Proud to have given you a voice…

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We’ve spent the week travelling down memory lane searching out our top stories from the past 14 years. We could have published a whole book, but here are a favourite few…

CHANGING LIVES

There have been so many stories over the years that have made us proud here at 7DAYS HQ, but the ones that we all feel most strongly about are those where we have highlighted an issue or a personal plight and then got something done about it.

Take the dozens of labourers who found themselves caught up in the fallout of the financial crisis. Stranded in a remote labour camp, their work transport had simply not turned up one day, neither had their food and water deliveries. One of them walked kilometres in the heat to reach a payphone and called one of our reporters. Someone had told him 7DAYS might be able to help. It turned out their company had gone bust and their boss had legged it, deserting them.

Our front page story rallied readers to collect food and other goods for the men and the coverage activated the Ministry of Labour – within two weeks, all had been flown home. There were many other such stories, particularly following the 2008 financial crash.

78-year-old Brit, Jack Hyndman, ended up in jail because of debt; in the end our readers donated to get him out and get him home. They did the same for Filipina nanny, Desirae Eman, who had a heart complaint she could not afford to treat.

7DAYS has highlighted domestic worker abuse and worker rights on numerous occasions, as well as unpaid salaries and property scandals.

Earlier this year, a cover story about two Syrian families ended up changing their lives. The Ibrahim and Al Mousa families had escaped civil war to find safety here in the UAE. But their children (seven between them) faced an uncertain future still, left in educational limbo, as their parents were unable to find affordable schools. Everywhere was full or out of their financial reach. Step forward Safa Schools, whose owners were so moved by our story that they found places, free of charge, for all seven children. You can read their updated story on page 4 today.

It’s stories like this that show the true power of the media – and good journalism – when used in the right way. It’s what 7DAYS did best.

CRIME AND PUNISHMENT

Court and crime stories are the bread and butter of any good newspaper. 7DAYS broke boundaries in crime reporting following our arrival back in 2003. These stories were sometimes reported in the UAE media prior to our launch, but never on the front pages.

The headline ‘Body Found In Satwa’ on a 2004 7DAYS front page, was met with shock and surprise. The decision to run with such a story on the front page was, yes, to get people talking but, also to highlight the good work of Dubai Police.

Since then there have been countless crimes reported on the front pages of 7DAYS and other publications across the UAE. From thefts in the workplace to illegal affairs, the courts and our reporters in the UAE are kept busy daily.

We’ve also had some high-profile felonies – disturbing acts of violence and crimes that have garnered international attention. We’ve reported on the notorious Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout, who was the subject of the Nicolas Cage movie ‘Lord of War’. Bout, who once ran a cargo business out of Sharjah, is currently serving life in US federal prison after being convicted on terror charges by a US court.

Another high-profile crime to make international headlines was the bold smash and grab heist at the Graf jewellery store at Wafi Mall in April 2007. Members of the infamous Pink Panther gang were caught on mall CCTV using Audi cars to ram raid the store and make off with Dhs14.7 million worth of jewellery. Some of the gang were caught and one of the members, Borko Ilincic, was just last month jailed for 10 years in Dubai for his part in the heist.

The murder of Hamas commander Mahmoud Al Mabhouh in a Dubai hotel room in January 2010 also made our front page. Then there was the shooting of Chechan warlord Sulim Yamadayev – shot with a golden gun in a JBR car park in 2009. You couldn’t make it up.

One horrific crime story that will always stick with us was the 2009 rape and murder of four-year-old Moosa in the bathroom of a Dubai mosque. 7DAYS, through the sensitive work of reporter Fareed Rahman, struck up a close relationship with the family throughout their time of grieving, through to the conviction and execution of his attacker. Following the killer’s death, Moosa’s father, Mukhthar, personally delivered sweets to thank 7DAYS and our readers for their support during the family’s ordeal. A humbling moment that none of us here will ever forget.

The misdeamour courts in the UAE, particularly Dubai, have provided a veritable feast of stories over the years… from the sublime to the ridiculous. One such story that 7DAYS followed closely, and earned the protagonists noterity in the western media, was that of a couple caught having sex on a public beach, post brunch.

The story in 2008 involved a British couple who were charged, and later deported, for their drunk fuelled antics. It was a story that intrigued a nation and saw Dubai and Friday brunchers come in for a bit of a bashing in the UK press – ‘Booze-fuelled expats’, a new phrase coined. But that’s the law – and we’re not all like that… Since then, we’ve had the ‘sex in the taxi’ couple and the couple caught kissing on the beach. Their excuse? It was CPR. But the court has also handled cases that shouldn’t have got that far. Finger flick anyone?

COMMUNITY COUNTS

A news organisation is only as good as its readers, users, viewers or listeners and down the years you have helped us highlight some real issues of great importance to our community.

7DAYS readers love an animal story and we’ve always taken a strong stance on animal welfare, covering numerous stories of animal abuse and abandoned pets. These included the disgusting practices at Sharjah Animal Market and the pitiful creatures on sale there (below). The market is sadly still in operation, but authorities have since cracked down and cleaned it up. We have also focused on school fees, littering, driving standards, rent disputes and worker welfare, because these are the issues that matter to communities here in the UAE in your daily lives.

We prided ourselves on stories that would get people talking. We engaged and informed and shone the spotlight on issues that you brought to us through your letters, comments and phone calls.

AND FINALLY… THE ONES THAT MADE US LAUGH

Of course we’ve had fun along the way, doing what we do, otherwise we wouldn’t have lasted so long. Most of the things shouted across the newsroom will have to stay in the newsroom [for our own safety], but there are plenty of stories we can share that have made us laugh… and call on that phrase ‘only in Dubai’.

LOVE RIVAL KILLED BY MAN WALKING MONKEY

When our reporter messaged the newsdesk about a man on trial in Dubai for killing someone… while walking a monkey, our thoughts turned to the perfect headline – and this was it! (our Editor, Barry King’s personal favourite) Of course a very serious crime had been committed as a row over a woman turned fatal. But the fact there was an innocent monkey involved, witness to its owner’s rampage, made it a front page story. A real #onlyinDubai moment.

 

DEAD BROTHER STILL SKYPES ME

We’ve had some weird stories but this tale from 2010 would have to be right up there. Isa Yamadayev told a Russian newspaper that his brother, Chechan warlord Sulim Yamadayev, was not dead despite a body and two men having been convicted for his assassination – in 2009 in Dubai. Isa denied his brother was dead though and insisted he was recovering in hospital telling 7DAYS they would regularly keep in contact, mainly via Skype. Mad.

OOPS! WE LOST OUR SHARK

How do you lose a whale shark? That’s the question all of us were asking in 2010 when the saga of the Atlantis whale shark came to a murky end. X years earlier, a young whale shark happened to swim past Atlantis resort on the Palm and ended up on show in the aquarium. Animal rights campaigners and shark experts weren’t happy and eventually Atlantis decided to release the captive shark back into the wild. But the story wasn’t fin-ished and what happened next is unknown as she somehow managed to slip her electronic tag and sneak off into the Gulf. We’re not sure if she’s been skyping relatives since.

 

HEAVY DUTY – PODGY POLICE PUT THROUGH THEIR PACES

A wonderful story from 2009. In an effort to get overweight officers fitter Dubai Police introduced a ‘fat camp’. To be fair to them, the subjects played ball and were happily photographed in training for our cover. There are so many more we didn’t have space for.

 

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