Ahead of the show's June 1 premiere and days after the first trailer was released, a group of 12 human rights groups called for the network to publicly oppose the violence against women as well as the homophobic laws perpetrated by the rulers of Dubai and the United Arab Emirates.
The human rights groups — Freedom Forward, Action Corps, Clearinghouse on Women's Issues, CODEPINK, European Centre For Democracy and Human Rights, FairSquare, Health Advocacy International, Human Rights Sentinel, Just Foreign Policy, Last Mile4D, Peace Action and ReThinking Foreign Policy — sent an open letter to Bravo, its parent company NBCUniversal and the production company Truly Original expressing deep concern over the show.
"Dubai is an absolute monarchy that is part of the dictatorship of the United Arab Emirates," it said. "By setting the Real Housewives franchise inside Dubai, you are helping the UAE dictatorship hide its male rulers' misogyny, legalized homophobia and mass violence against women."
The groups demanded the executives to "reveal whether the rulers of Dubai and the UAE funded or financed the Real Housewives of Dubai in any way."
They also asked that a disclaimer run before the episodes saying Bravo and the other businesses "oppose the UAE and Dubai dictatorship's misogyny, homophobia, women's rights violations and war in Yemen." They also want money to be donated to human rights organizations which fight against those human rights violations. Additionally, a request was made that fans of the Real Housewives franchise be educated on the injustices.
Some of the human rights violations are outlined, including Dubai’s ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum kidnapping and detaining his adult daughters, one of whom has been held captive for over 20 years, and intimated and harassed his ex-wife.
Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak Al Nahyan, a member of the UAE ruling family, was accused of sexual assault, but the dictatorship has not investigated it.
"As these examples reveal, the dictatorship of the [UAE] and Dubai is a deeply flawed choice for the Real Housewives series," the groups stated. "By producing and launching the [RHOD], you risk providing the rulers of the UAE and Dubai with the soft propaganda they need to hide their human rights crimes from the world. We urge you to immediately take the above steps to demonstrate your rejection of the human rights violations, homophobia and predatory male behavior of the rulers of the United Arab Emirates and Dubai."
Several of the human rights groups also made direct comments, including CODEPINK's National Co-Director Danaka Katovich, who called it "shocking" that Cohen and Bravo "are giving Dubai's rulers a blank check of free publicity. The rulers [there] have kidnapped their own adult daughters and have been accused of rape. Dubai and the UAE are run by homophobic and misogynistic leaders that all Real Housewives fans should stay as far away from as possible."
Peace Action Executive Director said, "Imagine if [Cohen] and Bravo decided to launch the Real Housewives of Moscow during this terrible time for the people of Ukraine? The rulers of the UAE and Dubai are responsible for a horrible war in Yemen that has killed countless women and men. Bravo and NBCUniversal are insulting the intelligence of their viewers by whitewashing the human rights violations and military adventures of the UAE dictatorship."
Health Advocacy International Coordinator Mary Anne Mercer said, "Why can’t we see a Bravo show on 'The Women of Yemen'? The women of Dubai face the rules of a misogynistic and homophobic government. Meanwhile, the women of Yemen have lived for seven years with the horrors of seeing their children under the rubble of their homes, schools and even hospitals, in a war supported by the rulers of Dubai and the [UAE]."
Just days ago, the first look at the show was released. In the voiceover, the co-stars gush, "Anything is possible in Dubai. It's the land of opportunity" as highlights of the out of touch and excessive lives of the super rich stars flash on the screen. At another point, cast member Caroline Stanbury says, "In Dubai, the women are far from submissive. Most of the women are running this town."
When the show was announced by Cohen — who executive produces the Real Housewives franchise and hosts the network's reunion specials (recently screaming at the RH of New Jersey stars to "shut up" in theirs) — there was swift backlash the show would film in a city known for for human rights violations, particularly against women and the LGBTQ+ community. Cohen specifically was called a "sellout" on social media at the time. The Bravo exec, who is gay, reportedly earns $10 million annually for his Housewives gig.
A rep for Bravo did not respond to our request for comment.