UAE Expats shortlived euphoria over WhatsApp VoIP return

Published:  26 Jun at 6 PM
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Tagged: USA, UAE
Expats in the UAE were over the moon last Thursday as formerly blocked WhatsApp free phone calls suddenly returned, but their jubilation was shortlived.

Local UAE social media posts were the first to pick up on the return of free phone calls via the formerly popular WhatsApp VoIP service, with mobile phones buzzing all over the emirates as lonely expats contacted their loved ones back home. Sadly, an official clarification soon stopped the calls, leaving expats to continue footing the huge bills for more conventional phone contact with the outside world.

According to the UAE’s Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA), there’s to be no change to the banning of VoIP calls in the country as they're against its regulatory framework. Disappointed expats contacted local media with their stories, with one saying she’s always scared when her monthly phone bills arrive due to her regular international calls to her family overseas.

Another said he ‘burns half his monthly salary’ in attempts to keep in touch with his loved ones. VoIP blocking has always been controversial in the UAE, leading to occasional unsuccessful attempts to change the law by parliamentarians, but the official stance that encrypted free calls encourages usage by anti-social elements and criminals always wins out.

Meanwhile in Bahrain, 30 expats are part of the al-Wasat newspaper’s entire 160-strong workforce whose contracts have been terminated after the paper was temporarily closed down by the Al Khalifa regime. The popular opposition-linked media outlet has fallen foul of a heavy-handed crackdown on all forms of political dissent following its article about a general strike and protests in the Moroccan city of Al-Hoceima. Unrest in Bahrain has continued for six years after the popular uprising in 2011, concentrated on the removal of the Al Khalifa dynasty and the introduction of democracy.

Also in Bahrain, a British woman had a narrow escape from a knife-wielding man whilst at a horse racing track in Saar. Bethany Nash, a long-term resident who’d grown up in Bahrain, was walking her two dogs on the racing track when she was approached by a man holding a flashlight and phone. As soon as he set eyes on her he pulled out a knife, causing her to scream, panic and run away. Her scream scared the man and he ran off in the opposite direction. Bethany has made a complaint at the local police station, with a full description of the incident and the would-be assailant.
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