View of part of the Fujairah Corniche and the Hajar Mountains in the Background

Monday, February 16, 2009

Visa Denial for Israeli Tennis Player Calls into Question UAE’s Right to Host International Sporting Events

The UAE government has denied a visa to the Israeli tennis player, Shahar Peer, thus blocking her from participation in the Dubai Tennis Championships.

The event this week is a joint ATP and WTA event which includes all the top 10 women's players.

This visa denial does not appear to relate to the recent war between Israel and Palestine but the long standing issue whereby the UAE does not have diplomatic relations with Israel.

This is a severe blow to the sportswoman from Israel. Other Israeli sportspersons have got through this loophole by presenting a passport from another country.

Organizers of the ATP and the WTA should take action against the UAE and call into question the right of the UAE to stage another international tennis event. While tennis players are often reluctant to get involved in sport this is a case for organizers to wield its muscle and influence.

By taking such an act against one player the UAE is drawing attention to a weakness in its human rights policies and declaring it to be not as tolerant as its public statements suggest.

This breach of the ‘equal opportunity’ policy illustrates one of the reasons why American universities are experiencing turbulence in setting up branches in the UAE. Students from Israel are barred from studying in these universities in the UAE.

Organizers of international sporting events (many of which the UAE is competing to stage) must take notice, respond definitely to this visa denial and say to the UAE that by such an action the nation is forfeiting its right to host top international sporting events such as the Olympic Games.

Dr Geoff Pound

Image: Shahar Peer at the Australian Open in Melbourne, Australia, January 2009.