwanted scrutiny in the UAE. Earlier this year, when Dubai was touted as a major party haven for travelers fleeing harsh lockdowns elsewhere, European reality TV stars came under fire for flaunting their poolside vacations in Dubai. on social media and for bringing the coronavirus home. Denmark and the United Kingdom later banned flights to the United Arab Emirates as virus cases rose in the federation of seven sheikhs.
Although the UAE has recently made legal changes to attract foreign tourists and investors, allowing unmarried couples to share hotel rooms and residents to drink alcohol without a license, the Persian Gulf country’s justice system maintains stiff penalties for violations of the law of public decency.
Nudity and other “lewd behavior” carry penalties of up to six months in prison and a fine of Dh5,000 ($ 1,360). The sharing of pornographic material is also punishable by prison terms and heavy fines. Most of the state telecommunications companies in the country block access to pornographic websites.
Foreigners, who make up about 90% of the UAE’s population of more than 9 million, have been jailed for comments and videos online, as well as crimes considered benign in the West, such as kissing in public.
Dubai police often turn a blind eye to misbehaving foreigners – until they don’t.
Associated Press writer Daria Litvinova in Moscow and Jon Gambrell in Dubai, United Arab Emirates contributed to this report.