An American Woman in Dubai Fights for Abused Women
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — For years, Sharla Musabih has fought a lonely battle to protect battered wives and victims of human trafficking here. She founded the Emirates’ first women’s shelter here and she became a familiar figure at police stations, relentlessly hounding officers to be tougher on abusive husbands.
Enlarge This ImageTamara Abdul Hadi for The New York Times
Ms. Musabih with a shelter resident’s child. Her aggressiveness stands out, as does her habit of calling her charges “darlin’.”
She has also earned many enemies. Emiratis do not often take kindly to rights advocates drawing attention to the dark side of their fast-growing city-state on the Persian Gulf, better known for its gleaming office towers and artificial islands.
Still, no one was quite prepared for the stories that started appearing in Dubai newspapers this month. Suddenly, unidentified female victims were coming forward to say that “Mama Sharla” herself had abused them, forced them to work as servants and sold their stories to foreign journalists for thousands of dollars, pocketing the proceeds. She even sold one woman’s baby, the articles said, hinting at criminal investigations.