A video of a bullying incident at a private school in Dubai surfaced recently on social media, shaking up parents across the city that is often ranked among one of the safest in the world. The 57-second clip posted on Twitter February 9 shows an alleged GEMS World Academy student pulling a fellow classmate’s hair and threatening her with physical violence. The footage has since gone viral, kickstarting a dialogue within the community on the repercussions of bullying and calling for punitive measures against the bully.
The incident is under investigation but “appropriate action” has already been taken, according to a statement from GEMS Education. “The school acted promptly to investigate and resolve the issue and we will continue to prioritize the safety, security, and well-being of all our students.”
The Knowledge and Human Development Authority (KHDA), the government agency in charge of overseeing and regulating private education in Dubai, is also involved, commenting on the original post: “We agree, this is unacceptable. Has the school been made aware of this. Please can you DM us details of the school, grade, and students’ names, or any other details you may have. Thank you.” UAE local @3alya_ms also tagged the Dubai Police in the comments section, writing: “As a local I can’t accept such behaviour in the UAE ! Please this issue should be dealt with as soon as possible what’s happening in the video is disgusting!”
A few Arab influencer parents have decided to use their widely-viewed platforms to speak out on the importance of engaging in anti-bullying conversations with their children in the wake of this unexpected episode. “It was really disturbing to watch, but I think, more importantly, it was disturbing to actually accept the fact that this happens—this happens closer to home than you can imagine. This could happen to your children, your children could also be the bullies,” said Dubai-based eyewear designer and influencer Karen Wazen in one of many videos she posted in both Arabic and English on Instagram in an effort to widen the discussion.
The Lebanese mother of three became emotional as she shared the inevitable fact that one day her kids will also be exposed to bullying and it is the “duty” and “responsibility” of a parent to foster close relationships with their young ones and recognize they are exposed to much more than what meets the eye.
“I think what I really, really find important as a parent is to be close to your children, close enough to understand what is really happening in their lives beyond them sitting just with you and talking to you about what they are comfortable talking about,” she explained to her 2.4 million followers, urging both the parents of bullies and victims she is empathetic towards to create an open environment at home that encourages sharing and responsive action. “These are our [children] and we have to take care of them.”
Dubai style blogger Deema Al Asadi also took to Instagram to share a series of videos on her story in solidarity with Wazen’s sentiments, switching between the two languages as well so more of her viewers could understand. “I couldn’t agree more with every word she said about that video,” said Al Asadi, tagging the hashtag #stopbullying. “You just can’t watch such videos, it just makes me sad…You have to notice there’s something wrong with your child.”