Woman drowns in Dubai because her father wouldn’t let male lifeguards touch her

August 10, 2015 • 8:45 am

UPDATE: More recent information, posted here, suggests that a. this incident actually happened nearly 20 years ago, not recently as the news reports suggest, and b. it’s based on a lifeguard’s memory, and so might not have happened. In principle it could be verified from police records, but let’s suspend judgment until we know more.


And here’s the bad news that more than offsets the previous post.

Place another life in the negative pan of the “Is religion good for humanity?” balance.  This incident is almost unbelievable, but we all know how faith makes people completely irrational. (Thanks to the several readers who sent me links.)

As reported the Emirates 24/7 News, the Independent and other venues, a man (described as “Asian” by Emirates, but I strongly suspect that, based on the circumstances, he was Muslim) prevented lifeguards from rescuing his drowning daughter because he didn’t want strange men to touch her, which would “dihonour” her. She died, but could have easily been saved as she was close to shore. From the Independent:

The unnamed man had said he preferred to let her die rather than be touched by strange men after she got into difficulty on a beach in the city, a top Dubai official told Emirates 24/7.

Lt. Col Ahmed Burqibah, Deputy Director of Dubai Police’s Search and Rescue Department, said the incident had stuck with him.

He said: “The kids were swimming in the beach when suddenly, the 20-year-old girl started drowning and screaming for help.

“Two rescue men were at the beach, and they rushed to help the girl.

“However, there was one obstacle which prevented them from reaching the girl and helping her.

“This obstacle was the belief of this Asian man who considered that if these men touched his daughter, then this would dishonour her. It cost him the life of his daughter.”

According to Lt. Col Burqibah, the man became aggressive, physically pulling the rescue men away from the water and said he “prefers his daughter being dead than being touched by a strange man”.

Can you believe that? Yes, I think you can, for religion poisons everything, including the love of parents for their children.

The man is being prosecuted, but only for “stopping the rescue team from doing its job.” He should be prosecuted for manslaughter, for this is in effect an honor killing.

92 thoughts on “Woman drowns in Dubai because her father wouldn’t let male lifeguards touch her

  1. I can see why under extreme circumstances and in certain cultures people might choose death rather than dishonour for themselves, but making that choice for others is nobody’s business.

  2. “man became aggressive, physically pulling the rescue men away from the water”

    Hmmm, no. One man could not physically stop TWO rescue men from saving this girl, so they are somewhat complicit in this tragedy.

    1. Exactly!

      Horrible she drowned, sounds like a horrible father.

      The lifeguards, on the other hand, sound incredibly incompetent.

        1. What? I never suggested people can’t comment on this. Where in the world do you get that from what I said?

          From personal experience (as a young man I interned with a news organisation and witnessed it first hand on many occassions) and just from, well reading over the years, I know that many news reports, even widely circulated ones, are not accurate in detail. Sometimes they are not accurate in their entirety.

          Your original post above expressed skepticism (rightly so) about one detail in this story – that it seems unlikely that one man could prevent two from rescuing the woman. There are a number of explanations for this including that the story is simply wrong.

          I never meant nor suggested that no one should comment on this and neither do I think the conclusions that everyone here is drawing from it (that this is an unfortunate and hideous outgrowth of religion) are uncalled for.

          1. Ah, you were assuming that I was expressing skepticism. Not so. I’m taking the story at face value.

            I accept that everyone involve might perceive the situation as the father not allowing the rescue men to save the girl, but the men couldn’t have tried very hard, unless the father was able to physically pin both men to the ground.

          2. My years working in an ABC affiliate news room confirm Michael’s comment that inaccuracies are rife in news stories. But, that doesn’t make all reportage worthless.
            The editor may simply have decided to cut information that would’ve explained how the father prevented the rescue workers form affecting a rescue. The y fit the content into the “news hole” around the advertising. Sometimes pertinent details can get cut.

  3. I think it likely that the life guards where inhibited by more than just the father. I think perhaps they where predisposed to find the father’s wishes to be not out of the ordinary and legitimate enough to give them pause.

    I think this would have been much less likely to have resulted in death had it taken place in many other countries. Two people could easily have gotten by one man unless he was some kind of B movie action hero come to life. In many places he likely would have been taken down, with prejudice.

    But, if the girl had been saved, then what? She would have needed sanctuary from her monster of a father, and a start on a new life. We need an international Honor Code Victim Protection Program.

    1. I was thinking about that last bit too. The daughter probably would have been killed by her father if she hadn’t drowned.

      1. So what? These lifeguard’s job was to stop people from drowning. They aren’t responsible for any crime committed by the parent after that, and the potential for such a crime shouldn’t stop them from saving a drowning person.

        1. IIRC, a Muslim man can say three times in a row, “I divorce you.” Wonder if he can say three times in a row, “I marry you,” pull her to safety, and then divorce her?

    2. I think you may be right. Dubai has a quite a list of things not to do. Being affectionate in the street can land you in jail.
      Unmarried activity in hotels (or anywhere) and so on.
      The place itself has strong beliefs in and implementations of Islamic absurdity.

  4. When I first heard about this story I assumed that it was an example of how honour cultures can go wrong. I didn’t consider initially the ‘religion poisons everything’ point of view.

    Is there a correlation between honour societies and religion? I always thought (perhaps naively) that they were in opposition ideologically. Except perhaps for how both treat women.

    1. I thought the same thing. It struck me as an “honor culture” issue, not explicitly religious.

      Can someone draw the line for me to Islam that makes this necessarily religious?

      1. Local, age old customs are incorporated into the religion.

        This is why Islamists will approve of FGM in some places, and not in others.

        Religion simply legitimates horrific practises which should have died out a long time ago.

        The same goes for war. I still believe that much of what drives people to war is economic/egotistical in nature, but that religion simply legitimizes such behaviour. It doesn’t look good if you say that you are going to war to rape and pillage, but if you are doing it for God, suddenly you are a righteous person!

        1. Today, I saw a TYT video in which Reza Aslan — of whom I am not a fan, not by a long shot — said that FGM was a mid-Africa thing, not a Muslim thing, and he cited two predominantly Christian countries in which it is practiced, while referencing Muslim countries outside Africa where it is not.

          What I don’t recall him saying was whether the practitioners in those predominantly Christian, central African countries were the Muslim minority or the Christian majority or both. I believe he merely implied both.

  5. Muslim apologists will say: this is not our religion, but an extreme instance of mislead cultural tradition. They love to play down the influence of religion when it suits them.
    I find it interesting, though, to think about the relationship between religious and cultural tradition, if only to counter these weaseling out arguments …

        1. The Ven diagram is tool from set theory which graphically shows logical relationships. The set of religious influences and the set of cultural influences form two sets which overlap. So where they overlap they are mutually consistent. These elements are both religious and cultural.


  6. It seems it’s all the fault of the city of Dubai

    “Dubai needs more female lifeguards in order to reduce cultural sensitives over male lifeguards engaging with female victims, as demonstrated by a recent tragedy in which a 20-year-old woman died after her father physically prevented lifeguards from saving her as she drowned off the coast of a Dubai public beach, an expert has claimed.”

    I hope that “expert” wouldn’t expect the female lifeguards to wear burqas.

    1. “…expect the female lifeguards to wear burqas”

      I envision a Money Python episode. John Cleese, at 6′ 5″, would be visually prominent.

      1. I must be warped because the image came to mind of a woman drowning. A burka wearing lifeguard rushes to save her, but her clothing weighs her down, and pulls her under so another burka wearing lifeguard tries to save her, and so on…

    2. I hope that “expert” wouldn’t expect the female lifeguards to wear burqas.

      Since they’re working (that’s one challenge for the Gulf States ; it is legal for a woman to work in the Emirates, but may be culturally frowned upon), and they’re in one of the most dangerous desert environments in the world, then their health and safety considerations (in the Emirates? Yon KNOW that I’m joking now!) would require appropriate PPE. A burqua would probably be dangerously baggy, but head-to-foot covering of the skin along with an eye-shade / hat would be pretty minimal.
      There are grounds for poking fun on the religious front too, but the HSE issues are real enough.

        1. Having just had to repair the pannier on my bike (some scumbag kicking the wheel in while it was locked up in town – [SIGH]), I’m envisioning fitting a long enough rear bumper to the bike to accommodate a good sized slogan.
          Hey, I’ve got the bumper from putting the tow-hook onto the wife’s car. I can use that!
          [grabs Gaffer Tape and leaves garage-ward)

  7. Do emergency rescue teams typically not have authority to supersede demands from family not to perform the rescue?

    Would a male rescue worker who pried a young girl from car wreckage before she burned to death be prosecuted if the rescue was performed in contradiction of her father’s wish?

    1. Probably not. The honorable father would likely not bother prosecuting, he’d probably just take care of the problem himself. Or maybe his son(s) would show some initative and take care of it for him.

      1. But, I mean, that can’t be standard operating procedure, can it? That a rescue crew should stand down if so directed by a parent? I would think that in an emergency situation, a rescue crew would have authority to complete the rescue.

        1. I was being sarcastic. More seriously, I would bet that in most places this sort of thing is not specifically addressed by the law and that it would depend largely on how the applicable laws are interpreted. Even when it is clearly wrong to do so, legally speaking, you have cases of judges making ridiculous interpretations of law. Like a recent case Jerry mentioned of a US judge acting as if he has the legal authority to order a man to marry a woman and recite bible verses.

          So if there is any room for interpretation, which there certainly will be, then in places where honor code and women as chattel beliefs are a normal thing among a significant portion of the population then those beliefs will affect interpretations in situations that involve those beliefs. And you get outcomes like this one. Yes, the rescue people almost certainly have the legal authority to rescue females against their father’s wishes. They probably wouldn’t be successfully prosecuted by the father. But if the father had a really good lawyer, and or the wrong judge, perhaps the father would win the case.

          I’d be surprised, pleasantly, if the life guards were firmly spoken to about allowing the asshole father to prevent them from saving the young woman.

          1. Oh – I don’t mean to ask if your scenario was standard operating procedure. I meant rescue workers shrugging their shoulders as if their hands are tied when dad says “yeah, I guess I don’t want you rescuing her.”

            I think you are probably right.

            1. According to the article, the father was a large man (who apparently could not swim himself I imagine, though this was not stated in the article) who physically restrained the 2 lifeguards. I believe the article is saying that he wasted so much time preventing them from entering the water that it was too late. Hard to know how accurate that is, and how much blame (if any) should be assigned to the lifeguards.

              1. My first response was why the father, a family male, did not rescue her. My second was why women (lifeguards or not) at the beach did not attempt rescue. My third was
                wondering what the age in Dubai is for women to be considered legally adult (if that happens)so she could decide for herself about rescue.

    2. You might, in some quarters, be accused of cultural insensitivity. If the culture condones murder, you stand back and live and let live, or live and let die as the case may be.

      1. I have been told that killing people is morally permissible if you do not *intend* to kill them!

        So like, the father didn’t intend to kill his daughter..he was just protecting her honour! See, there is no problem here, move along….

      2. In these cases of “cultural insensitivity” I prefer the Napier response; “Be it so. This burning of widows is your custom; prepare the funeral pile. But my nation has also a custom. When men burn women alive we hang them, and confiscate all their property. My carpenters shall therefore erect gibbets on which to hang all concerned when the widow is consumed. Let us all act according to national customs.”

        Here, I would say; “be it so. Your culture has a tradition of letting your women die rather than suffering the touch of an unfamiliar man. Well mine has a tradition of saving them, and then hanging anyone who kills them afterwards. You follow your traditions, and I will follow mine.”

    3. The daughter was a legal adult, not that it would matter much in the Arabian Gulf, where women are in a permanent state of childlike dependence.

    4. Here (I’ve no idea how it would work in the UAE), most organised rescue teams (mountain rescue, cave rescue, surf rescue, lifeboats) are manned by volunteers with exactly the same civil authority as any other citizen. (Typically though, once a “shout” has been raised though, they’re covered by the police’s insurance.)
      As I understand it, the police’s “duty of care” is to the person at risk and no-one else. How, or if, that translates to the UAE, I simply don’t know.

  8. Coming back from a training session I just saw an advert on the tube for Dubai Aqua Park – none of the pictures show anyone who has not got a top on! It is like Victorian bathing!

    1. This UAE water park has a ladies night after hours:

      Terms and Conditions

      The waterpark is run by females only during ladies’ night.
      CCTV cameras are monitored exclusively by female staff only.
      Boys aged eight years and under are permitted upon presentation of valid ID.
      Wild Wadi reserves the right to refuse entry to guests who are unable to present proof of age.
      Photography of any kind is strictly prohibited.

    2. By ‘has not got a top on’ I presume you don’t actually mean ‘topless’? (I’d usually take ‘top’ to mean ‘bikini top’ but I presume you mean more like ‘sack’?)


  9. Is that really all that much different from the parents who refuse medical treatment for their children on religious grounds, opting to pray while their children die in front of them?

    Which is perfectly legal in many US states. Religious freedom/”His will be done” and all….

    1. Not much difference, definitely the same category of monstrousness. I hadn’t noticed anybody above saying anything contrary to that.

    2. I think its different in that lifeguards are employed specifically to be at that spot, at that time, to save people from drowning.

      So maybe its analogous to pushing a paramedic away at the scene of an accident, or pushing away the hospice worker you’ve hired specifically to care for your ailing grandparent. But its not directly analogous to a kid dying at home because the parents refused to ever call a doctor.

      1. I think there’s enough similarity to draw an analogy, especially to things like a JW’s refusal of a blood transfusion for his or her child.

        But I agree that there is something about an emergency situation that makes it seem somehow different from refusing certain medical procedures. I think it may be the fact that there typically is no time to discuss options or make persuasion attempts when faced with an emergency.

        1. Thank you for this. While I did not end up needing a life saving transfusion, I mentioned on this site how my mother and father would have responded if I did need one. In a way I have to thank them. If it were not for their lack of caring if I lived or died in a situation where I would need blood, I would never have researched what the basis for their argument was. It took a few kids at school to name call me for years to get me to find out why they would let me die.

    3. Did the father pray for his daughter’s safe return to dry land, or require the rescuers to “rescue” her through prayer, as well? Probably not. Perhaps, no prayer means no parallel.

  10. I still can’t figure out what they mean by “Asian” — south east asian?

    Anyway, the whole thing is, of course, reprehensible and demonstrates how pernicious religion is – it can even take over your natural instinct to protect your own offspring/genes.

    1. Probably. AIUI, the mideast has replaced the old South African apartheid regime as the foremost user of the “your work visa gets you second class status” concept.

  11. Note that the overwhelming majority of Muslims are Asians. Most Muslims (one billion) live in Asia, predominately in south and southeast Asia. The four largest Muslim populations are in Indonesia, Pakistan, India, and Bangladesh, each home to more than 100 million Muslims.

  12. No, it didn’t “cost him the life of his daughter”, because he didn’t own her life. He misappropriated it and discarded it to keep his prejudices pure.
    Human sacrifice is alive and well and, guess what? it’s women and children who are the sacrificial victims.

  13. If a child, even a 20 year old child, cannot count on her parents to guard her life and prevent her death, there is no one she can trust.

    I imagine she was overly garbed, to be swimming under such circumstances, and was hobbled by the garb, itself, when she got into distress, causing her to panic.

    Poor thing. My heart goes out to her, and my hate goes out to her father. There is no respect for the rescue team, either. If two strong, healthy rescuers, men both, couldn’t get past that one father, then they should resign and be replaced by stronger men.

  14. I read this earlier today. I was so disgusted, and not just with the incident itself and very likely religious basis. I was disgusted to think about how so many of my fellow liberals try to shrug this off as a few bad apples and not the systemic poison that it is. “The good [of religion] still outweighs the bad,” they say. Incredible.

  15. It doesn’t say much for the “lifeguards” if it was me I,d have punched him out, he was obviously insane, but then again many Religious People are.

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