Police in Dubai arrested a group of people on charges of public debauchery, authorities said Saturday, April 3, 2021, over a widely shared video that showed naked women posing on a balcony in the Marina. (AP Photo/Kamran Jebreili, File)

Police in Dubai arrested a group of people on charges of public debauchery, authorities said Saturday, April 3, 2021, over a widely shared video that showed naked women posing on a balcony in the Marina. (AP Photo/Kamran Jebreili, File)

Those involved in a naked photoshoot in Dubai to be deported

Nudity and other ‘lewd behaviour’ carry penalties of up to six months in prison and a fine of more than $1,000

Those involved in a naked photo shoot on a high-rise balcony in Dubai will be deported, authorities said Tuesday, after the footage went viral and prompted a crackdown in the Gulf Arab sheikhdom.

Dubai authorities detained at least 11 Ukrainian women who posed naked in broad daylight along with a male Russian photographer on charges of public debauchery and producing pornography. Earlier this week, images and videos of the naked women splattered across social media and sent a wave of shock through the emirate, where a legal code based on Islamic law, or Shariah, has landed foreigners in jail for tamer offences.

After an unusually speedy investigation, Dubai’s Attorney General Essam Issa al-Humaidan announced that those behind the photo shoot would be sent back to their countries, without elaborating further. Dubai police have declined to identify those detained. More than a dozen women appeared in the widely shared video. Ukrainian and Russian authorities confirmed the arrest of their citizens Tuesday, but the nationalities of the others detained were not immediately known.

The swift deportation is rare for the legal system in Dubai, an absolutely ruled sheikhdom. Such cases typically go to trial or are otherwise adjudicated before deportation.

“The public prosecutor ordered the deportation of the accused for their behaviour contrary to public morals,” al-Humaidan said, adding that the group of women had been charged with violating the country’s public decency law.

Dubai is a top destination for the world’s Instagram influencers and models, who fill their social media feeds with slick bikini-clad selfies from the coastal emirate’s luxury hotels and artificial islands. But the city’s brand as a glitzy foreign tourist destination has at times provoked controversy and collided with the sheikhdom’s strict rules governing public behaviour and expression.

The nude photoshoot scandal came just days before Ramadan, the holiest month of the Muslim calendar, and as Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky landed in nearby Doha, Qatar, for an official state visit. Over the years, Dubai increasingly has promoted itself as a popular destination for Russians on holiday. Signs in Cyrillic are a common sight at the city’s major malls.

The generally pro-Kremlin tabloid Life identified the Russian man arrested as the head of an information technology firm in Russia’s Ivanovo region, though his firm denied he had anything to do with the photo shoot. The Associated Press was not able to determine if those arrested had legal representation or reach a lawyer for them.

Stanislav Voskresensky, the governor of Ivanovo, asked the Russian Foreign Ministry and Russia’s ambassador to the UAE to offer the Russian man their support.

“We don’t abandon our own,” Voskresensky wrote on social media.

It’s not the first time that foreign social media influencers, amateur and pro, have drawn unwanted scrutiny in the United Arab Emirates. Earlier this year, as Dubai promoted itself as a major pandemic-friendly party haven for travellers fleeing tough lockdowns elsewhere, European reality TV show stars came under fire for flaunting their poolside Dubai vacations on social media and for bringing the coronavirus back home. Denmark and the United Kingdom later banned flights to the UAE as virus cases surged in the federation of seven sheikhdoms.

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 Gulf Arab country’s justice system retains harsh penalties for violations of the public decency law.

Nudity and other “lewd behaviour,” carry penalties of up to six months in prison and a fine of 5,000 dirhams ($1,360). The sharing of pornographic material is also punishable with prison time and hefty fines. The country’s majority state-owned telecom companies block access to pornographic websites.

Foreigners, who make up some 90% of the UAE’s population of over 9 million, have been imprisoned for comments and videos online, as well as for offences considered benign in the West, like kissing in public.

Dubai police often turn a blind eye to foreigners misbehaving — until they don’t.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

There were six additional deaths across Alberta reported over the past 24 hours, bringing the death toll to 1,926 since the beginning of the pandemic. (File photo)
The Longhorn Saloon and Grill has opened its patio for outdoor diners. (Facebook photo)
Town of Ponoka launches new temporary seasonal patio program

The Town of Ponoka has launched a new Temporary Seasonal Patio Program… Continue reading

Dr. Wayne John Edwards, 66, died Tuesday at Chinook Regional Hospital. (Cornerstone Funeral Home)
Lethbridge doctor becomes 7th Alberta health-care worker to die from COVID-19

Dr. Wayne John Edwards, who was 66, died Tuesday at the Chinook Regional Hospital in the southern Alberta city

2019 Ponoka Stampede rodeo action. (File photo)
Chute not yet open for 2021 Ponoka Stampede

Ponoka Stampede Association still hopeful event can go ahead this year

Pall Bearers carrying the coffin of the Duke of Edinburgh, followed by the Prince of Wales, left and Princess Anne, right, into St George’s Chapel for his funeral, at Windsor Castle, in Windsor, England, Saturday April 17, 2021. (Danny Lawson/Pool via AP)
Trudeau announces $200K donation to Duke of Edinburgh award as Prince Philip laid to rest

A tribute to the late prince’s ‘remarkable life and his selfless service,’ the Prime Minister said Saturday

A vial of some of the first 500,000 AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine doses that Canada secured. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Carlos Osorio
Canada’s 2nd blood clot confirmed in Alberta after AstraZeneca vaccine

The male patient, who is in his 60s, is said to be recovering

The funeral of Britain’s Prince Philip in Windsor, England, on Saturday, April 17, 2021. Philip died April 9 at the age of 99. (Kirsty Wigglesworth/AP)
PHOTOS: Prince Philip laid to rest Saturday as sombre queen sits alone

The entire royal procession and funeral took place out of public view within the grounds of Windsor Castle

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau looks on as Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland responds to a question during a news conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Tuesday, Aug. 18, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Expectations high as Trudeau Liberals get ready to unveil first pandemic budget

The Liberals will look to thread an economic needle with Monday’s budget

Doses of the Moderna COVID‑19 vaccine in a freezer trailer, to be transported to Canada during the COVID-19 pandemic. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Pfizer to increase vaccine deliveries in Canada as Moderna supply slashed

Moderna plans to ship 650,000 doses of its vaccine to Canada by the end of the month, instead of the expected 1.2 million

A empty classroom is pictured at Eric Hamber Secondary school in Vancouver, B.C. Monday, March 23, 2020. The Alberta government says schools in Calgary will move to at-home learning starting Monday for students in grades 7 to 12.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Calgary schools to shift to at-home learning for grades 7 to 12 due to COVID-19

The change, due to COVID-19, is to last for two weeks

A man wears a protective face covering to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 as he walks past the emergency entrance of Vancouver General Hospital in Vancouver, B.C., Friday, April 9, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
COVID-19 spike in B.C. could overwhelm B.C. hospitals: modelling group

There are 397 people are in hospital due to the virus, surpassing a previous high of 374 seen in December

Most Read