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‘Flash mob’ storms airport in Dubai

The corporate-sponsored UAE event made bigger headlines than the ongoing trial of a jailed blogger.
Uae dubai flash mob blogger 11 08 11Enlarge
A group of dancers perform a choreographed 'flash mob' at the Dubai Airport in the United Arab Emirates on October 26, 2011. The corporate-sponsored event was filmed and released as a YouTube video in early November. (YouTube)

Slow news day in the United Arab Emirates?

On the same day the family of a jailed blogger alleged that their son was the victim of a smear campaign in a larger state crackdown on political dissent in the UAE, one of the most-read stories in Dubai's Tuesday papers was about dancing.

Flash-mob dancing, to be exact.

A group of dancers posing as flight attendants, store clerks, and other airport staff broke into an ‘impromptu’ performance at the Dubai Airport last month, to the surprise of passengers lounging around the duty free hall that day.

A well-polished video of the event - which was sponsored by a credit card company - was released on the internet this weekend, and it quickly became one of the favorites in several English-language newspapers.

Gulf News reports:

A flash mob at Dubai Airport has become an internet sensation, clocking up more than 50,000 hits on since Saturday.

The highly choreographed dance apparently took four days of rehearsal and many more to prepare.

The National reports:

The Dubai event took months to plan, partly because of the logistical difficulty of getting 50 dancers past airport security. The organisers had to hold auditions, select music and obtain numerous permissions...

See here and here for more examples of the front-page coverage given to the ‘flash mob.’

What didn’t make major headlines Tuesday in the Gulf sheikdom - not exactly a ranking leader on the press freedom index - was the blogger, Ahmed Mansour.

In April, Mansour was arrested with four other pro-reform activists after signing a petition demanding elections and political reform in the Gulf sheikdom. The five were jailed and charged with insulting the UAE’s rulers.

Mansour’s family released a statement on Tuesday claiming that their son, who is currently facing trial, is being victimized with a “smear campaign” by supporters of the government in the UAE.

AP reports:

Since Mansour's arrest on April 8, his wife, his four young children and his elderly parents have been "terrorized by insults" and "alarmed by threats" that are posted on social networking sites, Tuesday's statement said. It said the campaign against Mansour is also waged in the local media and by phone.

The oil-rich Emirates have been largely immune to the type of unrest that swept across much of the Arab world earlier this year.  Even if street protesters wanted to take to the streets, as the AP states, “political activity is severely restricted in the UAE.”

Mobs of dancers at the airport in Dubai, however, seems to be one type of public assembly increasingly acceptable in the UAE.

A verdict in Mansour’s case is expected later this month.‘flash-mob’-storms-uae-airport