More than six months ago, Dr. Mahmoud al-Jaidah was asked to step out of line as he transited through Dubai en route home to Qatar. He has been held ever since, allowed to visit his family once a month after a blindfolded trip from an undisclosed detention facility.
UAE authorities have given no public statements on the case. But the family of the 52-year-old doctor has no doubt why he was detained: He has been caught up in the escalating pressures across Gulf states against the now-battered Muslim Brotherhood and its perceived Islamist allies.
The crackdowns in the Gulf began more than a year before the Muslim Brotherhood’s political collapse in Egypt this July, but now they take on wider regional implications, meshing with the campaign of arrests by Cairo’s new leadership against the Brotherhood.
Egyptians’ ouster of President Mohammed Morsi on July 3 further emboldened the UAE and other Gulf states to step up arrests of suspected Brotherhood supporters, whom they see as a threat to the Gulf’s tightly run fraternity of monarchs, sheiks and emirs.
And in turn, several Gulf countries have stepped up as critical sources of cash for Egypt’s new leadership as it cracks down on Morsi’s Brotherhood. The UAE, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait have promised Cairo $12 billion in aid. Several thousand Brotherhood members and other Islamists have been arrested in Egypt since Morsi’s fall.
“The Gulf states and Egypt are now bonded together in the belief of the Muslim Brotherhood as their common enemy,” said Christopher Davidson, an expert in Gulf affairs at Britain’s Durham University. “This is a powerful alliance.”
Now, Gulf officials have become fearful of anything that could serve as potential footholds for the Brotherhood. In rhetoric at least, the group has begun to replace Iran as the most worrisome threat in the eye of many officials. The exception is Qatar, which has cultivated the Brotherhood regionwide and strongly backed Morsi.
The UAE also says it’s planning another high-profile trial against 30 Egyptian and Emirati suspects for alleged coup plots linked to the Brotherhood.
This is in addition to ongoing arrests such as al-Jaidah’s.
The doctor has been allowed to see family members once a month since he was detained Feb. 26, said his son Hasan. His father is brought blindfolded to the meeting spot in Abu Dhabi, not knowing where he is being held.
In Kuwait, where Brotherhood-affiliated groups have some political space, a lawmaker in January urged officials to be on the alert for Brotherhood “sleeper cells” opposing the U.S.-backed emir.
Salem Humaid, director of the Al-Mezmaah Studies and Research Center — which Humaid said was created to “give voice” to official positions — described the Brotherhood as “terrorists” seeking to bring down the UAE’s cosmopolitan society.
He boldly predicted: “This is the end of their story … No more Muslim Brotherhood.”