Posts tagged ‘United Arab Emirates’

#UAEDressCode – A Social Media Debate

Two UAE nationals took the responsibility of raising the flag on dress code violations in Dubai. The campaign was launched on Twitter by Hanan Al Rayes and Asma Al Muhairi. They used the hagsh tag “UAEDressCode” and began educating Dubai residents and creating awareness on the norms, traditions and culture of the country and the emirate.

The campaign was launched during the month of May.  The hashtag #UAEDressCode has attracted many followers since its launch. And the campaign has helped stir a conversation on both social media and local media outlets. One question was raised across all platforms; should foreigners or expats abide by such rules. Users on social media labeled the initiative as a restriction on personal freedom, and stated that everyone should be free to do whatever they want in a city that opened its doors to an international audience.  The campaign became viral on Twitter and spilled over to different social media channels such as Facebook and various Blogs. The campaign is now at an international level and also transformed into an “off-line” controversy, when the topic was discussed in the Federal National Council on 12th of June.

Over a 45 day period (5th May – 18th June 2012) of monitoring, we captured a total of 10,025 conversations from the UAE. SocialEyez analyzed a total of 1,116 conversations when compiling this buzz report.

63% of the coverage was captured on Microblogs such as Twitter, followed by 32% captured on Social Network such as Facebook.  The remaining 5% was divided amongst Newspapers, Blogs and Forums/Message Boards.

The aim of the campaign was to educate the public on local traditions rather than enforcing dress code regulations for tourists and resident expatriates.  Furthermore the campaign’s language changed from Arabic to English with the growing local and international attention. The campaign received mixed reactions; few users loved the initiative and echoed its benefits across all social media platforms. While the remaining users thought that this was an unnecessary movement targeting the expat community.

The dialogue on social media platforms suggested that many expat women found the campaign to be “offensive” and that it represented women in “an unpleasant way”, making way for an anti-campaign movement promoting the belief in a free choice of clothing as a basic human right.  With the rise of the anti-campaign some users no longer wanted to be a part of the discussion asking for a conversation between locals and expats instead of a disrespectful argument on social media.

The change of attitude towards the law can be seen in a poll by “The National” on 13th June which showed that 70% of the respondents thought that a dress code law is required.  However on 23rd June, 64% voted that tourists and residents should be more educated rather than creating a law.  Overall the majority of people supported the campaign #UAEDressCode, users who conversed in Arabic were pro-campaign and encourage the idea of a law with 67% of positive reactions or support and no negative reactions (the remaining 23% were neutral posts with links to news articles about the campaign).

The subjects of the discussion are showed below:

Users who were pro-campaign encouraged the idea of covering up stressing that it was a matter of respect to dress adequately in UAE. 10% of the comments were written in an offensive way, and around 20% preferred a dialogue between locals and foreigners. Apart from tradition and culture a few discussions raised religion and that expatriates were to respect the fact that the UAE was indeed an Islamic country. A small percentage of users suggested introducing the abaya as appropriate clothing for all residents.

To prove the fact that foreigners do not wear “respectful” clothing in the UAE, many users stated that they saw “naked” women in malls and some even attached pictures to their tweets and posts.  The latter lead to further discussions as some active users did not appreciate looking at exposing pictures of women online.  Some comments also stated that a dress code should also be required for men, i.e topless and revealing shorts.  As a consequence of immodest clothing some users pointed out that, women get “evil” looks from men and this could be the reason for sexual harassment.

 

Users who reasoned the campaign (mainly tourists and expatriates) thought that lack of information and awareness was causing the problem. Some comments focused on the changing tradition in the UAE, asserting that locals themselves are not wearing traditional dresses anymore.  Moreover, shops for selling revealing clothes and the music and advertising industry are to blame for the origin of indecent clothing. These users requested the local community and authorities to educate expatriates and tourists on how to dress appropriately in the UAE.

The social media users who were against the campaign questioned the need for such restrictions and defended the expatriate community. Some users had difficulty to understand the priority of topics, as in their opinion there are more urgent issues that could be discussed.  They also accused the campaign supporters of being Islamists.

There were several neutral posts containing links to topics related news articles, and many comments contained a meta-discussion about the campaign, promoting the demand to trend the hash tag #UAEdresscode.  In addition to spreading awareness, organizational questions to the founders of the campaign were raised as well as a comparison to a further campaign (no2nudity).  Last but not least there were also some thankful comments which stated the success of the campaign and how it found its way through the social web.

Some examples tweets:

Conclusion:

Overall the topic “UAEdresscode” is not only interesting because of the content and the debate itself, but it also demonstrates the impact a Social Media campaign can create.  This campaign has been trending and is viral for longer than a month. It has spilled over to other media channels both online and offline and has made a difference in the real world, e.g. by triggering a fundamental social discussion in UAE’s headquarters.

Whether you agree or disagree with the act of policing people’s clothing, such a campaign seems unique because it was not launched by the governmental authority, but by two individuals, and their tools of communication was not conventional media like broadcasting and the press, but rather twitter. As a step towards education tourists and expatriates the Abu Dhabi authorities have now introduced an Ethics guide. A 14-point guide released by Abu Dhabi Police General Headquarters on the 5th of July, 2012. Omeir Al Muhairi, Deputy Director of Police Operations at Abu Dhabi Police GHQ  said “The code of ethics has been issued to ensure that tourists fully adhere to local rules and regulations, and do not upset the traditional and cultural values. The guideline has been prepared so the tourists have all the comfort and enjoy their visit at the same time ensuring the security of the society and respect of traditional and religious values”.

Scope Note:

The Buzz Report monitors trends and themes that dominate current discussions on various Social Media platforms. This explicit search was conducted globally with a special focus on the UAE about the campaign #UAEdresscode. The mentioned posts and comments were captured in both English and Arabic from the 5th May – 18th of June 2012. The keyword for the search was “UAEdresscode” in different spelling variations and hashtags and was afterwards checked manually.

If you are interested in monitoring any special event, political development or a certain brand/product we welcome you to contact us at info@social-eyez.com. We also appreciate any suggestions and improvements for this Blog. Also follow us on Twitter and like our Facebook-Page to get regular updates regarding future Buzz Reports.

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