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Leaked documents from Abu Dhabi prisons reveal harrowing torture of female inmates

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Leaked documents from Abu Dhabi prisons reveal harrowing torture of female inmates

In a series of letters and audio recordings obtained by the Arab Organisation for Human Rights in the UK (AOHR), female political prisoners in Abu Dhabi have complained of torture, degrading conditions of detention, and endemic racism in Abu Dhabi’s prison system where African inmates are treated like “slaves” by prison warders

21-year-old prisoner of conscience, Mariam al-Balushi has said that since her detention she has been threatened with rape and subjected to torture, which has included verbal and physical abuse.

In a letter recently smuggled out of Abu Dhabi’s al Wathba Prison, Mariam said:

“As a result of the torture, my left eye became cross-eyed, and I have constant back pain as a result of the brutal torture I was subjected to by female Nepalese soldiers in the State Security Prison”

This seems to be a common theme of complaint across the Emirati prison system. In recent years, Nepalese guards, in particular, have become notorious for their aggressive treatment of prison inmates.

In her letter, Mariam went on to speak about the appalling conditions that inmates are forced to endure in UAE’s al-Wathba prison, where detainees are kept in solitary confinement, denied clean drinking water, and served inadequate food resulting in ill-health.

Mariam also said that in the summer months conditions at the prison worsen as UAE authorities turn off air-conditioning, while during the winter prisoners are forced to use unclean blankets which they are not permitted to wash.

In the following the passage, Mariam describes how conditions at the prison have got so bad that many inmates have been driven to suicide.

She said: “The Al Wathba administration does not provide any of the inmates’ needs. Only 10 sanitary towels, a bar of soap, 100g of washing up powder are given; the Red Crescent provides clothes, a prayer mat and slippers, but the policewomen confiscate them and do not distribute them. Water is not fit to drink, so we drink unclean water from the bathroom. We are dying from diseases, but we are not taken to the clinic.

She continued: “The building is worn out and needs maintenance. Suicides are on the rise: on 15/5/2017, a Chinese woman hanged herself in front of the cameras and remained suspended for four hours because of the lack of supervision; a Moroccan woman threw herself from the top floor; Alia tried twice, and I tried twice [to kill ourselves]. You can imagine how much we suffer..”

In her testimony, Mariam also alleges that policewoman at the facility “treat the African women from Uganda and Nigeria as slaves.”

In another letter smuggled out of the prison, 36-year-old prisoner of conscience Amina Abdullahi spoke graphically of the torture she suffered prior to being sentenced to five years for her online activities. During her interrogation, Amina says she was beaten, held in solitary confinement, and coerced into signing a forced confession.

For full transcripts of these letters, as well as audio recordings from the prisoners in question, please follow the link to the Arab Organisation for Human Rights’ (AOHR) press release on the issue below:

These revelations are yet a further demonstration of the deep flaws that lie at heart of the Emirati legal system, where practices of torture and a lack of due process have become increasingly systematic in recent years. International pressure needs to be exerted on the UAE authorities to adhere to the UN’s Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners, which affords basic rights for inmates such as access to adequate medical care, food and other amenities. Furthermore, UAE authorities must immediately allow UN working bodies access to the above prisons to inspect conditions. 


1.       For more information, please contact the ICFUAE team at or +44 7979 6666 98

2.       For more information on this story, please see AOHR’s press release

+44 7979 6666 98