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

Elvira D’Angelo, 92, waits to receive her COVID-19 vaccination shot at a clinic in Montreal, Sunday, March 7, 2021, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues in Canada and around the world. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
110 new cases of COVID-19 in Interior Health

Provincial health officers announced 1,005 new cases throughout B.C.

Tala MacDonald, a 17-year-old student at Mount Sentinel Secondary who is also a volunteer firefighter, has won the $100,000 Loran Scholarship. Photo: Submitted
West Kootenay student wins $100K scholarship

Tala MacDonald is one of 30 Canadians to receive the Loran Scholarship

Kristian Camero and Jessica Wood, seen here, co-own The Black Cauldron with Stephen Barton. The new Nelson restaurant opened earlier this month while indoor dining is restricted by the province. Photo: Tyler Harper
A restaurant opens in Nelson, and no one is allowed inside

The Black Cauldron opened while indoor dining is restricted in B.C.

First-year Selkirk College student Terra-Mae Box is one of many talented writers who will read their work at the Black Bear Review’s annual (virtual) launch on April 22. Photo: Submitted
Interior Health nurses administer Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccines to seniors and care aids in Kelowna on Tuesday, March 16. (Phil McLachlan/Kelowna Capital News)
69 new cases of COVID-19 in Interior Health

The total number of cases in the region is now at 9,840 since the pandemic began

Jake the service dog is trained to give calming hugs to his caretaker and handler, Rae-Lynee Dicks, who lives with post-traumatic stress disorder. Photo: Laurie Tritschler
Jake and Rae-Lynne: The story of a Grand Forks woman and her service dog

Jake is on his way to completing his training, but it’s been difficult to socialize him in the pandemic

A syringe is loaded with COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination clinic run by Vancouver Coastal Health, in Richmond, B.C., Saturday, April 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. to open up COVID vaccine registration to all B.C. residents 18+ in April

Registration does not equate to being able to book an appointment

(Black Press file photo).
Multiple stabbings at Vancouver Island bush party

Three youths hospitalized after an assault in Comox

Selina Robinson is shown in Coquitlam, B.C., on Friday November 17, 2017. British Columbia’s finance minister says her professional training as a family therapist helped her develop the New Democrat government’s first budget during the COVID-19 pandemic, which she will table Tuesday. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. finance minister to table historic pandemic-challenged deficit budget

Budget aims to take care of people during pandemic while preparing for post-COVID-19 recovery, Robinson said

Each spring, the Okanagan Fest-of-Ale is held in Penticton. This year, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the festival will not be held. However, beer is still available. How much do you know about this beverage? (pxfuel.com)
QUIZ: How much do you really know about beer?

Put your knowledge to the test with this short quiz

Lord Tweedsmuir’s Tremmel States-Jones jumps a player and the goal line to score a touchdown against the Kelowna Owls in 2019. The face of high school football, along with a majority of other high school sports, could significantly change if a new governance proposal is passed at the B.C. School Sports AGM May 1. (Malin Jordan)
Power struggle: New governance model proposed for B.C. high school sports

Most commissions are against the new model, but B.C. School Sports (BCSS) and its board is in favour

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

B.C. homeowners are being urged to take steps to prepare for the possibility of a flood by moving equipment and other assets to higher ground. (J.R. Rardon)
‘Entire province faces risk’: B.C. citizens urged to prepare for above-average spring flooding

Larger-than-normal melting snowpack poses a threat to the province as warmer weather touches down

Vancouver-based Doubleview Gold Corp. is developing claims in an area north of Telegraph Creek that occupies an important place in Tahltan oral histories, said Chad Norman Day, president of the Tahltan Central Government. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO)
B.C. Indigenous nation opposes mineral exploration in culturally sensitive area

There’s “no way” the Tahltan would ever support a mine there, says Chad Norman Day, president of its central government

Most Read