The people affected by the UAE ‘smear campaign’

Over a thousand individuals and numerous organizations across Europe have fallen victim to a widespread smear campaign orchestrated by the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

The campaign falsely suggested associations with the Muslim Brotherhood, ruined careers, destroyed businesses, and caused immense personal hardships.

The UAE’s covert operation involved the services of Alp Services, a Swiss company hired by the Emirati government to execute the campaign.

The tactics employed included press campaigns, online forums, resurfacing old social media posts, creating fake profiles, and even manipulating Wikipedia pages.

These efforts were aimed at tarnishing the reputations and credibility of the targeted individuals and organizations.

The revelations emerged from a thorough analysis of 78,000 confidential documents obtained by the French online newspaper Mediapart.

The report underscores the extensive impact suffered by the victims of this smear campaign. Despite repeated requests for comment, the Emirati embassy in Paris declined to respond to Mediapart’s inquiries, while the UAE has previously denied involvement in similar campaigns.

French-Syrian singer Mennel Ibtissem became one of the prominent victims. Ibtissem gained attention in 2018 while participating in the French edition of the TV talent show, The Voice. However, she soon became subjected to a relentless social media campaign attacking her hijab.

To exacerbate matters, old tweets about terrorist attacks resurfaced, causing significant backlash. Ibtissem vehemently denounced the tweets, emphasizing her love for France and condemning the violence.

She explained that they were taken out of context and resulted from a momentary outburst in response to the conflation of terrorism and religion.

Nevertheless, the damage was irreparable, and Ibtissem was forced to withdraw from the show. She expressed her desire to refrain from discussing religion or politics, as her career had been decimated due to the smear campaign. She intended to focus solely on her passion for arts and music.

Another victim, Hazim Nada, the founder of Lord Energy, a Swiss-based oil trading company, suffered severe financial consequences due to the campaign.

Despite having no involvement in politics or financial ties to the Muslim Brotherhood, Nada found his bank accounts closed, and his company could not secure financing for its shipments.

The situation worsened when many banks ceased their financing, leading to the bankruptcy of Lord Energy in 2019. Nada also experienced intrusive text messages and suspicious calls requesting her financial details. These events affected his mental well-being, causing panic attacks and insomnia.

The smear campaign did not spare charitable organizations either. Islamic Relief Worldwide, a UK-based charity, was targeted with baseless accusations linking it to the Muslim Brotherhood and violent extremists.

Heshmat Khalifa, a member of the organization’s board of trustees, became a focal point of the campaign. Initially, the allegations of terrorist ties were disproven, prompting Alp Services to resurface old antisemitic posts made by Khalifa during Israel’s assault on Gaza in 2014.

The damage caused by the campaign resulted in Khalifa’s forced resignation, inquiries by British and Swedish authorities, and withdrawal of support from the German government. The charity’s ability to transfer funds to crisis zones worldwide was also jeopardized.

The detrimental impact of the UAE’s smear campaign cannot be understated. Careers have been destroyed, businesses bankrupted, and lives upended.

The victims, such as Mennel Ibtissem, have endured immense personal and professional hardships as they struggle to recover from the tarnished reputations inflicted upon them.

The revelations brought to light by Mediapart serve as a reminder of the far-reaching consequences of such campaigns and the urgent need to address the misuse of power and manipulation of information for political ends.

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